The common name for accidents in which the driver flees the scene of an accident is “hit-and-run.”
Illinois has laws that make it illegal for a driver to flee the scene of an accident in which he or she has been involved, whether or not it is that driver’s fault. Under Illinois law, a driver involved in an accident, particularly if there are any injuries, must remain at the scene (with exceptions if he or she needs immediate medical attention) and provide specific information to law enforcement and to the other drivers and/or passengers involved in the accident. If a driver leaves the scene of an accident without meeting these requirements, he or she may be found guilty of a felony, and will have his or her driver’s license revoked. If the accident results in death, the crime is a Class 2 felony that is punishable by imprisonment from three to 14 years.
Despite these laws and the severe penalties they carry (as well as law enforcement’s high success rate in catching these offenders), hit-and-run accidents continue to be relatively common.
Although there are no recent statistics from the state of Illinois on hit-and-run accidents exclusively, the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that roughly 11 percent of all police-reported crashes involve a hit-and-run, and, shockingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that approximately 18%—or nearly one in five—pedestrian fatalities are caused by hit-and-run accidents. Nearly 2,600 traffic fatalities every year are attributable to hit-and-run drivers.
There are a number of reasons drivers flee after an accident. Some drivers may be intoxicated, and they either fear being charged with a DUI—particularly if it is a second or third offense—or being charged with other vehicle crimes associated with causing injury or death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some drivers may be so intoxicated that they do not even realize that they have caused an accident, and drive away oblivious of the havoc or devastation they have caused. Other drivers may flee because they are driving without a license, driving without registration, or driving without insurance. Some may be driving a stolen vehicle, or they may be wanted by the law for some other offense. Others are simply fearful about what they have done, and are afraid to face the consequences.
While being injured in a traffic accident is never a pleasant experience, being the victim of a hit-and-run driver can be particularly aggravating. Quite apart from the basic failure of every hit-and-run driver to meet minimum standards of decent citizenship, hit-and-run drivers victimize injured parties in other ways, whether they are motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.
Many injured parties need immediate medical care, and the failure of hit-and-run drivers to render or summon immediate care means that parties that could survive may not survive, or that injuries which may be relatively minor can become critical. If left without aid, parties injured or left unconscious due to traffic accidents can be exposed to further hazards: subsequent oncoming vehicles, exposure to weather, excessive bleeding, a leaking fuel tank, being stranded, and so on. The hit-and-run driver’s behavior becomes especially egregious when you consider the driver’s disregard of the extent of the victim’s injury, as well as other factors such as whether the accident victims may be elderly, or may include infants and toddlers, or people with pre-existing disabilities who need special attention.Seeking Recovery For a Hit and Run Accident
While you may think that there is no remedy against a hit-and-run driver, there are ways to recover compensation. If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, or someone you love has been injured or killed in a hit-and-run accident, it is wise to consult an experienced Illinois car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Just because the culprit fled the scene does not mean that you have no legal recourse.
First, many hit-and-run drivers are often identified after the fact. Vehicles involved in hit-and-run accidents often leave evidence of one sort or another: an eyewitness—possibly even the victim—may be able to identify the driver, his vehicle, or the license number; paint scrapings or even car parts, such as a broken-off side-view mirror, may be left behind; neighbors or friends of the driver may notice that the driver’s car is damaged, and report it in the wake of news about a hit-and-run accident. Sometimes, other motorists may have reported an erratic or speeding vehicle to the police before the accident occurred. Occasionally, the drivers themselves tell their friends or family members what happened, or may even turn themselves in. Thankfully, since 2006, in Illinois there is no statute of limitations on criminally prosecuting hit-and-run drivers. However, there are time limitations for bringing a civil claim against a hit-and-run driver and for pursuing an uninsured motorist claim, so it is best to consult with a personal injury lawyer immediately.
If you carry uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy, your own insurer should cover the damages of any injury you suffer, even if you were a pedestrian or cyclist when the accident occurred. And because insurers do not want to cover the costs of these damages, they will often assist in trying to identify hit-and-run drivers—yet this also means that they may be reluctant to pay out claims if they believe that the culprit can be found and made to pay.
Possible Relief for Hit-and-Run Victims
It is bad enough to be victimized by a reckless and careless driver; do not let yourself be victimized again. It is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after a hit-and-run accident. Over time, important evidence can be lost or destroyed, and witnesses may forget important information, or you may not be able to find them.
The experienced Illinois car accident attorneys at the law firm of Abels & Annes, P.C. can help you to obtain the recovery to which you are entitled, whether that means pursuing an at-fault party or your own insurer. We know what your rights are with respect to the law and your own insurer. For a free consultation, contact Abels & Annes, P.C. toll-free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442), locally at (312) 924-7575, or by using the online form on this website, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you have been injured in a hit-and-run car accident in Chicago, call us today toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO and let us provide you with a free case consultation.