Rear-End Accidents in Illinois
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There seems to be a mistaken belief that if you are struck from behind in an auto accident, the one who struck you will definitely be at fault, and have to pay your damages. Rear-end collisions are not that simple, however. It would be a mistake to rely on the false assumption that your case is a “slam dunk” and not take some necessary steps to preserve and prove your case.
The facts of the accident will have to be reconstructed later when you are in court, so it is a good idea to solidify the details as close in time as possible to the actual events. First, before anyone leaves the scene of the accident, call the police. The police report will be an unbiased, third-party authoritative account of the events concerning the accident, taken immediately after.
Get medical treatment, if there is any chance at all that you may be injured or feel ill. This may be harder to determine in a rear-end collision, where the most common type of injury is a strained neck or other soft tissue injury. You may not notice anything bothering you right away, but if you do not have an evaluation very close in time to the accident, it can be challenging to prove later that your injury was caused by the impact. If you have not suffered an actual, provable injury, you will not be able to recover damages.
Write detailed notes about everything you remember, beginning with the events leading up to the collision, and describing what you recall each of the other cars and drivers doing, what anyone said, and the condition of the cars and roadway. Again, because these notes will have been written close in time while your memory is fresh, they will be more reliable.
There are many facets to proving your case in court and being able to recover your damages. Merely because you were hit from behind, it does not automatically mean that in an Illinois courtroom you come out on top. You will need to have the facts to show, if necessary, that the person who hit you did not do it because of something that was out of his control and unavoidable.
Illinois law will allow accident defendants the opportunity to argue that you, as the plaintiff, were at fault also. If it is proven that you contributed to the cause of the accident, any money you are awarded will be reduced by the percentage that is your fault contribution. If, however, it is proven that you were more than 50 percent responsible for causing the accident, then you will not be able to prevail at all.
There are a few common arguments that the driver who hit you from behind will try to make, to show you were more responsible for the accident. The most common is that you made a sudden and unexpected stop. If the driver has evidence that you stopped in a way that could not be predicted or avoided, and that it was the cause of the accident, you could lose, or have your damages reduced by the percentage that your stop contributed to the collision.
Insurance companies will deny liability for any reason or look to cut their losses in any way possible. We have seen numerous cases in Illinois where a car was stopped at a red light and then slammed into from behind; expecting the other insurance company to do the right thing, our clients were surprised when the insurance company said they were not going to pay anything at all. Crazy, but true.
Some rear-end accidents involve multiple cars, where one car is pushed into another in a chain reaction. When it is raised, a similar analysis could take place, to determine the relative contribution of fault among the drivers involved. Where, however, one or more drivers is stopped in an appropriate traffic stop position, and then struck from behind and pushed into another car, Illinois law will generally not find any fault by the driver or drivers that were properly stopped.
Attorneys that specialize in Illinois accident cases should know how to help to gather the evidence that you need to be able to prove your case. Though rear-end accidents can be easier to prove fault than others, there is no presumption of fault just from being hit from behind. Therefore, an experienced lawyer should know what is needed to help show your lack of contribution to the collision, as well as to help show your injuries, even if they are not outwardly apparent. If you would like our help in finding the right attorney for your case, please contact us at any time. All calls are free and confidential.