When Does a Car Accident Go to Court: And Other FAQs


    According to the US Department of Transportation, the projection of traffic fatalities for the first half
    of 2023 shows an estimated 19,515 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, in addition to a much larger number of crashes where there were no fatalities. And when it comes to the car accident statistics for Illinois, the numbers are unfortunately growing. 

    However, when addressing whether a car accident goes to court, it is pivotal to first understand the underlying legal processes and considerations. Typically, car accident cases are settled out of court. However, there are circumstances where resolving the dispute necessitates legal intervention. The reasons may vary, but it is essential to know when and why a car accident case would go to court in Illinois.

    The Role of Insurance

    After a car accident, the initial step usually involves filing an insurance claim. Illinois law mandates drivers to carry liability insurance, which covers injuries, especially serious injuries, or damages sustained by the other driver if you are at fault. Insurance companies, by default, aim to resolve car accident claims without litigation due to the expenses involved with court proceedings and the fact that they are time consuming. However, disputes regarding liability or compensation may cause negotiations to break down, leading to court intervention.

    When Settlements Fail

    Settlements occur when the parties agree on the compensation amount without the need for court adjudication. The failure to reach a settlement generally arises when there is disagreement over liability, the extent of injuries, or the amount of compensation. When the plaintiff and the insurance company cannot arrive at a consensus, going to court becomes the plausible recourse.

    Contestation over Liability

    Often, determining who is at fault is not straightforward. Parties may have conflicting versions of events, or there might be multiple liable entities. If the defendant contends the plaintiff’s version of events or believes they are not responsible, the case is likely to go to court. Illinois follows a modified comparative negligence rule, meaning that a plaintiff can recover damages as long as they are less than 50% at fault, but the compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. The court will evaluate all evidence and establish the degree of fault for each party involved.

    Discrepancy over Damages Another common dispute arises over the extent and cost of damages. The plaintiff may have substantial medical bills, loss of earnings, and other damages. If the insurance company disputes the value of the personal injury claim or is intentionally lowballing in negotiations, it can lead to court proceedings. The plaintiff, with the aid of their attorney, must then substantiate their claim with appropriate evidence, including medical records and expert testimonies.

    Severity of Injuries

    In cases involving severe or catastrophic injuries, the stakes are high, and the compensation sought is substantial. Insurance companies might be reluctant to pay out large sums and might challenge the claims vigorously. These cases may go to trial as the disputes over the nature and extent of injuries become more intricate and contested.

    Procedural Considerations in Illinois

    If a personal injury lawsuit becomes unavoidable, the plaintiff's lawyer will file a complaint in the appropriate court. Illinois law requires the complaint to be filed within two years from the date of the accident. The legal process involves discovery, where both parties gather evidence, and several hearings before a trial is scheduled. During this period, settlement negotiations can continue, and many cases are resolved before reaching trial.

    While most car accident cases in Illinois are resolved through out-of-court settlements, a multitude of factors such as disputes over liability, severity of injuries, and disagreement over damages can necessitate court intervention. The process involves complex legal considerations and requires the expertise of a seasoned personal injury lawyer to navigate the legal terrain effectively. Despite the prospect of litigation, the aim remains to secure fair compensation for the injured party and ensure that justice is served.

    In the aftermath of a car accident, when court intervention becomes inevitable, meticulous preparation is paramount to bolstering your case as an injured victim.

    Here’s how to prepare effectively:

    1.Retain a Skilled Car Accident Attorney: Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is crucial. A proficient lawyer can navigate the complexities of the legal system, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you are adequately represented in court. They will also guide you on the required documentation, evidence collection, and legal strategies to enhance your case.

    2. Gather Comprehensive Evidence: Strengthen your case by compiling exhaustive evidence. This includes photographs of the accident scene, medical records documenting your injuries, police reports, and witness statements. Also, gather evidence of lost wages, property damage, and any other losses incurred due to the accident. This evidence can substantiate your claim and help in establishing the defendant’s liability.

    3. Undergo a Detailed Medical Evaluation: Having a meticulous medical examination is critical. It will document the extent and nature of your injuries and the required medical treatment and rehabilitation. The medical reports and doctor’s testimonies will act as indispensable evidence to verify your claims regarding the injuries sustained and the ensuing medical costs.

