Many victims of auto accidents in Illinois do not understand the process of being financially compensated for their injuries. They understand they have a claim when they are not largely at fault, but the amount and type of damages can differ significantly. There are different types of damages that can be awarded, and not all claimants can claim certain financial losses. Damages are basically qualified and quantified as economic or non-economic with divisions in each category.

Economic compensatory damages

The first element of an injury claim is recovery for economic compensatory damages, or “special” damages because they can be quantified in exact numbers with supporting documentation. These include medical bills, physical property damage, and lost wages when applicable. Lost wages can also be claimed in both temporary and permanent injury situations.

Non-economic compensatory damages

Also known as general damages, non-economic compensatory damages typically are the allowed element for ongoing living problems and necessary medical treatment until the injury is fully rehabilitated, if at all possible. These are also known as pain-and-suffering damages, and they can include mental anguish as well as ongoing impact issues. Insurance companies try to avoid paying these damages following many motor vehicle accidents, but they are actually the financial recovery elements that make injured victims whole after the fact.

Punitive damages

There are many fatal motor vehicle accidents in Illinois that occur due to gross negligence on the part of one particular driver. DUI accident cases are probably the best example, but certain truck accidents and high-speed collision cases are in this category as well. The level of negligence exhibited by a reckless driver can result in a trial where the jury issues a “punitive” non-economic award to send a message to the public at large that this behavior is unacceptable.

Determining equitable damage amounts following an accident can be difficult. Additionally, to complicate matters, Illinois modified comparative negligence law allows insurance companies to reduce total settlement payments based on the negligence percentage assigned to claimants who were driving at the time, and those who are 50% or greater at fault can be denied any financial recovery.


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