When will I get my settlement money for my personal injury case?

As a personal injury lawyer, I come across many people who wish to use my services to represent them in their personal injury case. Usually I am contacted via phone (though e-mail is becoming more and more common). I personally want to speak on the phone with these people first and if I suspect we can help, I like to set up a personal meeting. Call me old fashioned but I like to look someone in the eye and thank them for considering my law firm whether they have a big case, a small case or something in between.

In our computer system, we call the personal meetings new client interviews. Sometimes the meeting takes place at my office, sometimes at the injured person’s home, and sometimes at the hospital. Sometimes these new client interviews are regarding catastrophic injuries such as the loss of a limb in a trucking accident and sometimes these new client interviews are for non-catastrophic injuries such as someone who broke a bone in a car accident. The potential client is interviewing me and I am interviewing the potential client. In these interviews, whether or not the potential client asks or not, I always address the question of “When should we approach the insurance company regarding settlement?”

When should we approach the insurance company regarding settlement?

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The honest answer is, “I don’t always know.” That’s not what most people want to hear. They want to hear something along the lines of “Soon, very soon.” There are lawyers, many lawyers out there who will tell people just that. Frankly, those lawyers are being dishonest, don’t know what they are doing or are not keeping your best interests in mind.

I tell people the following:

  • It’s not wise to be approaching an insurance company regarding settlement of a personal injury until at least four to six months from the date of the accident. First, we need to figure out where you are medically and that often takes some time. That nagging neck or back injury might be a simple strain or something more serious. It takes time to tell.
  • If you are approaching an insurance company regarding settlement shortly after an accident, you are sending a message, a loud message. That message is either, 1.) I’m not too hurt; and/or 2.) I’m desperate for money. Both are horrible messages to send to insurance companies who make millions of dollars by underpaying injured people for legitimate claims.
  • Those things being said, as a contingent fee lawyer, we don’t get paid until you do, so rest assured we will be aggressive about bringing your case to a conclusion BUT, AT the appropriate time.

Be careful of lawyers who promise quick settlements.

Now, there is no doubt that there are lawyers who will sign up a case and try and get it settled soon, very soon after an accident. Those lawyers generally aren’t acting in the best interests of their clients. They are acting within the best interests of their bank accounts. They are going for the quick easy money. Their philosophy is that they are better off settling a case 3 months after an accident for 20 to 50 cents on the dollar rather than working the case appropriately for a year or so and obtaining the full value of a particular case. Shame on those lawyers, and there are plenty of them.

We can help.

We recognize that many people want their money and they want it soon. We also realize that trying to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company too soon after an accident can cause damage to your case. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, we can help. Consultations are FREE and at a minimum, if you call us soon after an accident, we can get you on the right track so that you are able to maximize the value of your personal injury case. Call us at 312-635-4156. One of our lawyers will be glad to speak with you.

Do I have to go to court if I was in an accident and the other driver got a ticket?

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As a personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds (if not thousands) of car accident cases in the last twenty years, one question I get all the time goes something like this: If I was in an accident and the other driver received a ticket, do I have to go to traffic court? Have to? No. However, if you were injured, I suggest yes you go. In this blog, I will explain why.

Traffic Tickets are generally NOT admissible in civil (personal injury) cases.

Most people who are injured in accidents where the at-fault driver was given a traffic ticket are under the impression that this ticket will be admissible in the civil case involving injuries. They’re mistaken. Only when the at-fault driver pleads guilty in traffic court (an admission of liability) will it be admissible in the civil case. Keep in mind that traffic court is not civil court. It’s misdemeanor criminal court.

If you go to traffic court, the at-fault driver will be more likely to plead guilty.

We encourage our clients to attend the traffic ticket hearing in cases where the at-fault driver received a ticket. You see, if the driver who was issued a ticket shows up at the traffic ticket hearing and recognizes that the person who was not at fault is absent, he may be more inclined to plead not guilty to the traffic ticket. Since a personal injury victim benefits from that plea of guilty, he should go to the traffic ticket hearing if at all possible.

On a personal note, back in my younger days, if I were to receive a speeding ticket, I would go to traffic court. If I saw that the police officer who gave me the ticket was not there, I would plead not guilty and ask the judge to throw the ticket out since the complaining witness, the officer, was not present in court. The judge would often abide since the complaining witness was not there to… well, complain.

The same applies in a car accident case involving injuries. If the complaining witness, the injury victim, is not there to complain, the at-fault driver, if somewhat savvy, will plead not guilty and ask that the ticket be thrown out. The traffic court judge may do just that.

Will it hurt my personal injury case if I do not go to traffic court?

