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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  • What should I take pictures of with my cell phone after a car crash?

    Crash Victim Taking Pictures With a Cell Phone After the CollisionSome of the most conclusive evidence in your case is gathered immediately after the crash. Snapping a few pictures allows all parties to see the true nature of the wreck long after the accident scene has been cleared away—as long as victims know where their cameras should be pointed. Here are a few tips on taking the most effective photos of your vehicle damage, injuries, and the accident scene.

    Tips on Photographing Car Accident Evidence with a Cell Phone

    Most modern cell phones come equipped with multiple cameras, each with a variety of settings to enhance or animate your photos. When documenting an accident scene, you should keep the camera settings as plain as possible: no filters, no motion effects. Use the camera that has the highest photo quality and avoid using the zoom lens (it can make photos blurry or grainy).

    If it is safe to exit your vehicle, you should be sure to take photos of:

    • The full crash scene. If you can, walk far enough from the crash site so that you can fit the surrounding area in the camera frame. Walk around the perimeter and take photographs of the entire scene from different angles, showing the position of all vehicles that were involved in the accident. This can help immensely with accident reconstruction.
    • Your entire vehicle. Documenting damage to your vehicle can help get a proper insurance payment for property damage, but can also help prove the extent of your injuries to an insurance provider. Walk around your vehicle and snap photos every few seconds, taking close-up shots of any damage caused by the accident. Cover as many angles as you can, including the tires, windshield, and debris around the car.
    • Your (and your passenger’s) injuries. If you or your passengers have suffered injuries, take close-up shots with an object (such as a coin) to show the scale of the injury.
    • The interior of your vehicle. Don’t forget to take pictures of your vehicle's interior, even if you’re not sure whether the interior has been damaged. Pictures of deployed airbags, glass fragments, blood stains, broken personal items, or even the way debris has been scattered throughout the car can all be useful to your case.
    • Any relevant features or evidence. Photograph anything at the scene that could have played a role in the accident, such as potholes, road signs, skid marks, icy patches, bends in the road, broken lights, damaged guardrails, or anything else that could have contributed to your injury or lost property.

    Our personal injury attorneys help car accident victims throughout Illinois and Missouri get the advice and representation they need after a crash. Contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment in our Illinois or Missouri offices, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!

     

  • Should I release my medical records to the insurance company?

    Doctor Using a Medical Records Button on a KeyboardCar accident victims may receive medical records release requests from an insurance company at some point in their claims. Since all medical records are protected under state and federal law, insurers cannot access them without your written permission. It is vital that you do not sign these releases without consulting with a personal injury attorney.

    Dangers of Releasing Medical Records to an Insurance Company

    Insurers may request medical documents for many reasons, such as to verify your injuries, estimate the costs of your treatment, or to authorize payment of your medical bills. Since many victims are not used to dealing with insurance companies after a crash, they may not realize that they should never sign release requests without first speaking to an attorney.

    Insurance companies may request that you sign a medical release in order to:

    • Access your complete medical history. Insurers will flag anything in your medical history that can be used to discredit you and devalue your claim. Your medical records may contain personal and private information that you would not want to be shared publicly, which can be leveraged by an insurance company—even if the information has nothing to do with your injury claim.
    • Look for weaknesses in your claim. Insurance companies will comb through your records and look for ways to deny your claim. This can include identifying any preexisting conditions you did not mention, medical treatments for your injuries that were expensive or unnecessary, or a doctor’s written opinion that he or she does not agree with your assessment of your injury.
    • Pressure you to settle quickly. Insurance representatives are trained to identify injuries and conditions that can lead to further treatment and lifelong complications. Adjusters may offer a fast settlement that seems reasonable to the patient, but the patient will not be able to recover any additional payment from the insurer once the offer is accepted.

    Our personal injury attorneys can review any records requests and ensure that only the necessary information is sent to the insurance company. Contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment in our Illinois or Missouri offices, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!

     

  • If the amount I was offered for my car accident isn’t enough, can I negotiate with the insurance company?

    Attorney Going Over a Car Accident Settlement OfferMany people will receive payment from a car insurance company within a few weeks of suffering an accident. However, the amount on the check may not be enough to cover the full amount of losses, especially if the crash caused severe injuries. If the offer is too low, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate the amount with your claim adjuster—but it will take time and skill to get the company to agree to an acceptable amount.

    How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement

    You do not have to accept the first amount offered by your insurance company if it is not enough. A low first offer is often open for negotiation, and can be brought up several thousand dollars simply by providing a counteroffer and compelling evidence to support the amount requested.

    If you are negotiating with the insurer yourself, it is important that you:

    • Know your car insurance policy inside-out. The insurer is not going to give you an amount above the policy limit, and will not pay for anything that is specifically excluded under the policy. You should read your insurance policy declaration page carefully to learn what is covered, what is not covered, and the payment limits.
    • Know what you are willing to accept. You should have a firm number in mind that will compensate you for your covered losses (including property damage and medical expenses from the crash). Once you have calculated the amount of your losses, you should decide on a minimum and maximum payment range that is acceptable to you. Keep these numbers in mind when negotiating, but do not share them with the insurance company.
    • Be prepared to wait. Claims adjusters are paid to save the insurance company as much money as possible, and they have years of training in reducing the amount paid on claims. You should be prepared to go back and forth with offers and counteroffers many times to reach an agreement, which could take several months.

