Taking the Confusion Out of Common Injury and Estate Planning Worries: Answers to Your Frequent Questions

The most important job for any attorney is making sure that his client understands every aspect of her case. Although some lawyers are comfortable keeping their clients in the dark, we feel that you deserve more. You deserve to have all of your questions and concerns addressed in order to pursue your own case confidently and successfully. This is why we take the initiative to answer common questions that you may have even before you even step into our office. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact our office at 855-522-5291.

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  • How is lost income calculated?

    Car Crash Attorney Calculating Lost IncomeIf you are injured in a crash and are unable to work for several weeks, you can get compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your lost wages. Your lost wages can include your regular weekly salary, but also any overtime, commissions, bonuses, promotions, and paid time off you would have accrued if you hadn’t been injured. In addition, you may be able to recover an amount for future lost income if your injury has forced you to change jobs or leave the workforce altogether.

    How to Estimate the Amount of Future Income Losses in a Car Accident Case

    If your injury has resulted in permanent limitations that affect your ability to earn a living, you should not be forced to live on a restricted income because of someone else’s negligence. When you file your injury claim, you can include the amount you will lose each year as a result of your work restrictions, your ability to find a suitable job, and other work-related costs of your disability.

    Some factors that will be considered when determining your lost earning power include:

    • The number of years left before your retirement age
    • Any injuries or impairments you had before the accident
    • How long you have held your current job
    • How much you made while working for past employers
    • The nature of your work and the job skills needed to perform that work
    • Your age and educational background
    • Your role as a breadwinner in your home
    • Your economic lifestyle

    Lost income can make up a significant portion of an injury victim’s damages, so it is vital that these calculations be done correctly. The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm can gather all of the necessary medical and financial evidence you need to support your injury claim, and can ensure that your demand for employment losses is thorough and well-documented. To learn more about your legal rights after an accident in Illinois, contact us via our quick online form to schedule an appointment, or download your FREE copy of our book, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases.

     

  • What if the other driver didn't have insurance?

    Driver Talking to the Insurance Agent After a Crash on an Illinois RoadIn 1989, the state of Illinois passed a law making it mandatory for all drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 of bodily injury insurance. Although it has been illegal to drive without insurance for decades, some drivers continue to break the law—leaving many injury victims out-of-pocket after an accident.

    What to Do If You Are in a Collision With an Uninsured Driver

    Even if you have enough coverage under your own car insurance policy to cover your vehicle damage and injuries, you may see increased premiums and fight with the insurer to get the coverage you are owed. If you are rear-ended or struck by a driver who is clearly at fault, you should:

    • Never take cash. If another driver offers you an immediate cash payment instead of calling the police or involving insurance companies, there is a good chance the driver is uninsured. The reason it is a bad idea to accept cash in lieu of contact information is because it can be difficult to estimate damage in the moments after a crash—both to you and to your vehicle. If you accept $300 in cash from a driver and your car repairs are over $1,500, you have no way of tracking the driver down to collect the rest.
    • File an uninsured motorist claim. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides payment for any injuries sustained in an accident with an uninsured at-fault driver. It also allows victims to collect an additional sum under their own policies if the at-fault driver had only a small amount of insurance.
    • Report the driver. If you suspect that the other driver does not have insurance, you can report him or her to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. If the police are called, the police officer will establish insurance compliance at the scene. Officers may write the driver a citation for uninsured driving, which can result in a $500 fine and a 30-day driver’s license suspension.

    Want to know more about your legal rights after an accident in Illinois? Download your FREE copy of our book, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, or contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

     

  • Can I recover damages if I was partially at fault for a car accident in Illinois?

    Car Accident in Illinois Where Both Drivers Share FaultEven if they were partially responsible for a crash, victims can still suffer weeks of medical appointments, lost income, and increased financial stress. While Illinois law allows at-fault drivers to recover payment for their losses, there are limits on the maximum amount of damages they can be awarded.

    How Fault Affects the Amount of an Illinois Car Accident Claim

    The state of Illinois follows a modified comparative fault law, meaning the driver who caused the accident is liable for any damages. However, if both drivers are considered to be at fault, each one will receive damages based on his or her degree of fault.

