Getting into a car accident is bad enough; not being fully compensated for your injuries and damage to your car is even worse. It’s best to get the advice of a professional who knows the law and how car accident claims work.
Even though Missouri and Illinois are just a bridge-length apart, there are distinct differences in how the states handle accidents. Hipskind & McAninch, LLC serves personal injury clients in both states. Their experience works in your favor no matter which side of the river you’re on.
What to Do to Start an Accident Claim
In the unfortunate case of a car wreck, it is important to start a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. First, of course, you will want to see if anyone is seriously hurt. Call 911 to alert the police and request an ambulance if necessary. If the accident is minor and there are no injuries you can call the police department’s non-emergency number.
Next, exchange names, addresses, and insurance information with the other driver. If there are any witnesses who can help verify what happened, gather their contact information too. All of these will help with the next step, which is to start your car accident claim.
Call your insurance company’s claims department and tell them you’ve been in an accident and need to start a new claim. They will ask for specific information about the crash to open a file for your car accident claim.
Be prepared to provide them with the following information:
- Where and when the collision occurred.
- Details of the crash itself. (For example, were you rear-ended? Or t-boned while turning, etc.)
- The names and contact information of the people involved.
- Insurance policy numbers.
- Contact information for any witnesses.
- If the police showed up, and if so, the police report number.
- If there were injuries and what hospital victims were taken to.
The insurance representative will open a file using this information and provide you with a claim number that identifies your case. You will need to reference this number in any phone calls or correspondence about the claim. They may also give you the name and phone number of the insurance adjuster whose job it will be to assess your claim and negotiate a settlement.
Contacting an Attorney to Help With Your Claim
If you’re in a minor wreck or “fender bender” without injuries, getting money from the insurance company to have your car repaired may be simply a matter of getting some estimates and submitting receipts. But if there is significant vehicle damage or serious medical injuries, it is best to contact a lawyer.
Dealing with insurance companies for car accident claims can be confusing and frustrating. The simple fact is that insurance companies make their money by collecting premiums. They wish everyone was a safe driver so they would never have to pay out claims. But accidents do happen, and when they do, you want to make sure your losses are covered. An attorney can help you do that.
How Can a Lawyer Help With a Car Accident Claim
A personal injury attorney knows the intricacies of how car accident claims work. They can guide you along the way and help you understand the process and get you a fair settlement.
Your lawyer will gather all the facts about the accident, including all property damages and injuries. They will contact the insurance company that represents the driver who was at fault and negotiate a settlement based on the insurance available.
When the lawyers request a settlement amount for a car accident claim, they will tally all of the expenses their client has incurred. This includes the following:
- The amount it will take to repair or replace the damaged vehicle.
- Repairs to any other property damage that resulted from the accident.
- Medical bills for immediate, followup, and long-term care for injuries suffered in the crash.
- Lost wages due to medical leave or inability to continue doing the same type of work because of injuries suffered.
When a Claim Becomes a Lawsuit
If all goes smoothly, your lawyer can come to an agreement with the insurance company and reach a settlement. This means that the insurance company agrees that the amount of your claim is fair and they are willing to pay you the amount your lawyer requested for your medical and auto bills.
When the lawyer is unable to negotiate a fair settlement, they may file a lawsuit. This can happen because the other party claims the accident was your fault, not theirs. Or, the amount of the settlement the insurance company offers does not fully compensate you for the injuries you suffered.
Often, simply filing the lawsuit can prompt both parties to compromise and reach a settlement. If the matter can not be settled out of court, the case will be brought before a judge or a jury. All of the evidence is presented to this third party to decide who was at fault, and the amount of money that will be awarded to the injured party.
Why Determining Fault is so Important in Missouri and Illinois
If a person is responsible for an accident, it seems logical that they and their insurance company should be responsible for paying for the damage they’ve caused. This is true—in general. But each state handles car accident claims differently.
Some states are known as “no-fault” states. In a no-fault state, every driver’s own insurance pays for his or her own injuries and damages, no matter who caused the accident. Many of these states require drivers to carry PIP (Personal Injury Protection) policies to cover them in case of an accident.
In Missouri and Illinois, however, it does matter who was responsible for the crash. They both use a “comparative negligence” method of determining how much a settlement will pay. Comparative negligence means that a decision is made about exactly how much of the responsibility falls on each person involved in the accident. Was someone 100% at fault? Or were both parties equally (50/50) responsible? Maybe the cause was 25% one person’s fault and 75% the other’s.
This percentage becomes extremely important to the settlement amount in both Missouri and Illinois but in very different ways.
Missouri: A Pure Comparative Negligence State
Car accident claims in Missouri are decided according to a pure comparative negligence decision. This means that each driver is assigned a percentage of the blame for the car crash. Payment for any damages: car repairs, property damage, or personal injuries are awarded according to that percentage.
For example, let’s say you are in an accident and you are asking for a settlement of $100,000 to cover your medical and auto repair bills. We’ll assume that a judge or jury has agreed that this is a fair dollar amount. If it is determined that the other driver was 100% at fault, you will be awarded the entire $100,000.
It may be decided, however, that you share some of the blame. Let’s say you are found to be 10% responsible. In this case, you would only receive 90% of the settlement, or $90,000. It will basically cost an amount that corresponds to your portion of the “blame.” This method is considered “pure” because no matter how small the percentage, that is how the money will be awarded. Even if you are only 1% at fault, you will forfeit 1% of any payment.
Illinois: A Modified Comparative Negligence State
By contrast, Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state. This method uses the same concept of assigning a percentage of the fault for a car accident. But the percentage amount can affect the payment drastically.
Illinois puts a cap on the percentage at 51%. Essentially, this means that the only way that both drivers can collect damages is if they are equally at fault (50/50). If a driver is found to be more than 51% at fault, the claim is settled in favor of the other person. If the judge or jury decides that the amount being requested is fair, the negligent driver would be responsible for 100% of the judgment paid to the other driver.
Statute of Limitations in Missouri and Illinois
Another way that Missouri and Illinois handle car accident claims differently is the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the amount of time a person can wait after an incident before acting.
In Missouri, a driver must file a claim within 5 years of the date of the accident. Illinois allows only 2 years to file. That may seem like plenty of time, but in some cases, it’s not. If someone is severely injured, it can take months or years to recover. All that time, medical bills can pile up.
It is best to file a car accident claim immediately after the crash. The process can take time even when everything goes smoothly. You want to make sure you are able to receive any compensation that is owed to you without any unnecessary delays.
Find a Lawyer Who Knows How Car Accident Claims Work in Your Region
If you live in the St. Louis region, it’s likely that you travel back and forth between Missouri and Illinois on a regular basis. No matter which side of the river you live on, it’s common to cross over for work, school, shopping, sporting events, or entertainment. If you have a wreck, it’s important to understand the differences in car accident claims in each state.
If you are in a wreck in either state, we encourage you to reach out to us for a free case review. We’ll help you navigate each state’s laws and get the settlement you deserve.