    4. Engage Expert Witnesses: In some cases, enlisting the help of expert witnesses can fortify your claim. These can include medical experts to attest to your injuries, accident reconstruction experts to elucidate how the accident occurred, and economic experts to calculate future losses, such as diminished earning capacity.

    5. Prepare for Deposition: Before the trial, you will likely be deposed by the defendant’s attorney. During this process, you will be questioned under oath about the accident and your injuries. Preparation with your attorney is essential, as your statements can significantly impact the outcome of the case.

    6. Set Clear Objectives: Establish a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve from the lawsuit with your attorney, be it a specific compensation amount or holding the at-fault party accountable. Having well-defined goals can guide your legal strategy and decisions, such as whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial.

    7. Stay Informed and Involved: Maintain regular communication with your attorney to stay informed about the progress of your case. Actively participating in your case and making informed decisions at every stage is crucial.

    8. Maintain a Diary: Keep a detailed daily diary noting how the injuries are affecting your life, physically and emotionally. Note pain levels, medical appointments, missed work, and any disruptions to your daily activities. This can provide compelling, personalized evidence of your suffering and loss.

    9. Stay Off Social Media: Refrain from discussing your case or posting anything related to the accident or your injuries on social media. The defense may scrutinize your online activity to find inconsistencies or evidence to minimize your claims.

    10. Be Mentally Prepared for Trial: Trials can be stressful and emotionally draining. Prepare mentally for the rigorous process and the possibility of unfavorable outcomes. Maintain composure and follow your attorney’s advice closely.

    As an injured victim, effective preparation is your bulwark against the rigors of a legal battle. By retaining a competent attorney, amassing substantial evidence, preparing meticulously for depositions and trial, and staying informed and involved, you maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome in court. Keep your focus on recovery, both physical and legal, and ensure your rights and interests are staunchly defended as you seek the justice you deserve.

    Finding An Experienced Illinois Personal Injury Attorney

    Finding an experienced and competent Illinois personal injury attorney is crucial when you are the injured victim of a car accident due to someone else's negligence. Below are some steps to assist you in locating a qualified attorney to represent your interests:

    1. Conduct Thorough Research: Start by researching online for reputable personal injury attorneys in your area. Utilize legal directories, such as Avvo or Martindale-Hubbell, where you can find attorneys by location and practice area, read reviews, and view ratings.

    2. Seek Recommendations: Ask friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances who have had similar experiences for recommendations. Personal referrals can often lead to trustworthy and reliable attorneys.

    3. Look for Experience and Expertise: Focus on attorneys who specialize in personal injury law and have substantial experience in handling car accident cases. An experienced attorney will have a deep understanding of the laws, be well-versed with the local courts and legal system, and have a proven track record.

    4. Check Qualifications and Credentials: Verify the attorney's qualifications, licensing, and any additional certifications. Look for attorneys who have a strong educational background and who are members of respected legal associations such as the Illinois State Bar Association.

    5. Schedule Consultations: Once you have a list of potential candidates, arrange for consultations. Many attorneys offer free consultations where you can discuss your case, ask questions, and evaluate whether the attorney is a good fit for your needs.

    6. Inquire About Case Strategy: During consultations, inquire about the attorney's approach and strategy for your case. Assess whether the attorney has a clear plan and is willing to explain the legal process, possible outcomes, and risks involved.

    7. Evaluate Communication and Availability: Effective communication is crucial. Choose an attorney who is accessible, responsive, and willing to keep you informed about the progress of your case. Avoid attorneys who are elusive or too busy to give your case the attention it deserves.

    8. Discuss Fees and Costs: Before making a decision, discuss the attorney's fee structure, including any additional costs that may arise during the litigation process. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you receive compensation.

    9. Check Past Client Reviews and Testimonials: Look for client reviews and testimonials to gauge the attorney's reputation and the quality of their service. Positive feedback from past clients can be indicative of the attorney’s competence and reliability.

