Each year, thousands, if not millions, of individuals get hurt or lose their life while going about their everyday activities here in Rockford and other parts of Illinois. They suffer injuries or meet fate’s door, passing away, in a wide range of personal injury incidents, such as pedestrian or bicycle crashes, drownings, due to workplace violence, sexual assault, due to a playground incident, pharmaceutical error, boat accidents, by falling down the stairs, or using a dangerous or defective product.
Here in our northern Illinois city of Rockford, which is located approximately 90 miles northwest of Chicago and a few miles south of the Wisconsin border, there are countless other ways someone might get hurt. Motor vehicle accidents may occur while a motorist is traveling on I-90 or I-39, Illinois Route 251 or Illinois Route 2, U.S. Route 20, or many of the surface streets that cross Winnebago County. Plus, people can suffer harm while visiting local venues like the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens, Anderson Japanese Gardens, Burpee Museum of Natural History, the Rockford Art Museum, the Discovery Center Museum, the nearby Boone County Fairgrounds, or our area’s many parks or nature preserves, like Rock Cut State Park.
No matter the personal injury incident that injures you or claims a loved one’s life, they all share one detail in common, they’re generally unexpected and completely preventable. That’s why Thomas Law Offices’ attorneys are so aggressive in advocating for those hurt or who suffer a wrongful death. A Rockford personal injury lawyer can do the same for you. Contact our law office to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss what your right is to file a claim in Illinois.
Filing a Claim in a Personal Injury Case
Many people who get hurt in personal injury incidents want to hold those people who hurt them liable for what they did. After all, the more serious their injuries, the more likely it is that they will have extremely high current and future medical expenses, especially if they require around-the-clock care because they’re now paralyzed, they have a severe traumatic brain injury that affects their cognitive abilities, or may require future surgeries. Also, the more catastrophic the injuries, the stronger the chance is that a person will have missed significant time from work or be unable to return to their previous career, thus putting a dent in their household income and affecting their ability to provide for their family financially.
The claims process, or more specifically pursuing compensatory damages like reimbursement of medical bills or lost wages in a personal injury case, is what our legal system in Illinois views as the way in which a plaintiff can become whole once again. Also, recoverable in personal injury cases are noneconomic damages, which account for the often-invisible losses a person suffers that aren’t easily documented with bills, but instead perhaps personal diaries, photographs and videos, and accounts from those closest to you. Examples of these damages may include mental anguish, a loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.
Filing a claim would generally sound straightforward enough. You may think that you’d simply identify the insurance company representing the party who hurt you, call them up and report what occurred, send them your incident-related bills, and get a check in the mail. Things are never as simplistic as they may appear on the surface, though.
You can expect a lot of requests for records and bills followed by a lot of negotiation in a case. Insurance companies have a tendency to push back and deny liability when bills appear high. They also do so when a plaintiff isn’t represented by legal counsel.
Why do they do this? Because they think that you don’t know any better and won’t fight back. Even if they do accept your claim as valid, they may try to short-change you in the end by offering you far less than you deserve for what you’ve endured.
What Should You Bring to Your First Meeting With a Rockford Personal Injury Lawyer?
When meeting with your attorney, you should bring as much information as possible regarding your accident.
Our hope is that whether you got hurt at work when a piece of machinery you were using malfunctioned, were struck by a car while crossing the intersection at E. Chestnut St. or E. State St. in downtown Rockford, were harmed by a dangerous drug mistake the pharmacist at your local compounding pharmacy made, or involved in any other injury incident, that some official record of it was made.
If you were in an auto-involved accident, then there should be a crash or police report from Illinois State Police, the Rockford Police Department, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, or some other law enforcement agency. If you were hurt at work, there may be an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report. If you were hurt on someone else’s property, there may be an internal incident report. Whatever documentation exists, if you can secure it and bring it with you to your free consultation with one of our Thomas Law Offices attorneys, it can be tremendously helpful to your Rockford personal injury lawyer as they attempt to sort out the liability necessary to file a claim.
Medical Records and Bills
Aside from that, bringing any health care information you have is important, such as contact information, bills, and records you have accumulated from the different practitioners you may have interacted with or have seen, such as:
- Paramedics (like Elite Ambulance, Superior Ambulance, or OSF Lifeline Ambulance companies)
- The hospital
- An emergency room physician
- A surgeon
- An orthopedic doctor
- A radiologist
- A neurologist
- A physical therapist
- A chiropractor
- An occupational therapist
- A mental health counselor
It’s important to bring your medical bills and records from these providers, whether you saw them at Javon Bea Hospital or another Mercyhealth facility, Rockford Health System, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, SwedishAmerican Hospital, somewhere else in the Chicago area, or elsewhere in Illinois.
Any documentation that may show that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) or that you’ve been identified as having a short or long-term disability is also helpful to bring to your appointment. So too, are any records or bills associated with you having to purchase assistive devices like a wheelchair or needing to renovate your home for accessibility. If you’ve been told by your doctors that they anticipate you requiring a set amount of care in the future, then you should bring any records where they outline that too.
