Your Champaign Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed August 08, 2017
The last thing you remember is driving home, and now you're lying at the Carle Level I Trauma Center. Your family is cursing the absent-minded driver who did this to you, and you're wondering what's next? Can you sue? Who is going to compensate you for your injuries? Although you might just want to rest and recover from your accident, extensive medical bills and other costs, as well as time lost from work may end up being big worries. Also, what if some injuries are long-term or disabling, requiring follow-up care and additional expenses?
Injuries can happen in many ways: car accidents; train and bus accidents; workplace accidents; construction site accidents; or maybe defective products. Personal injury is an area of law that encompasses a variety of different types of accidents. Here's some general information about Champaign personal injury cases.
Overview of a Champaign Personal Injury Case
Let's start with the injury. Typically, a plaintiff will have been injured because someone's' conduct was negligent or fell below a certain standard of care. After an injury, the victim may meet with a personal injury attorney to see if they have a viable case and discuss options.
Next, the lawyer may file a complaint in a Champaign court and serve notice to the responsible party, also known as the defendant. This is the official "start" of a personal injury lawsuit. The defendant may be required to file an answer depending on the circumstances.
Then comes the time for both sides to gather evidence and engage in a practice known as "discovery." A pre-trial conference will take place between judge and the attorneys to discuss a possible settlement. Parties may also be able to hire a mediator and settle out of court.
What Can I Do To Protect My Rights?
There are a number of things an injured party can do to help protect their rights.
As far as car accidents are concerned, step one is to report the accident to the Champaign Police and then make a report to the insurance company or companies at issue. It may be important to contact the person/entity believed to be responsible to get his or her name and address.
It may be a good idea to keep a journal and calendar after an accident. Writing down every important detail, including any pain and suffering and its effect on daily life, can be powerful evidence later on.
Another way to preserve or create crucial evidence is by taking photos or video at the accident scene and of the damages.
Collecting medical records is often a good idea. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives everyone the right to obtain a copy of their medical records from any medical provider.
What is the Time Limit to Bring Personal Injury Cases in Illinois?
The time limit (also known as the statute of limitations) to file suit for most accidents is two years from the date of the incident. However, the time limit is generally longer for minors or those considered mentally incompetent at the time of the accident.
For someone suing the government, the time limit is typically shorter - in most cases they'll have only one year to file.
What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Champaign Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In order to win a case, a plaintiff typically must prove the defendant was negligent or "at fault" for the injuries at issue. Determining who is at fault isn't always easy. It will depend on the particular circumstances. A lawyer may rely on evidence collected from the scene, expert testimony, witnesses' statements or any combination of these things.
Comparative Negligence Defined
What if the plaintiff is also partially to blame for the accident? They may still recover damages, but only up to a certain point. Illinois uses what's called a modified comparative negligence standard to determine fault.
Don't worry about the legal jargon. It simply means that if a plaintiff was also partially to blame for the accident, they can still recover monetary damages, but any compensation they are awarded will be reduced by their degree of fault, as determined by a jury.
However, if the plaintiff is found to be 51 percent negligent or higher, they can't collect a dime.
What Is a Claim Worth?
The term for collecting money to compensate for injuries is called damages. These may be awarded for physical injuries, which include direct trauma to the body. A victim may be to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life's pleasures, and scarring and disfigurement. Mental and emotional injuries are also part of that.
Punitive damages usually are sought only if the defendant was grossly reckless or intended to injure the plaintiff. These damages are awarded as punishment to make sure the defendant won't commit the act again.
Illinois does not have a limit or damages cap on how much you can recover for personal injury lawsuits.
For those facing a case or wondering what to do, a Champaign personal injury lawyer may be able to help. Lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, plaintiffs do not pay for the costs of a case or pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if they lose the case. If the plaintiff wins, they pay the lawyer a percentage of the money they get. A settlement in a case is considered a "win" and the plaintiff's attorney will most likely be entitled to collect their fees.
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