Articles Posted in Car Accidents

There is nothing more devastating than losing a loved one in a fatal auto accident. As compassionate and experienced Chicago car accident lawyers, we have seen numerous wrongful death actions arising from another individual’s carelessness. One of the most common ways that these accidents take place is motor vehicle collisions. A recent Illinois appellate opinion discusses liability in a fatal car crash, along with the importance of filing the action within the statute of limitations.

The plaintiff’s brother was killed while walking in a crosswalk when he was struck by a tow truck. The decedent’s brother contacted an attorney to bring a civil claim against the defendant. The attorney filed this lawsuit exactly two years and a day after the date of the accident. The case went through a number of other procedural issues, including a dismissal for lack of prosecution. The new attorney filed a petition for relief from the judgment based on a variety of grounds, including evidence that the prior attorney suffered a stroke while representing the plaintiff and was unable to practice law. The parties disputed whether the plaintiff actively prosecuted the claim, and the defendant argued that the claim was filed after the statute of limitations, rendering it time-barred.

The plaintiff countered the statute of limitations argument by saying that the plaintiff died the day after the accident as a result of his injuries and that the plaintiff was legally disabled from the moment of the accident until the moment he died, effectively tolling the statute of limitations. The plaintiff also wanted to add a claim for wrongful death, which had not been pled in the original complaint.

One of the biggest headaches that people face after a motor vehicle collision is negotiating with insurance companies and navigating their insurance policies. Not all policies are the same, and insurance companies often bury key language in legalese or at the end of the document. Knowing when you need to submit certain pieces of information or identifying key deadlines is critical. At Therman Law Offices, our team of Chicago car accident lawyers is standing by to help you make sense of your insurance policy and to ensure that you are treated fairly.

A recent appellate decision highlights the complications that can arise with insurance claims after a car accident. The plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle crash in 2007 with an uninsured driver. The plaintiff promptly notified her insurance company of the accident. She kept in contact with her assigned insurance representative and updated the representative about her medical treatment and missed work.

In 2009, the plaintiff demanded arbitration with her insurer but did not include the name of the arbitrator whom she intended to use. The insurer denied the request and filed a declaratory judgment action against the plaintiff, asking for a declaration that her demand for arbitration was untimely because it was not submitted within the two-year time period required in the policy. The plaintiff filed a counterclaim, seeking a declaratory judgment and requesting arbitration. This time, the plaintiff included the name of an arbitrator.

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One of the most critical aspects of any car accident case is the discovery phase, in which the parties request information about the accident and each other’s background. Although it is clear that certain types of information are discoverable, there are frequent disputes regarding whether other categories of information and documents must be produced, including medical records. As seasoned Chicago car accident lawyers, we are experienced in handling discovery and know how to ensure that the other side plays by the rules. A recent appellate case demonstrates a common dispute regarding medical records in auto accident cases.

The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the defendant in 2015, alleging that the defendant struck the plaintiff with his vehicle while she was crossing the street in a crosswalk. The defendant asserted an affirmative defense to the complaint allegations, arguing that the plaintiff failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to cross the street properly. The defendant also alleged that the plaintiff was intoxicated at the time of impact and that the plaintiff’s negligence rendered her at least 50% or more at fault for the accident.

During discovery, the plaintiff sent interrogatories to the defendant, which included a request regarding any medical or physical conditions that required a letter of physician’s approval for the defendant to drive. In response, the defendant indicated that he required a letter of approval involving a diabetic reason and identified the doctor who provided the letter. The plaintiff had also requested the identity of any eye doctor or general practitioner who had treated the defendant in the last 10 years. The defendant claimed that these requests sought information that would violate HIPAA and the doctor-patient privilege. He also asserted that his medical health at the time of the accident was not an issue in the litigation.

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Even if you can establish that the person who caused your injuries acted negligently, you still may not receive compensation. Personal injury lawsuits are complex and require plaintiffs to prove a variety of factors in order to recover compensation for their injuries and damages. For example, the plaintiff must also prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the injuries that he or she sustained. As seasoned Illinois car accident lawyers, we have handled a variety of cases that involve complicated causation matters. As a recent appellate opinion shows, having an experienced attorney to guide you through the process can make all of the difference.

