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Talking to Insurance Companies After a Personal Injury Accident

The most important person to speak to after you have been injured in a personal injury accident is your doctor.  For many reasons, seeking and obtaining the appropriate medical treatment should be of paramount importance after you have been injured.  However, if your injuries have been caused by another person, that person’s insurance company is going to seek to take your (usually recorded) statement as soon as possible.  This initial communication can determine how much of your health or other expenses the company will cover.  You should think twice before speaking to the adjuster immediately after your accident.

The goal of an insurance adjuster is to get you to admit complete or partial fault or downplay your injuries so that the company can save money. That is why the insurance company may contact you immediately after a vehicle accident or other injury. This is commonly when you are least prepared to talk to them.  There are several reasons why you should not conduct a recorded interview with an insurance adjuster without consulting your personal injury attorney:  First, if an insurance adjuster calls you the day of (or the day after) your accident, you may honestly answer that you do not feel injured.  Unfortunately, it is common not to notice some of your injuries until a couple of days after the incident. Once the adjuster has your statement on record, the insurance company can use it against you when determining your claim.  Furthermore, even when you know you have been hurt after an accident, you will not know the full extent of your injuries until after seeing a medical professional. You should not speculate about your injuries–your statement may contradict your official diagnosis, creating confusion.  You may also find yourself mentally or emotionally vulnerable in the hours and days after an accident. You have suffered through a traumatic experience that may prevent you from thinking clearly. You do not want to be held accountable for statements you made when you were upset or exhausted.

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The most time-consuming part of personal injury litigation falls under the broad category of “discovery.” Once a lawsuit has been filed and preliminary motions are addressed, the attorneys must begin the process of literally discovering how strong or weak each party’s case is. In order to do that, your attorney has to do a considerable amount of factual research.

The first step of this phase is to issue written discovery. Written discovery consists of four primary types of documents: (1) written interrogatories; (2) requests for production of documents; (3) requests for admission of facts; and (4) third party subpoenas. These documents are requested and generated with the purpose of finding out any and all relevant information, and in particular, any evidence that may support the other party’s position by presentation at trial. The duration of the written discovery phase can range from months to more than a year, depending on the complexity of the litigation and the willingness of the opposing sides to cooperate with one another. Although the length of this process may be extremely frustrating to litigants, thorough discovery is an important step to assembling a winning case, or to help the parties reach a reasonable settlement.

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The most common question I am presented with when meeting with a new Illinois DUI client is:  “Should I have blown (provided a breath sample to the arresting officer)”?

My initial advice is always the same, “Do not put yourself in a situation where you have to choose!”  Use a designated driver, a ride share service or a taxi. Each of these alternatives is safer and cheaper than defending a DUI.

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The Illinois legislature has amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, effective June 1, 2018.  Specifically, the Act’s maintenance (or alimony) provisions have been modified.

The maintenance provisions are now applicable to marriages in which the total gross income of the parties is less than $500,000.  This provision replaces the previous maximum amount of $250,000.

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Generally speaking, In Illinois, property owners are not responsible for natural accumulations of rain, ice or snow which cause a fall resulting in injuries.  A simple slip and fall on a snowy sidewalk, for example, may not create a valid cause of action for damages.  However, a property owner can be liable for negligently maintaining its property where an unnatural accumulation is created. An unnatural accumulation can be due to defective construction or improper or insufficient maintenance of the property.  For example, an owner may be responsible for injuries caused by a hazardous accumulation created by poorly constructed or maintained drainage, such as a gutters or drain spouts.  In winter weather, liability may be created by the negligent placement of snow or ice in areas that create hazards after piles begin to thaw and melt.

Because “natural accumulation” is often a successful defense for a property owner, and because the nature of a hazard from precipitation can change quickly with changes in weather and temperature, it is important to gather information and evidence at or near the time of your fall.  If you believe someone may have created the hazard that caused you to fall, take photos of the area immediately, and speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can, so that your claims may be properly evaluated.

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