If you were recently involved in a car accident, you will likely want to hold the liable driver responsible for your injuries and any property damage you have suffered. Most often, you will file an insurance claim with the liable driver’s insurance company. The following article will provide a detailed discussion regarding the statute of limitations for doing so within the state of Illinois.
What types of car insurance coverage are required in Illinois?
Pursuant to 625 ILCS § 5/7-203, all motor vehicle owners in the state of Illinois are required to obtain (at minimum) each of the following types of coverage:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
- $50,000 total for all injuries or deaths in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
- $20,000 for damage to the property of another person in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
This minimum liability coverage covers medical bills, property damage bills, and other related costs resulting from other drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians who are injured in a car accident or have suffered damages from this accident. However, it is also recommended that Illinois drivers obtain additional insurance coverage just in case they are involved in more serious car accidents that result in more substantial injuries or damages. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that once policy limits have been reached, an at-fault driver will be required to pay out-of-pocket for any expenses stemming from the injuries and/or property damages suffered in a car accident.
How does the fault system work in Illinois?
Illinois is a fault-based car insurance state. We follow a "fault" system when it comes to placing financial responsibility for injuries and other damages resulting from car accidents. This means that the driver who caused the accident alone will be responsible for compensating anyone who suffered harm as a result of the crash (i.e. via the responsible driver’s insurance policy).
On the other hand, in “no-fault” car insurance states, a driver injured in a car accident will be required to use his own car insurance coverage in order to pay for medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who actually caused the accident. These states (ie. Florida, Utah, Minnesota, etc) typically require drivers to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which is a minimum level of car insurance used to pay for medical bills and other related expenses after a driver gets into an auto accident. In these no-fault states, a driver typically cannot make a claim against the driver who actually caused the accident unless the claim reaches certain statutory thresholds.
Because Illinois adheres to a “fault” car insurance system, any person who is either injured or suffers damages as a result of a car accident can typically choose one of the following options to receive compensation from the responsible party:
- The injured driver can file a claim with his own insurance company (assuming that the particular damages are covered under that policy)
- The injured driver can file a third-party claim directly with the at-fault driver's insurance carrier
- The injured driver can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver
What is the statute of limitations for bringing an insurance claim?
Although insurance companies do not require a strict time limit to file a claim, there is a general statute of limitations for the state of Illinois. This means that if you want to bring a personal injury lawsuit to recoup damages, you will need to do so before the Illinois statute of limitations runs out.
Keep in mind there is no general statute of limitations for bringing an insurance claim after getting into a car accident in the state of Illinois. Rather, the amount of time you have to bring a claim will vary based on the terms of your specific car insurance policy. Most car insurance policies do not provide a strict deadline to file a claim and instead recommend that claimants file their claims "within a reasonable time." As such, you should review the terms of the applicable policy to determine what deadlines apply and to be safe, you should attempt to file an insurance claim as soon as possible.
In personal injury lawsuits, the injured party typically takes legal action against the liable party and/or the liable party’s insurance company for his injuries and/or property damage. In Illinois, the statutes of limitations break down in the following fashion:
- Any action regarding personal injury, bodily injury or death resulting from a car accident must be brought within two years after the date the accident occurred.
- If the lawsuit is over vehicle damage only (or if you are seeking the repair or replacement of some other kind of damaged property), a lawsuit for a property damage claim has to be filed within five years after the date of the accident.
- If the accident victim was under the age of 18, then the two-year statute of limitations period will not begin to run until the victim turns 18.
Considerations to make before filing an insurance claim
Before commencing the car accident claims process with an insurer, there are some considerations you should make:
- An insurer is only required to pay damages up to the value of your vehicle. If you have received a repair estimate and it appears that the repair costs will exceed the value of your car, the insurer will often declare it a total loss, pay you the fair market value, and take possession of your car.
- The amount of your damage claim is based on the value of the property at the time of the accident; the value of the claim has nothing to do with how much you originally paid for the property.
- The insurer will not expect you to accept their adjuster’s estimate until you have established to your own satisfaction that it will cover the cost of repairs.
- The insurer will expect you to get at least one estimate from your mechanic, garage, or car dealer, to compare to their estimate.
- Your insurance company may opt to pay for the lowest estimate bid, as they want to ensure that their payouts remain as low as possible.
- Your insurer cannot require you to have repairs done at a particular shop. However, it can insist that you get more than one estimate for the work to be done on your car if they feel the estimate you received is too high.
- You do not have to accept an estimate if you believe the amount will not adequately repair your car; feel free to negotiate with the insurer if your mechanic has indicated that the cost of repairs is much higher than the insurer’s estimate.
What happens after I file an insurance claim?
After you file an insurance claim, the insurance company will investigate the details of your claim and if the investigation confirms your claim, it will likely offer you a settlement to compensate for any injuries or property damage you have sustained from the accident.
It is important to note that if you choose to settle your personal injury claim with the insurance company, you cannot later bring the insurance company or the liable driver to court. Rather, the amount that you agree to receive during the settlement process will be the only amount you are entitled to.
Illinois insurance laws require insurance companies to provide any necessary forms to present a claim within 15 working days of a request. Furthermore, the Illinois Administrative Code requires that insurance companies provide a reasonable written explanation of any delays in a property damage liability claim which remains unresolved longer than 60 days from the date it was reported to the company.
Were You Recently Injured in a Car Accident? Speak to an Illinois Personal Injury Attorney
If you were recently injured in a car accident, the Palermo Law Group can help. Our law firm will work hard to help you prepare a strong personal injury case and will ensure that you are able to hold the liable party responsible for your injuries. Call our law office today at (630)-684-2332 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.