Understanding "fault" insurance in Illinois
Illinois, like most states, is considered a "fault" or "at-fault" insurance state. Essentially, that means the person who is found at fault for an accident is responsible for compensating anyone who is injured in the accident, including other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
You generally have three options to pursue compensation for your injuries after an Illinois car accident:
- File a "first-party" claim with your own insurance company, if your policy includes first-party benefits.
- File a "third-party" claim directly with the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver.
- File a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver, whose interests in the case will be represented by his or her insurance carrier.
Depending on your circumstances, any or all of these options may work in your favor. That's one reason why it's so important to contact an experienced attorney who can review the available insurance coverage and help you pursue maximum compensation.
First-party benefits from your own insurance carrier
Under Illinois law, you are required to carry certain benefits on your policy that can provide compensation in the event of an accident. There is also optional coverage that can provide you with additional benefits for certain losses:
- Collision coverage: This type of insurance pays for damage to your vehicle sustained in an accident, up to the fair market value of the vehicle. Collision coverage is optional in Illinois, but if you have an auto loan, your lender will likely require you to carry it.
- Medical payments coverage: This type of insurance covers your medical expenses arising from the accident, including medical bills and prescription medication, up to the policy limit. This is an optional type of coverage in Illinois.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM): This coverage provides you with compensation, up to the policy limit, if you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. It also provides compensation, up to the policy limit, if you are hit by a driver who has insurance but does not have enough liability coverage to fully compensate you for your losses. In Illinois, all motorists are required to carry UM/UIM coverage for bodily injury. You can also purchase additional coverage to pay for property damage caused by an uninsured motorist.
If you claim compensation from your own insurance carrier, they may then pursue compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance carrier. This is called subrogation, and it's important to understand because it can reduce the amount of compensation you actually recover. Our attorneys know how to negotiate with the insurance companies and may be able to get your insurance carrier to reduce or waive their subrogation claim, allowing you to keep more of the money you receive for your injuries.
Taking legal action against the at-fault driver
In Illinois, all motorists are required to carry liability insurance. If you are hurt in an accident caused by another driver, his or her insurance is supposed to pay for your losses, up to the policy limit. However, the insurance company's interest is in protecting their client and their bottom line, and they may try to dispute fault for the accident or downplay the extent of your losses. That's why it's so important to have your own legal advocate if you're trying to negotiate with an insurance company representing another driver.
By state law, you have up to two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for your injuries, and up to five years to file a lawsuit for property damage. This is called the "statute of limitations." Note that if a government entity is responsible for your accident, there may be a shorter statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you will most likely not be able to claim any compensation for your accident, so it's important to take action quickly.
Getting full and fair compensation for your accident is a complex process, and if you try to face the insurance companies alone, you're at a massive disadvantage. Even the odds with an experienced injury attorney on your side. Contact Schweickert & Ganassin, LLP for a free consultation.