    If your claim has been denied, delayed, or lowballed after a car accident, our injury attorneys can negotiate a settlement that works for you. Contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment in our Illinois or Missouri offices, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!

     

  • What are my options if the car accident settlement offered by my insurer isn’t enough?

    It Is Important to Get All the Compensation You Are Owed in Serious Car WrecksMany victims are tempted to accept low settlement offers in order to get payment for their crash expenses as soon as possible. However, you should be careful about accepting a settlement if your injury has not yet stabilized or you are unable to go back to work. Once you accept a settlement payment from an insurer, you cannot ask for more money later—even if you are unable to earn a living or are permanently disabled.

    What to Do If Your Car Accident Settlement Is Too Low

    The important thing to remember is that you only have one chance to collect payment. You will have to sign paperwork when you accept a lump-sum settlement stating that you will not seek any future damages stemming from the accident. With this in mind, if you have been offered too little, you have the following options:

    • Reject the offer. Insurance companies will rarely provide everything you need in their initial settlement offer. You can choose not to accept in order to begin negotiations, or until you know the full extent of your injuries.
    • Negotiate. Insurers have years of experience reducing the amount of claims, while victims will have to gather medical records, repair bills, pay stubs for lost income, and other evidence to prove their losses. If you plan on making a counteroffer to an insurer, it is best to have an attorney perform negotiations on your behalf for the best possible chance to get what you need.
    • File a lawsuit. If the insurer refuses to provide adequate payment, you may have to take the matter to court. You can continue to negotiate with the insurer as your lawsuit progresses, and may even seek additional compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress.

    Our car accident lawyers have offices in Illinois and Missouri, helping victims understand the injury laws that apply to their case and maximizing the amount of available compensation. Contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

     

  • 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 judgment 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 judgment 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.

     

  • Do I have to use the proceeds from my settlement to pay my medical bills?

    When it is time for you to settle your case or take it to trial, you and your attorney will revisit your incurred medical bills issue. If your medical bills remain unpaid at the time your case is resolved, the proceeds of the case will likely be used to pay your bills. 

    Medical Bills Eventually Have to Be Paid

    While you might be able to choose to not pay your medical bills with the case proceeds, you are ultimately responsible for the payment of the medical bills. 

    As such, your attorney will likely suggest that you pay them with the funds.  Often times, your attorney can work with your medical providers and have your outstanding bills reduced so that you can pocket more money.

    Paying Medical Bills With MedPay

    If your medical bills were paid by MedPay, typically in Illinois, the insurance company who paid those bills on your behalf is entitled to their money back.  While it may sound like it doesn’t make sense then to use MedPay at all, it is still wise to do so for a couple of reasons.  First, using your MedPay funds will allow you to pay off your unpaid medical bills and avoid collections.  Second, your attorney can likely get a reduction on what needs to be paid back to the MedPay carrier.  In Missouri, the news is even better because state law prohibits the MedPay carrier from seeking reimbursement. 

    In other words, in Missouri, you don't have to pay MedPay money back.

    If your bills were paid by health insurance, your attorney will have to review your contract with your health insurance carrier.  Typically, when you sign up for your health insurance, whether you know it or not, you agree to pay back your carrier if they pay your bills and then you collect from the at-fault driver. 

    Calculating Total Amount That Needs To Be Paid

    How much you have to pay back depends on how your contract reads.

    As with the unpaid medical bills and MedPay, sometimes, your attorney can get that amount reduced.  The medical bills issue can be difficult to navigate - it helps to have an attorney guide you.

     

  • Do I Have to Talk to An Insurance Adjuster After a Crash?

    We are so sorry to hear about your crash, and we hope your arm is healing up quickly! Insurance adjusters are trained to call you immediately after a wreck.

    Insurance Adjusters Will Try To Trick You

    To be honest, they know that if they can get to you before you hire an attorney, it could save their company money.

    They literally put this in their training manuals.

    Always Talk To a Lawyer First

    Under your insurance policy, you have an obligation to cooperate with YOUR company, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk to them while you’re still injured or in the hospital. If you get a call from your adjuster, tell them you want an opportunity to consider hiring counsel and that you will cooperate with them after consulting with an attorney.

    If the other driver’s adjuster calls, you have NO obligation to provide them with information, and you should not talk to them until you consult with an attorney.

    Schedule a Free Consultation

    If you would like to set up a free consultation with us, we would be happy to look at your crash report and medical records in order to determine if you need an attorney. If you do, you will not pay anything unless we secure a settlement or verdict for you.

    For more information on what to do after a crash, please order your copy of our free book ‘When the Rules of the Road Get Broken,’ or download your copy HERE.