    If your actions played a role in causing your accident, you may still collect compensation under the following conditions:

    • You are less than 50 percent at fault for crash. You must be able to prove that you were less than 50 percent liable for the accident. Otherwise, you will be barred from compensation altogether.
    • Your settlement is reduced by your amount of fault. Once the percentage of fault has been established by the judge in your case, your damages will be reduced by that percentage. For example, if your settlement is $100,000, but a judge determines that you are 30 percent at fault, you are only entitled to $70,000.
    • The other driver was uninsured. If you were partly to blame for a car accident in which the other driver was uninsured (or the other driver fled the scene), you may be able to collect payment under your own uninsured motorist policy.

    As you can see, the amount you may recover in these types of cases relies heavily on the specific factors in the case. Our Illinois car accident lawyers can help you gather the necessary evidence to support your claim, allowing you to maximize the amount of available compensation. We can also examine your own insurance coverage to see if there are other potential sources of payment, such as MedPay, comprehensive coverage for vehicle repair, or uninsured motorist coverage. Contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment, or learn more in our FREE book, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases.

     

  • What is uninsured motorist coverage?

    Illinois Drivers Talking About Insurance After a WreckIn Illinois, the driver who is at fault for a car accident is responsible for paying for any injury and property damage costs that stem from the crash. Since it is up to each driver to choose the amount of his or her own liability insurance, crash victims may not be fairly compensated if they are struck by a driver carrying the minimum amount of coverage. This is where uninsured motorist coverage can be extremely beneficial.

    Car Accidents That May Be Covered by Uninsured Motorist Insurance

    Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) is a form of insurance that gives drivers more control over the amount they can collect after an accident. UM coverage is purchased under your own policy, allowing you to easily make a claim after an accident by dealing with your own insurance provider.

    Uninsured motorist coverage will protect you if you are struck:

    • By an uninsured driver. Although all drivers are required to carry car insurance in Illinois, many people drive without coverage, leaving victims with no way to pay for their injuries. UM insurance allows you to collect coverage for your medical bills and income losses up to the amount of your policy.
    • By an underinsured driver. If the driver who struck you was only carrying the minimum required insurance and your injuries exceed those limits, your UM coverage may be used to make up the difference.
    • By a rental vehicle. UM coverage can be used if an at-fault driver was driving a rental car or moving van, but declined to purchase additional rental coverage.
    • While walking or bicycling. Many UM policies can be used to collect payment for injuries sustained by victims who were not inside their vehicles during the accident. If a victim is struck while biking or walking, UM coverage can be applied to cover the cost of their considerable injuries.
    • In a hit-and-run. It may be impossible to determine the insurance limits of another driver if the at-fault party fled the scene. In these cases, UM coverage victims who have been struck by a passing vehicle.

    Want to know more about your legal rights after an accident in Illinois? Download your FREE copy of our book, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, or contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

     

  • What if I had Pain Prior to My Car Crash?

    One of the things an injured party must prove in a car accident claim is that the car accident actually caused the injury.  This is known as causation.  When someone suffers a broken bone or laceration as a result of a car accident, it is pretty easy to establish this causation requirement.  It can become a bit more difficult when there is a back or neck injury.
     
    With each year that passes by, we are exposed to more opportunities to injure ourselves.  It is not uncommon for individuals to injure their Pain Prior To A Car Accidentbacks or necks in one way or another throughout their lifetime.  Even when there is no specific injury, it is very likely that as we age, our spine will suffer from some form of arthritis.  This arthritis, also known as degeneration, can show up on x-rays, MRIs or CT scans.  It can cause us pain or can remain asymptomatic until trauma aggravates it to the point of causing pain.
     

    Will The At Fault Driver's Insurance Company Look Into Your Medical History Following A Car Accident?

     
    Typically, with neck and back injuries, the at-fault insurance company will argue that the person had a pre-existing condition prior to the crash.  The insurance adjuster will try to find prior radiological scans showing indications of prior problems or medical records showing prior complaints of pain.
     
