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Drunk driving accidents are one of the most tragic vehicular collisions that occur today. Innocent children and family members are often injured as a result of the drunk driver’s actions and the result can devastate families. Each year, victims of drunk driving are killed, paralyzed, or otherwise catastrophically injured by intoxicated motorists. The results can lead to lost future wages, permanent disability, and life-long pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, most police agencies are understaffed and underfunded. It can take six months or more for the accident reconstruction to be completed following the collision. Drunk drivers often exercise their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination following arrest, causing extensive delays in civil litigation. Moreover, the ongoing criminal investigation can obstruct the FOIA process and other investigative tools typically used by competent attorneys.
However, there are steps you can take to protect you or a loved one who has been injured by a drunk driver. The steps include following up on all medical care necessary to take care of any sustained injuries, filing claims with the appropriate insurance companies to ensure appropriate coverage for lost bills and time missed from work, and following up to ensure that a thorough police investigation is being conducted.
The Drunk Driving Injury Attorneys at the Noll Law Office will be happy to sit down with you and discuss your potential claim. Our office has tremendous experience in prosecuting and defending DUI cases and we bring all of those resources to bear when we represent those injured by intoxicated drivers.
Our attorneys will be able to contact the relevant police department and subpoena copies of the relevant evidence, including important videos, confessions, blood tests, and other police documents. We understand the science behind driving under the influence cases including field sobriety tests. This background knowledge gives our office an advantage over the typical insurance defense lawyers.
More than that, our Personal Injury Lawyers can also begin working with the various insurance companies involved to obtain coverage of the sustained medical bills. Drunk driving accidents can be often be life altering events. Our office will make sure that your family is appropriately compensated as well as informed throughout the process. We try and make a difficult process easy to understand through open and honest communication as well as aggressive advocacy inside the courtroom.
If you or your loved one was injured or killed by a drunk driver, contact our office immediately at (217) 414-8889 for a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers today.
Common questions about negligence actions include:
- What kind of lawsuits can I file?
- How do I file a lawsuit?
- How is an insurance company involved in a drunk driving claim?
- What happens during a drunk driving lawsuit?
- What are the costs of litigating a drunk driving suit?
- How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of lawsuits can I file?
If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated motorist, a simple negligence “Complaint” can be filed against the drunk driver. The Complaint will allege that the driver operated the vehicle while intoxicated, and describe how the motorist violated his duty of care to other motorists (for example, turning in front of oncoming traffic). The Complaint will describe the injuries sustained as a result of the drunk driver’s behavior as well as request monetary payment for the injuries.
If the drunk driver is criminally charged and pleads not guilty, there is often little choice but to file suit. Insurance companies covering the vehicle driven by the intoxicated motorist may not cover the injured person’s medical bills while the criminal charges remain pending. Further, the attorneys will need to subpoena the investigation records and engage in extensive discovery.
How do I file a lawsuit?
Suits involving drunk driving collisions are typically filed in the county where the crash occurred. For example, a person injured by a drunk driver in Springfield, Illinois, would likely be filed in Sangamon County, with the Seventh Judicial District Court. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states:
§ 2-101. Generally. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose. 735 ILCS 5/2-101. Source: ILGA.Gov
How is an insurance company involved in a drunk driving claim?
Illinois law requires motorists to carry insurance on the vehicles that they are driving. Therefore, most drunk drivers hold insurance on their vehicles at the time of the collision. Persons injured by intoxicated motorists can file a claim with the motor vehicle insurance company, requesting coverage of sustained medical bills, lost wages, and any permanent disability (for example, disfigurement) sustained as a result of the collision.
As discussed above, sometimes there is little option but to file suit in drunk driving cases. If the case goes to jury trial, the verdict is usually paid by the drunk driver’s motor vehicle insurance policy. This is called “indemnification.”
If the drunk driver does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance to cover all of the damages, an “uninsured” or “underinsured” claim can be filed with the insurance company covering the vehicle operated by the injured, innocent motorists. These claims are usually arbitrated with a 3-person panel of arbitrators. You should hire a competent attorney immediately if you are struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Additionally, a “no fault” medical payments claim may be opened. Medical payments insurance claims are typically capped at $5,000-$10,000.00, but are extremely helpful in covering an innocent person’s medical co-payments.
