No one expects to leave home for work, run errands, or go shopping for essentials, to end up in a crash with another vehicle, but a report by Esurance shows that 77 percent of all drivers have been – or will be – involved in at least one accident. Also, the average driver will need to file an insurance claim at least once every 17.9 years of driving. Accidents happen, in other words.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicular accident in or around Naperville, Illinois, contact our personal injury/car accident attorneys at Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law immediately. We can help you navigate the insurance claims process to ensure you're justly compensated and also help you file a personal injury lawsuit if warranted.
Our team at Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law proudly serves clients in Bolingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Lisle, Wheaton, and Woodridge, Illinois.
The Basics of Auto Insurance and Driver Liability
States and their auto insurance laws generally split into at-fault or no-fault. About a dozen states, Illinois not being one of them, legislate what is known as “no-fault” auto insurance.
In a no-fault state, when you're injured in an auto accident, you must first turn to your own insurance to recover medical expenses and compensation for other losses or damages. In no-fault states, it is harder to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, even if that person is completely at fault for what happened to you. You can be stuck with whatever settlement your insurance company offers.
In at-fault states such as Illinois, auto insurance laws provide more options. If you are injured in an accident, you can definitely start by filing a claim with your own insurance company, especially if you've purchased MedPay as part of your insurance package (more on that in a bit). Your insurance company will, in turn, file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance provider.
You can also directly file a claim with the driver whose negligence resulted in your injuries and other damages. Finally, you are also free to file a personal injury lawsuit if your insurance settlement doesn't cover all your expenses and lost wages.
However, when it comes to the issue of liability – who is at fault for the accident – Illinois law follows the comparative negligence (or fault) standard. This means that, in any auto accident, more than one party may be responsible.
Say you're rear-ended, but your rear brake lights malfunctioned. An insurance claims adjuster, or a jury in a trial, might claim that your malfunctioning brake lights were 30 percent responsible. If your settlement or jury award for your injuries and damages totals $50,000, you would then receive that amount minus 30 percent for your “comparative negligence.” Thus, you would end up with a payout of $35,000.
Worse, if your percentage of fault rises above 50, you cannot receive anything from the other driver through insurance or legal action. That's why the comparative negligence rule is also called “the 51 percent rule.”
Illinois Insurance Requirements
Like almost every other at-fault state, the minimum requirements for auto insurance in Illinois are designed to pay for injuries and damages you cause to others, not for what might happen to you or your passengers. Thus, the basic insurance package in Illinois is known in industry standards as “25-50-20.”
These numbers refer to the minimum amounts in liability coverage you need to purchase. The 25 refers to liability coverage for the injury or death you cause to one person in another vehicle -- $25,000 -- while the 50 represents the total for the bodily injury or death of more than one person, or $50,000. The final 20, or $20,000, is for any property damage you cause with your vehicle.
Remember, these are minimums. If an injury you cause to another person rises above $25,000, your insurance will not pay it, and the injured party may sue you for the difference or for the whole amount. It is generally suggested that you opt for higher coverage caps, which means that your premium will increase to provide for the added protection.
Illinois has only one other requirement in your basic insurance policy, and that is for uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage kicks in when you or your passengers are injured, and the other driver has no valid insurance at the time of the accident. Uninsured motorist coverage starts at $20,000 per person and $40,000 for all injured parties. Again, you can increase the amounts by paying a higher premium.
As you can see, your basic coverage pays only for what your actions cause to others in terms of injuries and property damage. The uninsured motorist clause of your policy will cover injury expenses to you and your passengers only if the other driver lacks insurance.
Given these basics, there are options you should consider when purchasing auto insurance to avoid any drawn-out, third-party insurance claims or legal battles to recover medical and injury-related expenses.
MedPay (medical payment) is an option that can be added to your policy so that injury expenses are covered by your own insurance. If the other driver is at fault, your insurance provider will make a subrogation claim against that driver's insurance to recover whatever they pay out under your MedPay rider.
Another option is underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured means that the other driver's liability caps do not fully cover the injuries you and your party suffer. Adding the underinsurance motorist coverage to your policy will compensate for the amount not covered by the other driver's liability protection.
Underinsured motorist coverage is different from uninsured motorist coverage, which is mandated by state law. Underinsured is an option you can choose.
Skilled and Practical Legal Guidance
Your best option in matters of auto insurance is to purchase a policy “on steroids,” so to speak, so that you and your passengers are fully covered no matter what happens or who is at fault. Even with such an above-standard policy, however, insurance companies are still for-profit institutions.
When you report a claim, you will be assigned a claims adjuster, whose job it is to get you to say something the company can use to pin the fault – full or partial – on you, so they can lowball their settlement offer or even reject your claim.
This is where experienced car accident/personal injury attorneys come in. Our team is familiar with all the tactics of the claims adjusters and can negotiate from a position of strength to help get you the best settlement possible.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in or around Naperville, Illinois, contact us immediately at Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law. We will handle the claims adjusters and fight for the best possible settlement. We also will advise you when a lawsuit is your best option.
We proudly serve clients in Bolingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Lisle, Wheaton, and Woodridge, Illinois.