    A skilled car accident attorney can deal with this issue effectively.  If a lot of time has passed from the last complaint of pain until the crash or from the last x-ray and the crash without intervening pain, there is a good argument that these prior pieces of evidence simply don't matter.  In Illinois, there is a helpful jury instruction on this issue.  Instruction 30.21 provides:
     
    If you decide for the plaintiff on the question of liability, you may not deny or limit the plaintiff's right to damages resulting from this occurrence because any injury resulted from EITHER an aggravation of a pre-existing condition or a pre-existing condition which rendered the plaintiff more susceptible to injury.
     
    This jury instruction is helpful because at a trial, the judge would read this to the jurors.  The jurors are not to reduce damages simply because the plaintiff had a prior back injury, for example.  Nor can the jury reduce damages because the plaintiff had a condition (a fragile spine from osteoporosis, for example), making future injury more likely.
     

    Can You Still Be Compensated Following A Car Accident Even With Prior Injuries?
     

    Sometimes, clients express concern that they will not be fully compensated following a crash because they had a prior injury.  It is important to know that a prior injury or medical condition does not necessarily reduce your ability to obtain full compensation for your injury.
     
    If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call us at 855.522.5291 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation. 

  • What happens if I do not have a Will? Part 3: Administrators.

    Creating a Last Will And Testament is your chance to exercise your right to dictate how your Estate will be administered.  Generally speaking, the Last Will And Testament serves two main purposes:  first, you direct how your belongings and real estate will be distributed (and to whom your various assets will be distributed); and second, you select the person to serve as your Executor, meaning that you select the person in charge of your Estate.

    If your Estate does not qualify as a “Small Estate” and you do not have a valid Last Will And Testament, then someone will need to petition the Court to serve as an Administrator of your Estate.  The Probate Act of 1975 lists the order of preference for individuals to either serve as Administrator or appoint someone to serve as Administrator, starting with your spouse, then children, then grandchildren, then parents, then siblings and so on.  

    If a class of individuals all have the same preference and all wish to serve as the Administrator, the Court must select the individual(s) who will serve.  In other words, your children or parents or siblings might be left to argue amongst themselves, and in front of a Judge, about which of them should serve as the Administrator of your Estate.

    An Estate Attorney Can Help Greiving Families

    Unfortunately, grief brings out the worst side of many people.  Even generally reasonable people can find themselves at odds with other generally reasonable family members, if they are all left to figure things out on their own.  An estate plan (including a Last Will And Testament) allows you to give guidance and instruction, so as to minimize inter-family strife.

    If you are considering whether you should have a Last Will And Testament, likely the answer is yes. The attorneys of Tapella & Eberspacher LLC will gladly meet with you to discuss your options.  Please contact us today!

     

  • What happens if I do not have a Will? Part 2: Small Estates.

    Creating a Last Will And Testament is your chance to exercise your right to dictate how your Estate will be administered.  Generally speaking, the Last Will And Testament serves two main purposes:  first, you direct how your belongings and real estate will be distributed (and to whom your various assets will be distributed); and second, you select the person to serve as your Executor, meaning that you select the person in charge of your Estate.

    Signing Last willSmall Estate Affidavits may be used, regardless of whether you have a valid Last Will and Testament, if the total value of your estate does not exceed $100,000.00 and if either (a) any real estate which you owned was held in joint tenancy and/or held as tenants-by-the-entirety or (b) if the value of your interest in real estate is less than $2,500.00.  If you do not have a valid Last Will And Testament, appointing an Executor, and your Estate meets the statutory criteria for a “Small Estate,” then someone can self-select themselves to be “in charge” of your Estate and sign the Small Estate Affidavit and administer the Estate as they see fit, with little oversight.  

    "Small Estates" Adminstrators  

    The good news is that your heirs would have the right to sue anyone who wrongfully collects and/or wrongfully distributes the assets of your estate pursuant to a Small Estate Affidavit.  But that process takes time, effort, and often attorneys’ fees.  Your heirs would undoubtedly prefer that you select someone trustworthy to serve as your Executor from the start.

    In other words, even if your estate qualifies as a “Small Estate,” you and your family would likely benefit from you creating an estate plan.  The attorneys of Tapella & Eberspacher LLC will gladly meet with you to discuss your options.  Please contact us today!

     

  • What happens if I do not have a Will? Part 1: Distributions.

