Safeguarding the Livelihoods of Auto Accident Victims

Safeguarding the Livelihoods of Auto Accident Victims

Auto accidents are among the most common causes of serious injury in the US, with even mild collisions often leaving lingering damage. The injured party is often left in a highly vulnerable position in the aftermath of such an accident, yet time is of the essence in securing their due compensation.

Highly experienced personal injury attorney Steven Jacobson elaborates on the challenges faced by injured parties in this article, explaining how empathetic counsel should negotiate with insurance providers with a view to serving their clients’ best interests.

In a broad sense, how common are auto accidents in your jurisdiction, and what effect have you observed them to have on the lives of your clients?

In Illinois, the most recent data reflects over 300,000 reported crashes, with close to 90,000 injuries. Not every car accident results in injury, but all it takes is one accident, one vehicle, or one distracted driver to change your life forever. The impact these accidents have had on our clients has been significant. Discussing claims with clients always reminds me how fragile we are as individuals. In an instant, someone’s lack of attention or aggressive driving can change a life forever.

Big accidents or small accidents, we have seen a client’s entire life be turned upside down because of the injuries they suffered. Injuries do not have to be catastrophic to impact every aspect of someone’s day-to-day life. Having a broken ankle means you cannot pick up your toddler or play with them when that is all they want you to do. Mundane things, like getting dressed in the morning, taking a shower, or even sleeping comfortably, become extremely time-consuming, challenging and frustrating. It is a domino effect that can impact marriages, life savings, and employment.

Beyond the injury itself, what are the main financial concerns for the victim of an auto accident?

The biggest worries by far are always financial – paying for the high costs of necessary medical care and paying everyday bills, like car payments, rent payments, or a mortgage. We have had to defend clients from being evicted because they have been unable to work and now are behind on rent.

Films and television shows often portray injured individuals as a caricature of a person either faking or exaggerating their injuries. Usually, they are sitting in a lawyer’s office with a neck brace, trying to get paid. What they should show is the person at home wanting to go back to work, but unable because they just had surgery to fix their shattered leg. They should show that person terrified as their medical bills surpass $100,000 and the landlord is taping an eviction notice to their door.

In Illinois, the most recent data reflects over 300,000 reported crashes, with close to 90,000 injuries.

We have had clients, especially clients with families, go back to work halfway through their physical therapy. For those clients, their financial situation often dictates that they do not have the luxury of reaching full recovery. Injuries and inability to work place a strain not only on the client, but on their entire family. The dirty truth is that insurance companies know this. They very often move slowly in resolving injury claims in the hopes that injured victims will take short money out of desperation. Often, medical bills will go to collection, because insurance companies will take months to review the bills – and even when they do, they often offer absurdly small sums based on what they believe is the reasonable cost. Unfortunately, hospitals, doctors and collection agencies do not care what anyone else thinks is reasonable.

Again, I find that this is done to save money for insurance companies and to exert pressure on clients to take much less than the actual value of their claim. Many clients come to us and their first words are: “I never wanted to hire a lawyer, I just thought the other person’s insurance would take care of things.” But after an initial call where insurance companies promise to pay for all medical bills or repair car damage, they drag their feet and sometimes even stop communicating all together. That is why our firm always strives to resolve cases quickly and efficiently, while also securing the maximum compensation for our clients.

What are the crucial factors to keep in mind when it comes to negotiating with insurance companies?

Even though insurance companies tell you that they will take care of things, they are not on your side. As I touched upon earlier, I always remind clients that an insurance company is a business. Their goal is to make money, for their owner or for their shareholders. They best accomplish this by not paying claims or paying significantly less than the true value. I always say to clients that if insurance companies did half of what they promise to do, I would be out of a job. Unfortunately, the insurance companies only care about one thing: their bottom line.

The insurance companies will ask for a statement where they ask multiple questions about how an accident happened and the extent of any injuries. Studies tell us that the majority of people, when talking to strangers, will downplay the extent of their injuries, because they do not want to be viewed as complainers. This creates an incentive for the insurance adjuster to get a statement from an injured party as quickly as possible. If you are not properly represented, they will use this information against you.

Injuries and inability to work place a strain not only on the client, but on their entire family. The dirty truth is that insurance companies know this.

Today, insurance companies will state that they will pay all medical bills related to an incident and send the injured party an agreement to sign. What the insurance adjuster will not tell the injured person is that the agreement gives them the right to refuse payment for anything they deem not reasonable or necessary. Never sign an agreement with an insurance company unless you have had the agreement reviewed by an attorney who specialises in injury law. Insurance companies have hundreds of lawyers, yet they spend millions in advertising telling you that you do not need a lawyer for your injury claim. We think that is not playing fair. Having an aggressive attorney who will do what is best for you and your family will level the playing field.

How can the aid of a skilled attorney help to make this process as painless for an auto accident victim as possible?

When an individual has suffered an injury, the most important thing they need to focus on is their health. Recovery can be extremely time-consuming, frustrating and challenging. Every time you feel like you are taking a step forward, you end up taking two steps backwards. Between dealing with the physical conditions and the emotional strain of being unable to do the activities you used to do before your injury, the last thing you want to deal with is an insurance company trying to take advantage of you. The first thing we tell our clients is that they need to focus on their health, and we will take care of everything else.

