Your Personal Injury Rights
Illinois Personal Injury Attorneys
We hear the phrase “personal injury” often, but what does it really mean and how can it affect our lives? Simply put, a “personal injury” or “tort” is a private or civil wrong for which the court will provide a remedy in the form of an action for money damages. When the acts or omissions of another person or entity cause injury to your person or property, you may have a legal right to recover money damages from that person or entity. But what do you have to do to protect your interests and assert your rights? The questions and answers below explain some of the basics. If you feel you may have a claim, contact one of our personal injury attorneys for an in-depth, free consultation to explore your rights, protect your interests and maximize your monetary recovery under the law.
Q: What are the elements of a “tort” claim?
A: A personal injury plaintiff must prove three things to recover money damages from a defendant in a tort claim. First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty to act or refrain from acting in a particular way. Second, the plaintiff must prove a breach of a defendant’s duty toward the plaintiff. Third, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty caused injury to his or her person or property.
Q: What “acts” or “omissions” can give rise to a personal injury claim?
A: Personal injury claims can arise out of virtually any area of our daily lives. On the road, drivers have a duty to obey the rules of the road, to maintain their vehicles in a safe condition and to operate them safely so as to avoid collisions. Businesses, schools, neighbors and others who allow us to enter onto their property have a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn us of known hazards that could cause injury. Doctors and other medical providers have a duty to exercise care in diagnosing, treating and informing patients. Manufacturers of products and providers of services must take care to ensure that injury does not result from our foreseeable use and enjoyment of their products and services. A breach of any of these duties, whether resulting from negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct can give rise to a personal injury claim. Even our federal, state and local governments can, under some circumstances, be liable for acts or omissions which cause injury.
Q: What is medical malpractice?
A: Despite the concerted efforts of doctors and insurance companies to attribute the rising cost of insurance premiums to so-called “frivolous” medical malpractice claims, the bottom line is medical professionals make mistakes more often than they care to admit. In fact, in Illinois, you cannot even file a medical malpractice lawsuit without having a qualified physician review the case to determine whether there is a “meritorious cause of action.”
Q: What is a meritorious cause of action?
A: A meritorious case is one in which the offending physician has deviated from the established standard of care. Did the doctor do what a reasonably well qualified doctor would do under the same circumstances? Unfortunately, medical professionals do not always live up to the standards of care set forth by their peers. In some cases, this is due to inattention to the symptoms their patients exhibit. Other times they fail to live up to these standards because of sheer incompetence. A qualified attorney can help you determine whether you have a meritorious cause of action.
Q: What is product liability?
A: Every day, we use an array of products to make our lives easier. We drive cars to work, use lawnmowers to cut the grass and purchase play equipment for our children. When we buy these products, we have an expectation that they will be safe for their intended use. This expectation has been incorporated into Illinois law. If a product you have used is not safe and you are injured as a result of the product’s defect, Illinois law places strict liability on the part of the manufacturers and retailers who made the product available.
Q: What is strict liability?
A: Strict liability means that if you prove the product is unreasonably dangerous and caused your injuries, you do not have to prove fault. Manufacturers cannot argue that they “tried” to make the product safe, therefore they are not to blame. If you demonstrate the product is unreasonably dangerous, you win, regardless of how much thought the company put into the product’s safety.
Q: What is my case worth?
A: This is the most frequently asked and most difficult to answer question. In general, an injured plaintiff is entitled to recover all damages caused by the defendant’s negligent, reckless or intentional acts or omissions. This can include compensation for things like past and future pain and suffering; past and future earnings loss; past and future medical expenses; disability, disfigurement and property damage. It can also include compensation or aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Ultimately, though, your case is “worth” whatever a judge or jury awards at trial, or whatever your opponent will agree to pay in settlement. Thus, significant research, investigation and case preparation is almost always necessary before your attorney can predict the likely settlement and/or trial value of your case. The sooner your attorney is able to begin this research and investigation, the better our chances of maximizing your recovery.
Q: How long do I have to file my claim?
A: It depends on the type of claim and on other factors. For nearly all types of tort claims, there exists a “statute of limitations,” or a time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. Failure to file within the applicable time limit will prevent the injured person from recovering money damages, even where liability is clear. Thus, if you or someone you know has been injured as a result of another’s negligent, reckless or intentional acts or omissions, it is essential that you seek legal advice immediately to protect your rights. Our experienced, knowledgeable team of attorneys is standing by, ready to assist you in every way possible.