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What To Do After a Car Accident in Illinois

The threat of being involved in a motor vehicle accident is present every time you get behind the wheel. In 2022, there were 298,347 accidents on Illinois roads. Of those, 1147 of the accidents involved at least one fatality, with a total of 1268 deaths. These numbers show a decrease from the previous year. So, things are trending in the right direction.

Even with a modest reduction in the volume of accidents in Illinois, chances are you’ll be involved in a wreck during your driving career. All people in an automobile accident in Illinois have certain legal obligations. Knowing these, along with other things you should do, can help make your post-accident experiences much more pleasant.

In this article, we'll touch on some of the relevant Illinois motor vehicle laws and explain the steps you should try to take at the scene of the accident. We’ll also discuss what a police report is, why you'll need it, and how auto insurance will cover property damages and medical expenses.

FindLaw's Car Accidents section covers topics outside our focus here. Read on to learn what to do after an auto accident in Illinois.

After an Accident - First Steps

Remaining calm after an accident can be difficult. Take a deep breath and try to gather your composure. First and foremost, don't leave the scene of the accident, even if the damage seems minor. Hit-and-run charges can be a felony in Illinois. At the very least, you're required to exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver(s).

You're required to call the police to come to the scene of the accident if certain conditions are met. These conditions include:

  • If there was an injury
  • If there was a death
  • If there was at least $1,500 in property damage
  • If there's more than $500 in property damage to an uninsured vehicle

It can be difficult to figure out an accurate estimate of how much it'll cost to fix car damage. So, calling law enforcement to come to all accidents is a good idea.

Check on the well-being of everyone involved, including yourself. If necessary, offer first aid at your level of medical treatment competency. Let the 911 operator know about any serious injuries requiring immediate medical care.

Which branch of law enforcement to summon depends on where the accident occurs. If you're in a municipality, call the local police. For example, if you have a car accident in the city, call the City of Chicago police. A 911 operator will know who to dispatch based on the location given.

If you're not in a town or on one of Illinois' highways, call either the local sheriff's department or the Illinois State Police (ISP).

Do not move a vehicle unless it’s blocking traffic. Take pictures of the accident scene from different viewpoints.

While waiting for the police, you should gather names, addresses, insurance information, driver's license numbers, phone numbers, and license plate numbers for everyone involved in the accident. You can also get the contact information for any witnesses. Try to keep your emotions in check. Don't apologize or admit blame, even if it was your fault.

When the police officer arrives, they’ll take charge of the situation and have you move the vehicles to a safer location, if possible. They will then begin creating the car accident police report. This important document will recreate the incident. It will also be part of the process insurance companies use to determine fault and how to award damages.

In the past, motorists were required to fill out their own accident reports and send them to the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT). But that's no longer the case in most situations. You still have to file a report with the ISP if the following apply:

  • Single-vehicle crashes
  • Non-injury crashes with only property damage
  • Crashes occurring on Illinois state roadways or interstate highways usually under Illinois State Police jurisdiction

The DOT may reach out for additional details.

The police report is a combination of observed data from the scene of the accident and statements gathered from drivers, passengers, and witnesses. It's intended to be an objective, third-party account. For a better understanding of its importance, consult FindLaw's Illinois Car Accident Reports Basics article.

You'll need a copy of the police report for insurance claims and any lawsuits. You can get a copy of the police report from the police department where the accident occurred. If your crash involved the ISP, you can order a report from their website.

If you're injured, seek medical attention. Keep copies of all medical expenses and medical records for your insurance claim and any personal injury lawsuit you may need to file.

This is a lot of information to remember after a traumatic accident, so FindLaw has provided a helpful pamphlet covering the first steps in the event of a car accident (PDF). You can print it out and keep a copy in your glove box.

Illinois Insurance, Fault, and Negligence

Illinois has laws in place to determine who is responsible for an accident, what coverage on accident claims should be, and how certain factors can modify recovery.

Illinois Liability Auto Insurance Requirements

All drivers in Illinois must have liability auto insurance on their vehicles. In most cases, liability insurance pays for the medical bills and property damages of auto accident victims. The required minimum coverage in Illinois is:

  • $25,000 liability coverage for injury or death to one person in one accident
  • $50,000 liability coverage for injury or death to two or more people in one accident
  • $20,000 liability coverage for damage to property of another person

All drivers must have at least this much coverage. But you should be aware that if damages to the other party's vehicle or personal injury medicals exceed your policy limits, you could be personally responsible for paying the overages if the affected party decides to pursue a lawsuit. Your premiums will be higher if you opt for higher coverage amounts, but it's a trade-off to avoid personal liability in the future.

For a step-by-step explanation of how dealing with insurance claims after an auto accident works, take a look at FindLaw's Illinois Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline article.

Determining Fault in Illinois

Illinois is an at-fault state. This means the driver determined to be the most at fault for causing the accident must compensate anyone who was injured or whose property was damaged by the accident. Most times, this is handled by the at-fault driver's insurance company.

If the at-fault driver's coverage isn't enough for your medical expenses or property damage, you have two options. You can either file a claim with your own insurance company or pursue a personal injury lawsuit against them individually. If you decide to go to court, consider getting legal advice from a personal injury lawyer.

Negligence and Motor Vehicle Accidents in Illinois

In a negligence claim, you must prove that the other driver failed to exercise reasonable care while operating their vehicle. This is easier to prove if the other driver was driving recklessly, sending text messages, or intoxicated.

Illinois has adopted the modified comparative negligence rule for distributing damages. If the at-fault driver carries over 50% of the blame for the accident, they are barred from receiving any damages. The accident victims will have their awarded settlements reduced by the percentage they were found to be responsible for the crash.

It can be a confusing system, so let's use an example. The at-fault driver ran a red light in the accident, but it was determined that you had originally stopped a little too far into the intersection and were 10% at fault. If your settlement was $10,000, you'd receive $9,000.

If it still doesn't make sense, Findlaw's Illinois Car Accident Compensation Laws article does a great job of explaining the system along with other important traffic laws.

In fatal accidents, the surviving family members have a right to sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivors, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.

Filing a Lawsuit

The Illinois statute of limitations protects people from being sued for old injuries. For personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations for filing is two years from the day that you suffered the injuries. If you don’t file your lawsuit within two years of the accident, you will be barred from filing.

To file a lawsuit, you must draft a complaint. This is a brief explanation of the basis of your lawsuit. You may have visions of a wild courtroom with lawyers yelling and desks being pounded. But most injury lawsuits are settled before going to court. This is an area for legal experts, so consider consulting a personal injury lawyer.

Motor Vehicle Accident in Illinois? Get an Attorney's Help

While many accidents are minor and easily handled, some situations require legal representation. If you need help figuring out what to do after a car accident in Illinois, contact a car accident attorney about any injury claim, insurance claim, or pain and suffering you're going through.

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