When Drivers Do the Crime, It Could Still Be on the Insurance Company’s Dime

Insurers are normally required to pay for injuries and losses resulting from a covered driver’s illegal acts. When DUI/DWI, reckless driving, distracted driving, or hit and run accidents happen and someone is hurt, insurers must pay for the injured party’s medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Depending on the negligent driver’s insurance coverage, insurers may also have to pay for losses experienced by the at-fault driver according to limits of his or her his policy. However, many insurers dispute claims when injuries are caused by illegal acts and an auto accident attorney must advocate for victims.

Illinois Is an At-Fault State

Illinois is an at-fault state, but it follows a tort system that uses comparative negligence to determine who pays after a crash. If a driver causes an accident, he is liable for damages up to the percentage that he is at fault. In most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance covers those damages up to the limits of his liability coverage.

For intentional or fraudulent acts, such as purposefully trying to cause an accident or hurt another driver, the insurance company doesn’t usually have to pay. When accidents are caused by drunk driving or similar illegal acts and harm was not intended, however, the insurance company is liable.

Mandatory Coverage is Not Always Enough

In Illinois, the law requires drivers to comply with its mandatory insurance law by carrying at least $25,000 to cover injury or death for one person in an auto accident. An additional $50,000 is required to cover injury or death if more than one person is injured or killed in an accident. Drivers must also carry a minimum of $20,000 of coverage for damage to the property of another person in an accident. The limits of mandatory coverage are intended to pay the injured victim(s)’ costs of:

  • Medical bills, including emergency treatment, ambulance transportation, hospitalization, continuing treatment, and rehabilitation
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost wages and/or future earnings
  • Temporary or permanent disability
  • Property damage to cover damage to their vehicle
  • Non-tangible damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, or loss of companionship

The average cost for an injury from an auto accident is almost $16,000. But sometimes the mandatory limits are not enough to cover damages caused by an accident. While the cost for a minor arm fracture from bracing for a collision may not be costly, head injuries, spinal cord damage, and severe burns could be very expensive.

Research from Northwestern University has found that the lifetime costs for a traumatic brain injury could range from $85,000 to $3 million. Initial hospitalization, not including rehabilitation, can run about $140,000 for spinal injuries causing paraplegia or quadriplegia. The first year medical expenses for paraplegics and quadriplegics could be as much as $152,000 and $417,000 respectively. Average lifetime costs for individuals who become quadriplegics in their 20s can be almost $1.5 million.

When the Injured Party’s Insurer Needs to Step Up

In Illinois, the injured victim may file a claim with his own insurance company for losses covered by his policy even if he is partially at fault and a criminal act caused the crash. The insurer is obligated to pay covered losses up to the limits of the insured’s policy. If the victim is not at fault, the insurer would likely pursue a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer. Subrogation is a way for the injured party’s insurer to recoup its losses for paying out medical costs and damages because of the accident.

Sometimes the at-fault driver is driving illegally without insurance or the limits on his policy are not enough to cover the injured party’s medical costs or losses. It might also be possible that the at-fault driver is unknown because the accident was a hit and run. In this instance, the injured party’s underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage would kick in to cover medical costs. In Illinois, all insured drivers have this coverage. It is automatically included with liability insurance.

Compensation through Personal Injury Lawsuits

Because Illinois is an at-fault state, the driver who caused the accident is responsible for the victim’s losses. When catastrophic injuries and losses occur that surpass the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance, the injured victim might choose to file a personal injury lawsuit with the aid of an auto accident attorney. In accidents where the at-fault driver was legally drunk, it may also be possible to file a secondary claim against the bar, restaurant, or party host who served him alcohol.