The attorney’s role includes keeping the insurance company updated and informed as to the progress of your treatment, ensuring that the bills are not sent to collections, making sure that all of the records and bills are submitted to the insurance and demanding the maximum compensation from the insurance. If the insurance is unwilling to pay the true value, then file a lawsuit immediately, hire the right experts where necessary and keep the case moving. Sometimes, quick action is necessary to preserve evidence, like obtaining red light camera footage or hiring an expert to perform accident reconstruction, where it might be uncertain who is at fault for the accident. Every case is different, but knowing what steps to take and when to take them is the greatest skill.

What should a skilled auto accident attorney do to make sure that their client’s health and interests are best protected following an incident?

Get the medical care and treatment that is needed! Most injuries, if treated timely and appropriately, will not leave lasting effects. However, no amount of money will make a person feel better if they have a life-long injury, especially one that could have been addressed. The client needs to ensure that they receive the treatment they need to achieve a full recovery. The attorney needs to make sure the client knows that no matter the amount of the bills or the extent of the treatment, the bills will be resolved and the client will be compensated for what he or she went through.

Never sign an agreement with an insurance company unless you have had the agreement reviewed by an attorney who specialises in injury law.

Some people are afraid to receive the treatment they need and will wait until the pain is so bad that they cannot function. Ironically, insurance companies and their attorneys often use this as an indicator that the person’s pain could not have been that bad, since they did not run to the emergency room immediately afterwards. When the topic comes up, I tell clients: “Do whatever you need to do to get healthy; my job is to ensure that the insurance pays for what you are going through.”

Do you have any advice for less experienced auto accident attorneys on how to deliver the best possible standard of support for their clients?

I would tell less experienced attorneys that they need to focus on the clients and not their bottom line. Our client base has successfully grown over the years, because we take the extra time to talk with our clients and always do what is in the best interest of the clients. If the client is able to walk away from this horrible time in their lives happy with your representation of them, then you have done something right.

I would also remind any attorney in the industry not to be afraid of the insurance companies. Always protect your clients’ interests, no matter how big the obstacles. Very often, insurance companies representing defendants are determined to settle claims for less than full value, because other attorneys are unwilling to invest the time and resources to take a case to trial. Do not be afraid to fight insurance companies at trial or refuse an offer of settlement if it is not in your client’s best interest.

How are fall cases or premise liability cases handled in your jurisdiction and what advice would you give someone who is involved in a fall accident?

Generally, the law requires property owners to take reasonable steps to maintain a property so that it is safe for visitors and business invitees. It also requires that people on the property exercise due care for their own safety. Moreover, myriads of exceptions provide additional protection for the property owners based on what is termed open and obvious dangers. For example, a large hole in the middle of a sidewalk would be one such example because the law presumes that a careful person would see it. Thus, injury on a property does not automatically guarantee recovery.

Similarly, the law in Illinois does not hold property owners responsible for injuries caused due to the natural accumulation of snow and ice. However, if a driveway or a sidewalk are not maintained properly and due to some defects or damage cause the water from melting snow to pool and re-freeze, then the ice is reclassified as an unnatural accumulation, which could allow a claim for injuries to be made.

In the same vein, if a person falls down the common stairs in an apartment building, it is not necessarily the landlord’s fault. But, if the stairs fail to meet the architectural and safety codes, such as having uneven or inappropriate heights and widths, having poor or no lighting, or being damaged or missing handrails, then a claim is possible. Slips, trips and falls most commonly happen in parking lots, shopping malls, grocery stores, restaurants, sidewalks and apartment buildings. There are many factors that determine whether you have a claim for your injuries due to an unsafe condition.

I would always recommend to anyone who has been involved in a fall accident to take as many pictures as possible of the area in question. Also, if there are witnesses, get their names, numbers and email addresses. If you cannot take photographs because you are in the emergency room, ask a friend or relative. The pictures are evidence, but also allow the reviewing attorney to ascertain whether or not there is a legal cause of action. Ice and snow can melt and disappear; a crack in a parking lot can be repaired. Time is always of the essence.


Steven Jacobson, Partner

Law Offices of Jacobson & Tchernev

5201 N Harlem Ave Floor 2, Chicago, IL 60656, USA

Tel: +1 312-669-4441

Fax: +1 708-667-0452



Steven Jacobson is a founding partner at Jacobson & Tchernev and a prolific personal injury attorney. Having clerked for numerous large Chicago law firms before founding his own client-focused practice in 2011, Steven has been recognised by Million Dollar Advocates and has featured among the National Trial Lawyers’ top 100 trial attorneys, as well as the National Association of Distinguished Counsel’s top 1%.

The Law Offices of Jacobson & Tchernev is a personal injury law firm founded by Steven Jacobson and Ivo Tchernev in 2011 with client communication and wellbeing as its foremost values. The firm’s practice primarily concerns car and truck accidents, slip and falls and other accidents that cause injury, taking pride in their ability to help clients understand all aspects of their case. Jacobson & Tchernev have taken more than 100 cases to trial and secured over $35 million in compensation for their clients.

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