Documentation About Missed Work
Also important to bring to your appointment are any pay stubs showing that you’ve missed work as you’ve been recovering from your injuries. If you have been informed that you’ll likely be unable to return to your previous career or at least be unable to work as much as you once did, you’ll want to bring any documentation substantiating that (if you have it) too.
If you have health insurance, bring any policy information with you. Likewise, if you have any details about the auto, homeowners, or any other type of insurance details that you might have for yourself or those who caused your injuries, you should bring it to your meeting.
Photos and Videos
Pictures and videographic evidence can speak volumes. They can help tell a different narrative from what was originally thought about how an injury incident occurred, how extensively you were hurt, and how you’ve been affected by what happened. Thus, it’s important to bring any videos or photographs you may have that shows anything from pictures from the accident scene, parties involved, weather, your injuries, and virtually anything else that may help shed more light on what happened and how impacted you were by it.
Additional information that may come in handy to have at your first meeting with your lawyer includes any property damage records and bills, private journal entries documenting what you’ve been through, and any names and contact information for witnesses to your incident.
Doctors and Other Experts We Work on Personal Injury Cases With
In many cases, our Rockford personal injury attorneys are able to review the information described above and successfully establish causation for your injuries, which is necessary to file a claim. However, in some cases, determining liability can be more convoluted and requires us to consult with other medical professionals, like orthopedic physicians, who can better connect a certain unfolding of events to the occurrence of specific injuries.
The need also sometimes arises for medical professionals to be brought into a case to give their professional opinion about the forecasted costs you can expect to receive for the necessary medical care you may require across the rest of your life.
Medical experts aside, other individuals may be asked to assess certain aspects of a case, such as the following, to make certain determinations:
- Crash scene reconstructionist: Sometimes, it may be necessary to have a traffic engineer or another skilled professional trained at recreating an accident to be brought into a case to make sense of what happened to better understand or document where liability lies.
- Career counselor: They may be asked to identify whether a victim could return to their previous profession and, if not, what options are available to them (and how their pay may suffer as a result).
- Actuary: If the incident resulted in the loss of life of a loved one, then an actuary may use a table to assess how long your relative would have been predicted to remain alive had they not been killed and how much they would have made across their lifetime had their life not been cut short.
- Private Investigator: There are situations where damages in a case may exceed insurance policy limits. In those cases, it may be necessary to find out if the responsible party has any assets that you can stake a claim to so that you can recover maximum compensation in a case. A private investigator has access to resources that allows them to identify assets that are tied to a potential defendant.
The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer in Your Rockford Case
If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, there’s nothing that says that you must work with a Rockford personal injury lawyer to file a claim or eventual lawsuit, but it may be in your best interest to do so. If you want to know why that’s the case, it comes down, among other things, to knowledge legal counsel has about building strong cases.
While knowing when to call in doctors and other experts, as discussed above, is one aspect of this, other knowledge your attorney can impart, such as the following, is also valuable in building a strong case:
How To Prove You’ve Been Receiving Medical Treatment
When it comes to filing a claim, it’s critically important that you’re able to show that you’ve been receiving medical treatment regularly or consistently. Our Rockford personal injury attorneys tend to advise our clients to continue treating with their doctors until they deem that they’ve reached MMI and release them from their care. If you fail to do this or don’t take medications or receive the care, like physical therapy, they prescribe, then an insurance adjuster may easily conclude that you’re not really hurt as badly as you’re claiming and use that as ammunition to deny or devalue your claim.
How Location Impacts a Personal Injury Case
Where you get hurt matters for many reasons. First, it dictates what the statute of limitations may be in a case.
For example, here in Illinois, the amount of time most individuals have to file a claim after being hurt in personal injury incidents is generally two years; however, Illinois law, 735 ILCS 5/13-212, specifies that there is a statute of repose that applies to most types of these cases, medical malpractice included, that lasts four years from the onset of the injury. The statute of repose is even longer in product liability cases. State statute 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b) describes how a plaintiff has up to 12 years from the time of their purchase of a dangerous or defective product to file a lawsuit.
While the above-referenced timelines may apply in most cases, location, as this section’s header suggests, can affect filing deadlines, such as whether the injury occurred at a government agency, like a Rockford Mass Transit depot, the Winnebago County Health Department, Lewis Lemon Elementary School, or another property. In addition to shorter statutes of limitations, there may be caps on potential damages and different notification requirements.
Where an incident occurred also matters in some of the following ways:
- How negligence is defined
- Different duty or standard of care obligations defendants may have had
- What constitutes a violation of law in that area
- Mandatory insurance coverage limits a plaintiff may be able to tap into
- Whether comparative negligence rules apply
As you can likely tell, there’s more to determining liability for an accident required to file a claim or lawsuit than what may initially meet the eye. An experienced Rockford personal injury lawyer like one of ours at Thomas Law Offices will know the ins and outs of Illinois law and local ordinances that may impact your right to pursue certain legal remedies and recover compensation in your case.
There’s no obligation to sit down with an attorney in our law office to discuss the merits of your case, which is why we urge you to do so immediately to ensure your rights are preserved if you’ve been hurt. Call or email us for help today. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, truck wreck, medical malpractice or nursing home abuse incident, or any other type of situation not listed, don’t hesitate to reach out.