How to Start

Q. What do you do if you are in an automobile collision?

A. What do you do if someone hits you with their car? If you drove your car into another car? What if you are a pedestrian and are hit by a car?

There are important things that must be taken care of both at the scene of any accident and following an accident. The first thing you should do is call 9-1-1. Even if the damage to your car seems fairly minor, many insurance companies require you to report accidents or collisions within a time limit. Do not move your car until the police officer tells you to do so. Tell the investigating officer the truth about what happened, and how you feel.

If you have any concern about whether you may have been injured, allow the police to call an ambulance for you. It is always better to get examined right away for two reasons. First and foremost, if it turns out you have sustained a serious injury, the sooner you get treatment the better. Second, this also gives your attorney the proof you may need to prove those injuries were caused by the car crash. Additionally, many emergency physicians will tell you that people hurt in car crashes will actually feel more pain the day after an injury. It is always better to get checked out immediately after an accident to make sure there are no injuries that you may not be aware and to document any injuries you have sustained.

Naturally, if you have sustained an obvious, serious injury, you will need immediate transport to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment. The sooner you are seen by a qualified doctor, the better.

lf you are able, get the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses to the collision and the investigating police officers. You never can tell what information will later prove to be important and/or that your lawyer will need, and it is always a good idea to have independent witnesses to testify how the collision occurred. I have seen too many cases where doubt can cloud the mind of a juror if there is no corroboration from independent witnesses. Do not let the lack of corroborating evidence rob you of your ability to prove the collision was the other driver’s fault.

Talk to the other driver or drivers to see if they need medical assistance. Remember, however, that whatever you say to the other drivers, and whatever they say to you, can be admissible into evidence if your case goes to trial.

The cardinal rule for all car accidents is that you should never leave the scene without stopping. If you leave the scene of an accident, particularly where someone has sustained injuries or was killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a “hit and run” driver. If you are in a deserted area, use caution in stopping and getting out of your vehicle. If you are not sure whether it is safe to get out, then don’t. Just call 9-1-1 right away and wait for the police.

Q. I am hesitant to call an attorney because I may not have a case.

A. You risk nothing to call an attorney to find out if you have a case and find out your rights. Initial consultations are completely free and without any obligation, and there is no charge unless a recovery is made. It is also important not to wait as there are statutory limitations periods which apply to all injury cases. These Statutes of Limitations, as they are called, act as a bar against bringing a claim for injuries if the limitations period is exceeded. Therefore, it is always best to call as soon as possible. Additionally, it is always best to get an attorney involved early so the appropriate evidence can be preserved.

Q. I think there are too many lawsuits, but I have been injured and believe I am entitled to compensation. What should I do?

A. Consult an attorney. Not all claims require the filing of a lawsuit. In fact, in the vast majority of situations, the guilty person’s insurance company will settle without the need for filing a lawsuit. If you decide not to bring a claim for your injuries, you, and your car and health insurance companies end up bearing the entire burden for all the ways in which the injury has affected you. When you do not assert your claim, the only ones who benefit are the guilty person and their insurance company.

Q. I was injured in a car crash and the insurance company adjusters have called me to discuss the case. What should I do?

A. Consult with an attorney. You of course want to speak with your own insurance so that you can report the accident and so that your medical bills will be paid and your vehicle will be repaired. However, you are not required to speak with the guilty person’s insurance company adjuster without first consulting an attorney. An insurance company adjuster works for the insurance company. The adjuster’s goal is to save the insurance company as much money as possible. Many times the real purpose is to get your recorded statement, which is then used against you to deny responsibility for your injuries.

Q. The insurance company adjuster wants me to sign papers. What should I do?

A. Consult with an attorney before signing anything from the guilty person’s insurance company. If you do not understand what you are signing, you could end up signing away your right to obtain any recovery for injuries you have sustained. If the adjuster wants you to sign medical authorizations, this may allow the insurance company to obtain all your medical records, including records for completely unrelated and delicate medical conditions. An attorney can help you prevent the guilty person’s insurance company from obtaining unnecessary medical records and help you maintain your privacy. An attorney can also keep the insurance adjuster from contacting you at all, so you can concentrate on getting better, and putting your life back together.

Q. How do I get the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay my medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses?

A. The adverse insurance company is not obligated to pay medical bills or other out-of-pocket expenses until the case is either settled or there is a trial verdict. With this in mind, to ensure you get appropriate medical care, use your own auto and health insurances to pay your medical bills now. Your primary insurance is your auto insurance. Once those limits have been met, your health insurance should take over to pay your bills.

This can help you in the outcome of the case due to the fact that many insurances pay less than full value for bills. At the same time, you are able to recover from the defendant the full amount of your medical bills. Speak to your attorney about other benefits that may be available. By hiring a qualified attorney you are assuring that you get all of the expenses to which you are entitled paid fairly and fully.

Q. I was hurt at work and the company will not pay for my medical bills. I still work there and plan to stay there. I don’t want to cause trouble or hard feelings, but I cannot afford to pay these bills and cannot get the rest of the treatment I need because I don’t have the money. I would not have this pain and these bills if the company had followed proper maintenance on their equipment before I was hurt. What can I do?

A. Talk to a competent attorney. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, the company’s insurance provider is responsible for the bills, and must pay for whatever medical care is made necessary as a result of your work-related injury (within certain statutory restrictions). To be sure you are treated fairly, make an appointment for a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss the particular facts of your case.