Frequently Asked Questions
If you or someone you love has been hurt in an accident that was caused by someone else, you are likely to have more questions than you have answers right now. At Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, LLC, our Chicago personal injury attorneys understand just how overwhelming all of this can be, and we can help answer your questions and begin working through the legal process of filing a claim. In an effort to help you begin that process, we have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions people have in these situations. To discuss any aspect of your case in greater detail or to ask us anything else about your legal options, please call our offices at 312-346-8620 today.
How long will I have to file a claim?
Once you know that you are injured, you will need to file your personal injury claim within two years. If you fail to file your claim within this period of time—otherwise known as a statute of limitation—you will forfeit your right to pursue compensation. It is important to note that this two-year window begins the day you learn of your injury, not when you are actually injured. So, while some injuries will be obvious and diagnosed right away, such as a broken bone, this rule allows you to take action even if your injury was not immediately apparent or was sustained over a long period of time—for instance, the cumulative effects of a construction worker lifting heavy objects without proper safety equipment may cause a serious back injury over time.
What will I be able to recover compensation for?
The circumstances of every accident are different enough that it would be virtually impossible to say what kind of compensation you may be able to pursue without talking to you directly. While we would really need to examine your case to tell you more about the specifics of your situation, most personal injury claims do seek compensation for things like medical and rehabilitative care, loss of income during recovery, and any diminishment to the quality of the victim’s life. In any event, we can develop a course of legal action to help you pursue compensation for all of the pain and suffering you or someone you love has endured since the accident.
What kind of evidence will I need to file my claim?
Virtually any piece of evidence that independently corroborates your claim will be indispensable to your case. Bearing that in mind, we will need to collect as much as possible, from things like police reports, witness testimony, and photographs of the accident, to receipts for all the medical and rehabilitative care you have undergone, pay slips that show how much income you lost during recovery, and any other documentation of the financial damages associated with the accident. While all of this may feel somewhat overwhelming, we can help you understand just what you will need to present the strongest possible claim when the time comes to take action.
Can I file a personal injury claim if I was partially at fault?
So long as you are not found to be more responsible for the accident—51% or more—than the other party, you will be eligible to file a personal injury claim to pursue compensation for all your pain and suffering. However, it is important to note that the actual damages awarded by the court will be reduced to reflect your own culpability in the accident. For instance, imagine that the court finds that you suffered $10,000 in total damages for an accident for which the court also found you to be 25% responsible. Under these circumstances, the total amount awarded would be reduced by 25% and you would be granted a sum of $7,500 instead.
Will it be possible to settle my claim out of court?
While it may be possible to settle your claim out of court, it may be in your best interests to actually take your claim before a judge and jury. That being said, some accidents are more likely to be settled out of court than others. For instance, companies responsible for design defects that cause harm to many people may set up compensation funds to settle with accident victims. In any event, you need to speak with an attorney about all of the options that may be available to you to seek compensation for your pain and suffering. We can help you evaluate each of those options so that you can make an informed decision about what will be in your best interests.
What are my options if I was hurt on the work site?
If you were hurt while on the job at a construction site, you will almost certainly be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can be used to cover the immediate emergency and prolonged care that you need to recover from your accident, not to mention a whole range of other expenses that are associated with your recovery. However, under some circumstances, it may be possible to file a separate personal injury claim against your employer or a third-party contractor. Whatever the circumstances of your accident may have been, it will certainly be in your best interests to reach out to an experienced attorney who can explain your options and then help you do what is necessary to pursue compensation for your injuries.
When are property owners liable for accidents on their premises?
A property owner can be held liable for accidents that occur on their premises when they are the result of the property owner’s negligence. So, for example, if you were injured when a porch collapsed, and an investigation into the matter revealed that the structure had not been inspected or maintained for years, you would more than likely be eligible to file a premises liability claim against the property owner. What most claims come down to is whether property owners took reasonable steps to maintain the safety of their premises; if it can be demonstrated that they did not, they are likely to be liable for any accident that occurs as a result.
What can I do if my insurance company is not treating me fairly?
When you’ve been injured or are living in the aftermath of a disaster, there is no reason that you should have to deal with problems with your insurer on top of everything else you are doing right now.
Sadly, insurance companies are often more interested with protecting their bottom line than they are with fairly compensating their own policyholders. If your insurer, or the insurer of the person that hurt you, has not been treating you fairly, you may benefit from reaching out to an attorney for assistance. Once you do, your attorney can help you analyze the actual terms of your policy and help you determine what compensation you are legally eligible to recover under those terms. If your insurer does not comply, we can help you evaluate your legal options and then help you take whatever legal action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the policy.
How long will it take for my case to settle?
After a personal injury claim is made, it is difficult to know how long it will take for that claim to settle. Each claim is different and many factors will have to be taken into consideration when determining an estimated time-frame. In some cases, a settlement may be reached within a few months. Some cases may take years to settle, while others may lead to a trial.
How can I prove the validity of my claim to the insurance company?
Insurance companies are more likely to believe people who focus on recovering from their injuries. Documentation, such as medical bills and reports, and accurate proof of lost wages are great ways to prove to insurance personnel that an injury exists and has caused losses. Exaggerating about the extent of injuries or amount of money lost may cause the insurance company to feel that your claim is invalid.
How long do I have to wait to get the money my attorney and insurance company agree upon in the settlement?
The length of the settlement process ranges between two and six weeks, with an average of about a month’s time. During this time, all documents will be signed, you will receive the check, and each party will have to determine the way in which they wish to proceed with the settlement. However, some settlements can take longer, depending on complexity.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as when a health professional makes a negligent or careless mistake that causes an individual some kind of injury or harm. However, there is a lot more that goes into legitimizing a medical malpractice case than simply identifying an error a doctor made. There must be an established connection between the patient and the caretaker in addition to proof of negligence. In order to have a medical malpractice case, you must consider the details in proving that you were not shown the appropriate standard of care, and thus you were not at fault for the injuries you may have received.