    10. Trust Your Instincts: Finally, trust your instincts. Choose an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and confident. A strong attorney-client relationship is built on trust and mutual respect, and it plays a pivotal role in the success of your case.

    Securing a proficient and dedicated Illinois personal injury attorney is a critical step when you are the injured victim of a car accident due to someone else’s negligence. By conducting meticulous research, seeking recommendations, evaluating experience and credentials, and assessing communication and compatibility, you can find an attorney who will ardently represent your interests and help you navigate the intricate legal landscape to seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

    What to Expect During a Trial

    Navigating a trial as an injured victim of a car accident in Illinois or elsewhere involves several procedural steps and events. Here’s a glimpse of what the trial process typically entails:

    1. Jury Selection: The trial begins with the selection of a jury. Both the plaintiff's and defendant’s attorneys have the opportunity to question potential jurors and can reject a certain number if they believe the jurors cannot be impartial.

    2. Opening Statements: Once the jury is seated, the trial officially begins with opening statements from both sides. The plaintiff's attorney will generally go first, outlining the case, the evidence they will present, and what they aim to prove. The defendant's attorney will then present their opening statement, providing an overview of their defense.

    3. Plaintiff’s Case-in-Chief: The plaintiff presents their case first. This entails calling witnesses, which can include the plaintiff, medical experts, eyewitnesses, and others who can substantiate the plaintiff’s claims. Each witness will be subject to cross-examination by the defense.

    4. Defendant’s Case-in-Chief: After the plaintiff concludes their case, the defense presents their witnesses and evidence to counter the plaintiff’s claims. The defendant's attorney will aim to create reasonable doubt about the liability of their client, and the plaintiff's attorney has the right to cross-examine the defense's witnesses.

    5. Rebuttal: The plaintiff may be given the opportunity to present additional evidence to rebut the defense’s case, and similarly, the defense might be allowed to present sur-rebuttal evidence.

    6. Closing Arguments: After all evidence has been presented, both attorneys will make their closing arguments. They will summarize the evidence, draw inferences, and make their final pleas to the jury regarding liability and damages.

    7. Jury Instructions: The judge will then provide instructions to the jury, explaining the laws that apply to the case and how they should evaluate the evidence. The jury must follow these instructions in reaching their verdict.

    8. Jury Deliberation: The jury will retire to a private room to discuss and evaluate the evidence and to decide whether the defendant is liable. If they find the defendant liable, they will also determine the amount of compensation to be awarded to the plaintiff.

    9. Verdict: Once the jury reaches a decision, they will return to the courtroom to announce the verdict. The verdict will address whether the defendant is liable and, if so, the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff.

    10. Post-Trial Motions and Appeals: Following the verdict, either party may file post-trial motions, requesting the judge to alter the jury’s decision or to order a new trial. If those are denied, the losing party may decide to appeal the case to a higher court.

    11. Collection of Judgment: If the plaintiff is awarded damages, the final step is to collect the judgment. This may involve additional legal processes, especially if the defendant is unwilling or unable to pay the awarded amount.

    The trial process for a car accident victim can be intricate, involving a series of procedural steps from jury selection to verdict and potentially post-trial motions and appeals. Each phase is critical and demands meticulous preparation, a clear understanding of legal principles, and adept representation. For the injured victim, enduring this legal journey is challenging, but it’s a fundamental pathway to securing justice and rightful compensation.

    Moving Forward

    If you've been involved in an auto accident, seeking the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer is of paramount importance. Car accidents can lead to complex legal situations, and a knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the intricacies of your case. Whether you are dealing with an at-fault driver or struggling to reach a fair settlement, a reputable law firm specializing in car accident lawsuits can be your most valuable ally.

    An experienced car accident lawyer can assess the circumstances of your accident, gather crucial evidence, and negotiate on your behalf to secure a fair car accident settlement. They have the expertise to handle personal injury cases arising from auto accidents and ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process. Many law firms offer a free case evaluation, allowing you to get the expert advice you need to make informed decisions about your car accident lawsuit. Don't underestimate the importance of professional legal help when dealing with the aftermath of a car accident; it can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

    For more information about or to request a free case evaluation, call our phone number at (630) 684-2332 or visit our website at


    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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