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Personal injury case settlement is a new record for Illinois

A 26-year-old woman recently settled her injury lawsuit against Chicago's insurance carrier for a $115 million. That's the largest award in a personal injury case for a single victim in Illinois history.

Unfortunately, it's not really a cause for celebration. The victim is paralyzed from the waist down and will need that money to meet her needs in the future. In her comments, she stated that she hopes the money will also help her parents -- who have become her caretakers since the accident that robbed her of her autonomy.

In 2015, the victim's back was broken and her spinal cord severed when a pedestrian shelter pulled loose in a storm and fell on her.

After an investigation, it was found that the shelter that hit her was missing safety bolts that should have kept it tethered. Many other shelters in the area were also found to be damaged or missing key pieces necessary to make them safe.

The young woman, a former dancer and student, was awarded $148 million after a trial by jury. The insurance company promptly filed an appeal against the amount of the verdict before the two sides agreed to a lesser amount.

Appeals against large personal injury awards aren't unusual -- which is something victims should be aware of when going into trial. Juries often hit defendants with a large award for damages when the victim is especially sympathetic or the defendant's actions were particularly negligent. When that happens, insurers will usually try to get the damages lowered through an appeal or by compromise.

Compromising on a lawsuit by taking a settlement -- either before you get to trial or after -- isn't a sign of weakness. Instead, a compromise can often help you move on emotionally from an injury that's marred your life. As long as the lawsuit is going on, that can't really happen.

By the same token, it's also important not to settle for too little. The odds are good that the victim in this case had many opportunities along the way to settle the case for less. Her needs for the future, however, made it important to fight the case out and use the jury's verdict as leverage.

If you've been injured by someone's negligence, don't allow an insurance company to push you into a quick settlement. That's usually to their advantage, not yours.

Source: Daily Herald, "Woman paralyzed by collapsed shelter at O'Hare wins $115 million settlement," Tierney Darden, Jan. 16, 2018

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