Is it crucial that the injury victim show up to traffic court to see that the at-fault driver pleads guilty? Crucial? No, not crucial. It helps though. Even in clear liability cases, let’s say a rear-end car accident case; it’s not uncommon for the at-fault driver to say that the injury victim made a sudden stop and was the cause of the accident. Sad, but true. I’ve seen all types of ridiculous car accident defenses over the years. However, let’s assume that this same at-fault driver who rear ended an innocent victim plead guilty to the traffic ticket he received. Think he would try the sudden stop defense in the civil (personal injury) case after pleading guilty to a traffic ticket? Not if he were smart.

I showed up to court and the at-fault driver pleaded not guilty.

Well what if the injured victim shows up to traffic court and the at-fault driver still pleads not guilty? Unfortunately, this happens. If it does, the injury victim may have wasted some time by going to traffic court. Once the at-fault driver pleads not guilty, it doesn’t even matter if the judge yells at the at-fault driver, gives him a fine and a dirty look – that ticket will not be heard of in the civil case. Even though the injury victim may risk wasting some time by going to traffic court, it’s worth the risk. At Willens Law Offices, we’ll often go with you to the traffic ticket hearing if we think we can add value or if you are just very uncomfortable in any type of court. Many people are. Sometimes, our clients are just plain unable to go to traffic court based on the nature of their injuries. In these types of cases, we’ll go for them.

We Can Help

If you have been in an auto accident and you have been injured, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under the law for medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, disability, and disfigurement. Call us for a FREE consultation at 312-635-4156. We can help.

Five questions to ask yourself about your personal injury case before calling a lawyer

Before responding to the above title of this article, we should mention that you shouldn’t be asking these questions to determine whether or not you should call a lawyer; you should still call. A good personal injury attorney has the experience to know the variables you might not consider. Most injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation to help you determine your best course. However, if you are going to second-guess your situation before calling, here are five questions to consider.

1. How serious is my injury?

Let’s look at a common injury case. You are walking through the grocery store and slip and fall on some spilled detergent. You have a severe sprained ankle that hurts so bad it feels broken along with a few other minor bruises. The store knows the familiar drill. They will document the incident. You should do the same. You should then go to the doctor for a full exam, x-rays, the whole bit. The doctor may very well come back with his diagnosis that you are going to be sore for a while but should be fine in the long run. He may prescribe physical therapy and pain medication. Your initial doctor visit plus x-rays may be under $1000. The insurance company may seek to quickly settle your claim for $1500 – $2000. Is that fair? A good personal injury attorney will let you know if it is.

2. Am I partially at fault?

Illinois has modified comparative fault laws that dictate who can receive monetary damages in an accident. The only way you can receive damages in an accident is when the other party is more than 50% at fault. If fault is deemed a 50/50 wash, then neither party has cause to seek damages from the other. However, if the other party was 60% at fault, you can seek damages. However, the insurance company will only pay 60% of your medical expenses and other losses. For instance, let’s say the full value of your case is $1,000. If the insurance company thinks you are 40% at fault, they will evaluate the full value of your case at $600. Insurance companies tend to put too much blame on the injured victim to protect their bottom line, i.e., their money. Your attorney can fight these percentages if they are not fair; but knowing the possibility of having your settlement reduced by comparative negligence laws can help you prepare for that inevitable argument.

3. Who is paying my medical bills?

If you are injured in car accident where you weren’t at fault, you will have claim against the other driver’s insurance to cover your medical bills. Until your case is settled, the doctors and hospital will expect payment from your resources. Your health insurance or medical payment insurance (med pay) under your own automobile insurance policy may pay most of your medical bills. You may be required to pay certain deductibles out of your own pocket as well. When you receive compensation for your medical bills, you will find that your health insurance and med pay under your own automobile policy, if you have any, will have a right to reimbursement on your settlement for the amount they paid on your medical bills. This is information you will want to know up front. Many people, including many lawyers improperly refer to these contractual rights of reimbursement (or subrogation) as “liens” though technically they are not.

4. What are my damages?

What has your accident really cost you? It is more than your medical bills? Did you miss work? Lose your job? Miss your promotion? Need to remodel your house to accommodate your injuries? Did your injuries disrupt your relationship with your spouse and children? How much did you suffer from an emotional standpoint? How would you describe your physical pain? What activities can you no longer do since the accident? Which activities can you do still, but now with discomfort? Are you disfigured? Assessing your real losses will help you understand the importance of your case before you start the process.

5. Have I received an offer yet?

If you have already received an offer, compare it to your damages above. If you feel it is too low, it probably is. Your attorney will let you know if it is or not.

By asking yourself these questions before contacting an attorney for your initial FREE consultation, you will be able to show up with the information necessary to determine your best course of action. It will help you prepare for your case and make plans accordingly.