The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff was driving in stop-and-go traffic when a vehicle traveling behind her struck the back of her vehicle. As a result of the impact, the plaintiff’s vehicle struck the rear of the vehicle that was traveling in front of her. The plaintiff also testified that she struck her knees and body on the dashboard of her vehicle at the time of the impact. The plaintiff was taken to an emergency room and advised to make an appointment with her family physician. Her doctor examined her and concluded that her injuries were a result of the accident. He advised her to undergo physical therapy, which she did. Some time thereafter, the plaintiff reported experiencing new pain and injuries, which the doctor also attributed to the accident. He then referred her to a surgical doctor, concluding that physical therapy was not improving her injuries.

The plaintiff underwent additional treatment, testing, and examinations. At each step, her doctors concluded that her pain and injuries were results of the accident. In total, the plaintiff’s bills amounted to a little under $30,000. During trial, the defendant offered evidence from an expert orthopedic surgeon, who testified that the plaintiff’s medical records included information suggesting that she had experienced back pain and injuries to her back before the accident occurred. The medical records included information about treatments that the plaintiff had undergone for various complaints, including numbness, tingling, chronic pain, and discomfort.

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As seasoned Chicago car accident lawyers, we often deal with insurance companies that provide insurance coverage to the parties involved in an accident. Although there are some instances in which an insurance company will comply with the terms of its policy, there are far too many other instances in which the company refuses to play fair, to the detriment of the victim. A recent lawsuit demonstrates the challenges that insurance companies can cause in a car accident lawsuit.

In 2008, the plaintiffs were involved in an accident with a rental car that had been stolen from a rental agency. At the time of the crash, the plaintiff’s vehicle was insured. The car rental company denied coverage on the basis that its vehicle had been stolen, so the plaintiff sought coverage through the uninsured motorist provision of her policy. The coverage contained an arbitration clause providing that any dispute regarding the amount of coverage provided must be handled in arbitration. After the accident, the plaintiff’s lawyer sent a letter to the insurance carrier, stating that she demanded compensation under the uninsured motorist provision. It specifically made a demand for an arbitration proceeding if the claim was not resolved within two years of the date of the accident. The policy also included a provision barring any arbitration or lawsuits against the company more than two years after the date of the collision. The attorney sent two additional letters, and eventually, the insurer rejected the plaintiff’s request for uninsured motorist coverage. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, alleging breach of contract and bad faith.

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It is not uncommon for car owners to loan their vehicles to other individuals. Whether it is a friend helping another friend get to work, or a parent asking a child to take someone to the airport, loaning your car to another driver carries significant liability and demands careful consideration in some situations. As a recent Illinois appellate case demonstrates, being involved in an accident with a driver who was loaned a vehicle by the car owner requires a special burden of proof and involves unique legal issues that often require the experience and knowledge of a Chicago car accident lawyer.

The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries when he was involved in an accident with a 15-year-old driver who possessed a valid Illinois driver’s permit. On the morning of the accident, the driver’s father asked the minor driver to move the family’s vehicle to another parking space. The father also asked the son to perform this task so that he could observe the son’s parallel parking skills. Then, after the vehicle was parked, the father and son prepared to depart to take the son and his brother to school. As the son prepared to exit the parking space, he pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake by accident, causing the vehicle to hit the car in front of his vehicle. The plaintiff happened to be standing in front of the car that the son hit, which resulted in the plaintiff being pinned between that car and the car in front of it.

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Even if you are successful in proving that a defendant is liable for your injuries, there may be certain legal issues that arise regarding the amount of compensation that the jury awards in your case. As seasoned Chicago car accident lawyers, we have handled many trials involving disputed damages awards. As a recent appellate opinion demonstrates, settlement agreements can play a big role in determining the amount of compensation that you should receive following a successful verdict.

In the action, the plaintiff suffered injuries when she was involved in a car accident. The defendant’s vehicle crossed over the center lane and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. Evidence indicated that the defendant had been consuming alcoholic beverages at a local liquor establishment. In her amended complaint, the plaintiff sought both compensatory and punitive damages and included a cause of action based on Illinois’ Dram Shop Act. This statute is designed to hold liquor establishments liable where they over-serve a patron and allow the patron to drive away from the establishment. Not all states have a Dram Shop Act, and each state has taken a slightly different approach to crafting the rules and requirements for satisfying a claim brought pursuant to the statute.

At some point in the litigation, the plaintiff settled her claim with the intoxicated driver and received a check in the amount of $50,000. The remaining defendant, an insurance company, filed an affirmative defense, claiming a setoff in the amount of $50,000 against any judgment entered against the defendant.

