The insurance laws in Illinois, starting with 625 Illinois Compiled Statutes (or “ILCS” in lawyer lanugage) 5/7-601 sets forth the basic ground rules, noting:
No person shall operate, register or maintain registration of, and no owner shall permit another person to operate, register or maintain registration of, a motor vehicle designed to be used on a public highway unless the motor vehicle is covered by a liability insurance policy.
In plain English, this means that you cannot use or register (basically own) an automobile — or allow someone to use your automobile, for that matter — without having a minimum level of insurance. This sets forth the basics, but it doesn’t provide much clarity on what the minimum coverage actually means. Again, as in most topics, we can write volumes of information but we like to at least highlight some of the basics: Minimum insurance limits in Illinois require $20,000 worth of coverage for injuries to one person, $40,000 for injuries to more than one person, and $15,000 worth of coverage for property damage. In industry terms, this is often referred to 20/40/15 coverage.
The limits for personal injury are perhaps best understood by way of analogy. Let’s say that there was only one person injured — the driver — or you in an accident. This is the easy example: there would be $20,000 worth ofavailable coverage for bodily injuries (this does not mean you will “automatically” get that amount of money if you are injured).
But let’s say that instead of just you, there were 3 other passengers injured in your car. If there is only minimumcoverage being carried by the at-fault driver/other car, there is not $80,000 worth of coverage available (or as some people believe $20,000 for each person in the car). There is only $40,000 available of insurance coverage for all 4 injured people.
If there is not enough coverage to pay for all the injuries, you could very well pay anything beyond that out of your own pocket unless you have “underinsured coverage” and/or an “umbrella” insurance policy (again, volumes on these two issues later or just call us to discuss and analyze your situation in a free consultation).
Now, as any Plaintiff’s attorney will tell you, having coverage and actually getting the insurance company to take responsibility are two very different matters, but insurance law is a very complex creature and every situation is different.