What are comparative fault rules in Illinois?
When more than one party is responsible for the injury of an individual, then comparative fault rules come into play, which varies from state to state. In Illinois, the plaintiff can be charged with 90 percent of the fault and the defendant with 10 percent of the fault. The comparative fault rule will, in turn, reduce the defendant’s compensation by 10 percent. However, the rule can be adjusted to fit certain circumstances, and the court can actually find both the plaintiff and defendant 50/50 percent at fault. Thus, no collection of damages is allowed.
How is someone considered liable for a slip and fall injury?
It is difficult to completely define a liable person in a slip and fall case, but the outcome will ultimately be determined by the carelessness of the owner of the property or whether the injured individual caused their own harm. The legally liable party must have caused the surface to be dangerous, and/or must have known and were careless about it. Slip and fall cases are usually considered under common sense laws and necessitate specific evidence depending on the circumstance of the injury.
How can we prove if I was a victim of medical malpractice?
Typically in medical malpractice cases, it is the result of a doctor’s gross negligence that leads a patient to incur further injury. This negligence can be proven if another medical professional testifies that your doctor did not act like an ordinary, prudent doctor during your procedure. At Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, LLC, our attorneys will utilize our vast network of medical professionals to prove that your doctor failed to follow standard protocol.
What can I be compensated for in an automobile accident?
Automobile accidents are some of the most costly accidents, as they frequently result in serious injuries and damage to property. As with any other accident, a victim will be able to recover medical costs in the event of an automobile accident. Medical costs include all immediate medical procedure as well as any follow-ups or physical therapy required after the accident. All repair costs to the vehicle or property should also be compensated by the at-fault party. Other things that a victim of an automobile accident can recover compensation for include lost wages, pain and suffering, and other general damages.
In the event of a truck accident, is the trucking company or the driver liable?
In many instances, the accident is the driver’s fault, but it is up to the trucking company to pay compensation for its mistake. The driver is an agent of the company and, therefore, his or her actions can be regarded as the actions of the company, so long as the driver was acting within the scope of their employment. If the driver was acting beyond the scope of his or her employment such as driving under the influence or driving when they are not supposed to be, then an argument can be made that the driver be held liable instead.
How does a jury determine if my doctor was responsible for my child’s birth injury?
In a lawsuit levied against a doctor for a birth injury, the burden of proof lies in whether the doctor’s actions met the standard of care for good medical practice. “Standard of care” is simply a rule of thumb used to conclude whether a medical professional practiced in a manner consistent with expectations of the medical community. To determine whether actions were within the standard of care, the jury will usually listen to the testimony of other doctors and experts on whether they believe the doctor in question employed practices that met the standard of care owed to patients. A specialist—such as an OB-GYN— would be held to a higher standard of care than a non-specialist.
What is the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect?
In general, a birth injury is caused by something that went wrong during or immediately after the delivery of a child, while a birth defect occurs from problems that arose during pregnancy or pre-birth.
How do I know if my child’s cerebral palsy was a result of medical malpractice?
Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a medical error that occurs during, before, or immediately after birth. However, cerebral palsy can also be caused by premature birth, severe illness during the first years of life, severe dehydration, or physical trauma. Determining whether medical malpractice or negligence played a role in your child’s development of cerebral palsy involves questioning whether certain actions your doctor took fell below the standard of care for good medical practice. These actions can include using unnecessary force or instruments during delivery, leaving the baby in the birth canal for too long, or making a medication error during pregnancy. Sometimes, a birth injury is unavoidable due to factors such as the position of the baby in the womb; concluding whether a doctor played a part in a birth injury usually warrants the services of a qualified lawyer.
If I was injured in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet, can I still recover damages?
Whether or not you are able to raise a claim after a motorcycle accident that happened when you were not wearing a helmet depends on whether your state has a law requiring helmet use. Illinois does not have a mandatory helmet law. This means that although insurance companies may argue you were negligent by not wearing a helmet, it will be easier to recover damages for head and neck injuries since you weren’t breaking the law. In states where there is a helmet law, it can be nearly impossible to obtain compensation for a head or neck injury. However, you may be able to recover damages for other injuries.
I was in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver, but our vehicles never collided. Can I still raise a claim against the driver?
Yes. This type of accident is a “no contact” motorcycle accident. Drivers must obey traffic laws and remain aware of the vehicles around them. If another driver causes you to get into an accident through negligent actions, you can still attempt to recover damages even though you did not make physical contact with the other vehicle. An example of this type of accident is a vehicle not using a turn signal when changing lanes, causing you to swerve to avoid the vehicle and crash. As long as the other driver’s negligence caused your accident, you may still raise a claim.
Is a motorcycle accident automatically my fault if I was lane splitting?
Lane splitting is the act of riding between two lanes of cars during times of slow-moving or stopped traffic. Although not specifically prohibited by law, insurance companies consider lane splitting a precursor to accidents, meaning insurance companies will argue the accident was likely to occur. This consideration is due to dangerous factors, such as the small space between two lanes and the fact that other drivers do not expect another vehicle to zoom past them in slow traffic. Furthermore, although an accident that occurs while lane splitting is strong evidence that the act is unsafe, the motorcyclist may not be entirely at fault. If you can prove the other driver was doing something found to be more unsafe, such as texting while driving, you can still attempt to recover damages. However, the assistance of a motorcycle accident attorney will be necessary. Evidence of a safe riding record or proof that you took a motorcycle safety course will also help your case.