Something rarely discussed, and is unfairly not told to juries, is that medical providers do not always bill a person’s health insurance companies for medical charges sustained as a result of drunk driving accidents. This is because the health insurance companies reimburse medical bills at a “reduced rate.” The medical providers hope to obtain a higher amount of bill repayment by filing a lien against the personal injury lawsuit. In this case, the injured persons are often stuck with extremely large medical bills that have not been paid by their health insurance company. And some health insurance companies will not pay bills that are not submitted in a timely manner.
Moreover, even if the health insurance company does pay the medical bills, the health insurance company will then file its own lien, seeking reimbursement from the personal injury lawsuit proceeds. This seems fair at first glance, until one takes into account the long-term disability, pain and suffering, lost present and future wages, and other damages sustained by the injured person will not be paid until after the health insurance companies are reimbursed.
For example, consider the case of someone paralyzed for the rest of their life as a result of being hit by a drunk driver. Under this case, the health insurance company may be paid, instead of the person who is handicapped for the rest of his life. Oftentimes, the health insurance company does not even bother to hire its own attorney or do anything to seek recoupment of their costs, and simply piggy backs on the litigation expenses incurred by the injured person. It’s devastatingly unfair to the injured person, who may be losing their home and facing bankruptcy. For many years, the Courts would force the health insurance companies to reduce their reimbursement if they did nothing to obtain the settlement funds or jury verdict (something called the “common fund” doctrine), but this is now also being challenged by insurance companies, especially ERISA plans.
It will be up to the legislature to address this issue. However, if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you should immediately consult with a competent and ethical attorney who understands personal injury law.
What happens during the negligence suit?
As discussed above, the Plaintiff or their legal representative will file suit against the Defendant. The process begins when the attorney files a “Complaint at Law,” seeking monetary damages for the Defendant’s negligent behavior.
After the Complaint is filed, the Defendant is served. Your attorney will arrange for “summons,” to be issued, and request local law enforcement or a private investigator to serve the legal paperwork on the Defendant. Once the Defendant is served, he or she typically has 30 days to enter an appearance and claim any possible legal defenses. Usually, an attorney enters an appearance on behalf of the Defendant.
Unfortunately, drunk driving claims are often delayed by the Defendant’s pending criminal case. The Defendants typically exercise their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to cooperate with deposition or other discovery processes. It is often only after the criminal trial or guilty plea has occurred that the civil litigation can continue in earnest.
Eventually, discovery will commence. This process usually involves exchanging copies of the evidence held by the Parties, and taking the depositions of witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the litigation, experts will may be retained for trial. Their depositions will also be taken.
Your attorney may also choose to file requests for admission and other legal documents in order to simplify the issues presented at trial. Following the close of discovery, summary judgment motions and other pre-trial motions will be heard. Trial preparation will then begin in earnest. Witnesses will be subpoenaed, trial exhibits prepared, and other pre-trial paperwork will be filed. Jury instructions will be prepared. Jury trial should follow shortly thereafter. When the jury awards a verdict, the sums are usually paid by the insurance company. If a person died as a result of the negligent actions, the probate judge will decide how the funds are distributed.
What are the costs of litigating a drunk driving suit?
Drunk driving lawsuits are not the most expensive negligence suits, and typically cost less than $10,000.00 to take to trial. However, the lawsuits are usually delayed by criminal proceedings against the drunk driver. You should consult with an experienced trial attorney in representing you in these claims, because if the drunk driver is found not guilty in his criminal case, you may very well proceed to trial.
How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
To expedite legal review of your claim, you should bring a copy of the medical records, police investigations, photographs, videos, Facebook pages, text messages, correspondence, in-surance information, and any other evidence in your possession to your claim. The attorney will review the records, together with any other evidence in your possession, and provide you with a free legal opinion as to the merits of your claim.
Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys have over 50 years combined legal experience. Our family firm is renowned for compassionate communication with clients and aggressive ad-vocacy in court. We have the DUI background necessary to take your case to trial as well as the commitment to communication that will keep you abreast with all steps in the litigation process.
If you or a loved one would like a free consultation, call today at (217) 414-8889. You will not be charged unless our firm obtains a settlement offer on your behalf or wins at trial.