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As Chicago car accident attorneys, we often receive questions regarding the role of underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. A recent appellate opinion from the First District highlights the importance of understanding how an insurance policy may affect your potential damages award. The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries during a car accident in May 2011 when the vehicle in which he was riding collided with another vehicle. The other driver failed to stop at a stop sign and yield the right of way. The accident occurred while the plaintiff was working, and the vehicle that he was operating belonged to his employer.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. Her vehicle was insured, and the insurer offered the full limits of the defendant’s policy, $100,000. The plaintiff accepted the offer, and the parties settled. The plaintiff had also asserted a claim against his employer’s auto insurance policy, which included coverage for the vehicle he was operating at the time of the accident. The policy included bodily coverage of up to $1 million and provided underinsured motorist coverage of up to $500,000 for certain personnel, including directors and partners and their family members. It offered $40,000 to any other individual who qualified as an insured. The plaintiff made a demand for the policy limits, and the insurer denied it, stating that the plaintiff was only entitled to $40,000 under the underinsured motorist policy and that the plaintiff had already received $100,000 from the defendant’s policy.

The plaintiff filed suit against his employer’s insurer, seeking a declaratory judgment entitling him to relief and a reformation of the policy to provide underinsured motorist coverage to the plaintiff, amounting to $1 million. The plaintiff made many other requests in the action, including a request that the court compel the insurer to binding arbitration with the plaintiff.

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In a recent opinion, an Illinois appellate court considered whether an insurance company had a duty to provide coverage to the plaintiff, its insured, related to a motor vehicle accident in light of the fact that the plaintiff violated the cooperation clause in the insurance policy. More specifically, the insurer claimed that the plaintiff failed to appear at a mandatory arbitration proceeding related to the underlying personal injury litigation and the insurance subrogation claim. This resulted in an order from the arbitration judge debarring the plaintiff from rejecting any unfavorable arbitration award.

Following the close of the insurance company’s claim, the defendants filed a motion for judgment in their favor, which the lower court granted. It based its opinion on a finding that despite the insurer’s prima facie showing that the insured failed to cooperate, the insurer failed to provide adequate evidence demonstrating that it suffered substantial prejudice as a result of the insured’s non-cooperation. An appeal followed.

Before delving into its analysis, the appellate court reviewed the rules applicable to court-annexed arbitration. According to Illinois law, certain types of lawsuits are subject to a mandatory arbitration proceeding before a three-person arbitration panel. The panel has the authority to make an award following the arbitration hearing and to dispose of the claims. In general, the award is not binding, and any party at the hearing can file a notice rejecting the award within 30 days and take the matter to trial. While a party represented by legal counsel at the hearing does not waive the right to reject the award if he or she does not appear, the court has discretion to debar the party from rejecting the award if the party’s absence amounted to a failure “to participate in good faith and in a meaningful manner.”

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In a recent opinion from the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries as a result of another motorist’s negligence during a collision that occurred in January 2014. In November 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking to adjudicate liens for medical expenses that had been paid related to the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident. In the motion, the plaintiff alleged that according to the common fund doctrine, the lienholders were required to reduce their liens by one-third and to assume a pro rata portion of the costs associated with the litigation. The plaintiff eventually settled with one of the lienholders. Regarding the second lienholder, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

In May 2016, after the plaintiff and the defendant in the negligence lawsuit entered into a settlement, the defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement and to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice. The court granted the motion, and in July 2015, the trial court entered an amended judgment. The plaintiff promptly filed an appeal regarding the lower court’s denial of his motion to adjudicate the second lienholder’s liens. More specifically, the plaintiff argued that the lower court erred in concluding that the common fund doctrine did not apply to the liens, due to payments it made to the plaintiff pursuant to the medical payments coverage portion of the plaintiff’s insurance policy.

The appellate court began its analysis by reviewing the record. First, it noted that the lienholder’s lien was based on payments it made pursuant to the medical coverage clause in the plaintiff’s policy. It also noted that during the litigation, the lienholder had waived its right to subrogation for the $50,000 settlement between the plaintiff and the defendant. The record showed, however, that the lienholder preserved the right to take $27,463.04 as an offset for the medical payments in the event the matter went to arbitration, along with a $50,000 credit that was paid under the defendant’s insurance policy. The appellate court also noted that the parties were still adjudicating the issue of underinsured motorist coverage.

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