Personal Injury in Illinois: Basic Concepts
How will my personal injury claim be processed in Illinois?
Although most of us would prefer to avoid filing a lawsuit or going to court, it is sometimes necessary to pursue litigation to get full value for your claim. Lawsuits usually become necessary when there are disagreements with the other party's insurance company over who caused an accident or how serious the injuries are. If an agreement cannot be reached between both parties the claim must then go to trial and becomes a lawsuit.
You should be sure not to make any oral or written statements, or sign any documents without prior review by an attorney. It is important to attend all scheduled doctor appointments in order to document your injuries. Accurate records should be kept of time you missed from work, medical bills, and property damage repairs. It may be beneficial to document your damages with photographs of your injuries or photos of property damage.
After a lawsuit has been filed, both parties will conduct discovery in order to gather relevant facts and evidence. Pretrial discovery usually takes about a full year during which time both parties investigate all aspects of the claim. This may include taking oral depositions, obtaining pertinent records, propounding interrogatories, and hiring expert witnesses to obtain more evidence about the claim. During this period of discovery and as the trial date approaches, the parties will exchange settlement offers/demands. A large majority of personal injury claims settle before trial. If you agree to accept a settlement, you will be required to sign an agreement stating you absolve the other party of all further liability in this case.
How much will an attorney cost for a personal injury claim in Illinois?
Most attorneys who believe a case has merit will take the case without payment up front. The case will usually be taken on a contingency basis, which means the attorney will receive a percentage of your award if and when you recover for your injuries. Contingency fees average between 25 and 40 percent of the amount you are awarded. Most attorneys charge a smaller percentage if the case is settled before the attorney does all the work necessary to go to trial. If you and your attorney agree to a contingency fee, the attorney must put the agreement in writing and provide you with a signed copy. Some attorneys may charge an hourly fee or a flat fee for their services.
Out of pocket expenses may be added to a flat fee or contingency fee for expenses such as filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and other similar expenses. The attorney's out of pocket costs are, in many cases, not included in the attorney's fees. You should be sure to pay attention to how an attorney will bill you for costs because they can amount to quite a significant sum.
How do I decide if I need to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim in Illinois?
Hiring an attorney may or may not be necessary depending on the stature of your claim and the severity of your injury. An injury may be either physical or monetary, and small claims court in Illinois will handle claims up to $10,000.Small claims matters may involve issues such as tenant/landlord disputes or evictions, damages due to car accidents or minor personal injury, contract disputes, and matters involving failure to pay for or return property. If your injury is one listed above, or a minor one that will not result in any incapacity, or substantial medical care, then you may want to settle it yourself in small claims court.
An attorney should be consulted if you have been seriously injured or are unsure as to the outcome of your injury. These cases can get quite complicated. In such cases, an attorney will have the legal expertise, time and resources to effectively handle your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to accurately analyze the value of your case and will be able to meet all of the rules, requirements and deadlines that have to be met. Also of note is the fact that statistics show insurance companies pay more than twice as much compensation when an attorney is involved in your claim. The insurance company representing the party at fault is working against you and its goal is to pay you as little as possible to settle your claim.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Personal Injury Articles
- Personal Injury Law in Illinois
- Injured in Illinois: FAQ
- I was injured in Illinois. Can I file a lawsuit against the party that caused my injury?
- How long do I have to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim in Illinois?
- My child was injured in Illinois, can I bring a personal injury claim on their behalf?
- What to expect in a personal injury trial in Illinois.