    Creating a Last Will And Testament is your chance to exercise your right to dictate how your Estate will be administered.  Generally speaking, the Last Will And Testament serves two main purposes:  first, you direct how your belongings and real estate will be distributed (and to whom your various assets will be distributed); and second, you select the person to serve as your Executor, meaning that you select the person in charge of your Estate.

    Regardless of whether you have a valid Last Will And Testament, all property that you own in joint tenancy (or real estate that you own as tenants-by-the-entirety), will automatically transfer to the other person(s) who co-own the property with you.  However, all property that you own outright – whether or not you were married at the time that you acquired that property – and all property that you own as tenants-in-common, must be distributed as part of your Estate.

    The Probate Act of 1975's Influence on Your Estate.

    If you are a resident of the State of Illinois and you die without having a valid Last Will And Testament, the default provisions in the Probate Act of 1975 will dictate how your Estate is administered.  For example, if you are married without any children, then your surviving spouse receives 100% of your Estate.  However, if you are married and you do have children, then your surviving spouse receives only ½ and your descendants receive the other ½, per stirpes.  Moreover, if you are not married and you do not have any children, then your parents and siblings each receive equal shares.  As the situation becomes more complicated, so do the applicable provisions of the Rules of Descent and Distribution.

    Any deviations that you would like to make from the rules of descent and distribution, including any gifts to step-children, step-parents, or friends, must be created as part of your estate plan.   

    If you are considering whether you should have a Last Will And Testament, likely the answer is yes. The attorneys of Tapella & Eberspacher LLC will gladly meet with you to discuss your options.  Please contact us today!

     

  • What does it cost to hire an attorney?

    Injured woman speaking to attorneyOne of the most frequent questions I receive when approached by a client with a potential personal injury claim is “how much is this going to cost me?” 

    The simple answer is that for a personal injury client, we don’t have to charge you anything at all up front in most circumstances.  That’s because our firm believes that personal injury claims should have what is called a “contingency fee contract.” 

    A contingency fee contract allows your attorneys to represent you without charging an hourly rate and without paying a large retainer.  The way it works is that we will only get paid if you get paid based upon a certain percentage. 

    In most cases, this percentage is 33% of the total recovery. 

    So, for example, if your personal injury motor vehicle case is resolved for $30,000.00, our fee, no matter how much time and effort we put into your case, will not exceed $10,000.00. A contingency fee contract is beneficial for a number of ways. 

    • First, there is no upfront cost, which can be especially difficult right after you suffer a major injury and may be off work for a period of time.
    • Second, you don’t have to worry about calling us whenever you have a question because you won’t be running up any bill.  We represent you, and always want to answer your questions and because of the contingency fee, we don’t have to worry about how much it will cost to have a conversation with you.  
    • Last, and most importantly, our interest is making sure you get the best outcome for your case possible.  In a contingency fee contract, you don’t need to worry about us dragging your case out in order to collect more fees.  You also don’t have to worry about us taking a discount in order to get your case resolved because the more money we put into your pocket, the more money we make as well.  When we work together on the same team, it creates a positive incentive to maximize the amount we share.

    It is important to note, that there are additional expenses sometimes that we charge in addition to the contingency fee contract.  For example, filing fees paid to the Court to begin your lawsuit, or paying for court reporters at a deposition, or paying hospitals for your medical records.  However, these additional fees typically work out to be a very small portion of the overall claim.  

    Contingency fee contracts are a wonderful way for us to represent clients in personal injury cases because it allows our interests to be aligned, and for our clients to feel connected to their attorney’s without having to pay an arm and a leg to get superior service. 

    If you ever have any questions about a personal injury claim, please feel free to contact us at 855-522-5291 to discuss how we can assist you in getting you through this difficult time. 

  • My neighbor's dog bit my child. What should I do?

    • Get medical attention- the sooner your child is seen, the better outcome will be.

    • Speak with the neighbors- find out if the dog is it up to date on all of its shots?  Has the dog had any prior attacks on other dogs or people?

    • Find any witnesses who may have seen what happened

    • Keep written documentation of the attack, the treatment, and any statements made by the owners or witnesses.

    • Contact an attorney as soon as possible so that they can investigate your claim​