Leopold & Associates has been fighting for victims of serious injuries in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. During that time, our clients have come to rely on us for being accessible and down to earth while working our hardest to be tireless advocates for our clients’ legal rights. We pride ourselves on being available for our clients, even long after a case may have ended. We are always happy to try our best to answer any legal question you may have. In that light, we tried to compile some of the most frequent questions our clients ask us about their cases.
Should I ever pay an attorney money upfront, in order for them to represent me in my personal injury claim? Generally not. Virtually all personal injury attorneys work on what is commonly referred to as a contingency basis. This means that a client does not have to pay his or her attorney for the attorney’s work unless and until a recovery is received. Sometimes an attorney will ask a client to advance expenses for an expert witness, filing fees, etc. However, realizing that many plaintiffs may be injured and unable to afford such costs, most attorneys will advance the money for costs and obtain re-imbursement from the recovery.
I was just in a car accident and the insurance company keeps calling and asking me to tell them about the accident; what should I do? While you never want to be rude, it is always best to tell an insurance adjuster that you are planning to retain an attorney and would like all communication to go through your lawyer. Remember, an insurance company is a business; the more money the company has to pay for your claim, the more their bottom line is affected. While insurance companies may describe themselves as “good neighbors” or claim “you’re in good hands,” to put it bluntly, at the end of the day, the companies’ best interests are not necessarily aligned with yours. Therefore, it is generally not advisable to speak with an insurance adjuster without first speaking with your attorney. While even a simple explanation of how the crash happened may seem very basic, an innocent mistake or accidently confusing some of the facts may have a big impact on your claim. So it is best to talk to your lawyer first. Your lawyer is on your side.
My injuries caused me to miss work; what do I do? Document everything and if possible, ask your doctor to provide a note or write in your medical records why your injuries caused you to miss work. Illinois law generally requires the at-fault party to pay for lost wages or any consequences from missing work due to injuries sustained in an accident. However, the clearer the documentation, the smoother it will be to seek reimbursement for these losses.
I am receiving bills in the mail for my medical treatment but my claim has not yet been settled; should I pay these bills? We always recommend paying for any bills for treatment that you received at the time the bill is due. Remember, in an auto-accident, the responsible parties’ insurance is obligated to pay all of your necessary medical expenses and assuming the at-fault party has adequate insurance to cover your medical expenses (see next question), these bills should be reimbursed. However, we also understand that these bills were unexpected and unplanned for. They can also be very expensive. If you are unable to pay your bills at the time that they are due and your insurance claim is still pending, we can often talk with your providers and work out an agreement to extend the due date for the bills until the claim is settled.
How much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage should I have?
We strongly recommend obtaining the maximum amount on uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that you are able to afford. As of 2015, Illinois law states that the minimum bodily injury coverage a driver must have is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. This means that if you are in a car crash
and the individual responsible only has this minimum amount of coverage, the maximum amount of money the driver’s insurance company will pay is $25,000. Oftentimes, medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses in a serious accident far exceed this minimum amount.
Underinsured motorist coverage (or uninsured motorist coverage if the responsible driver is illegally carrying no insurance) serves to put you in the same position you would put someone else in had an accident been your fault. By way of example, if you carry $100,000 of underinsured motorist coverage and the at fault party carries the minimum, you can receive up to an additional $75,000 from your own underinsured policy. Generally, any payment of uninsured or underinsured coverage has no impact on your coverage terms, points or policy rates.
How long will my claim take to settle? This is the most common question, but sadly, we cannot give you a specific time. Every claim is different. A general rule of thumb is that no claim is going to be settled until all of your medical treatment is complete. This ensures that the at-fault party pays all of your bills and there are no lingering issues that may need to be addressed. You have one chance to be fairly compensated for your injuries, pain and frustration. We want to make sure we are doing everything in our power to help return your life to normalcy while making sure your needs and rights are fully protected.
Under Illinois law, most personal injury claims need to be filed within two years from the date of an accident if a settlement has not been reached. There are special situations where the time for filing may be shorter or longer than the general two year provision, so you should always check with an attorney if you have any questions regarding when a lawsuit needs to be filed to preserve your rights.