Have You Been Injured in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
A hit-and-run car accident occurs when the at-fault driver in an auto collision flees the accident scene. The person usually flees to avoid being arrested for a crime or to prevent taking responsibility for their negligent actions. The Chicago hit-and-run accident lawyers at Abels & Annes regularly work on these accident cases. Our auto accident attorneys would be happy to help you recover damages for any injuries you may have suffered due to a hit-and-run accident. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form or by calling (312) 924-7575.
Illinois Law Regarding Hit-and-Run Accidents
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. [For more information, view the full Illinois Hit-and-Run statute here.]
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). The driver is required to provide specific information to law enforcement and to the other drivers and/or passengers involved in the car accident.
If a driver leaves the scene of the car accident without meeting these requirements, he or she may be found guilty of a felony. Also, his or her driver's license could be revoked. If a hit-and-run 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, hit-and-run crashes continue to be relatively common.
Are You The Victim of a Hit-and-Run Driver?
While being injured in a car accident is never a pleasant experience, being the victim of a hit-and-run driver can be particularly aggravating. Apart from the basic failure of every hit-and-run driver to be a decent person, they victimize injured parties in other ways. And this is true whether the victims are motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
Many injured parties need immediate medical care. Failure of hit-and-run drivers to render or summon immediate care means that parties that could survive may not survive. Further, injuries that 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. The victim is vulnerable to oncoming vehicles, exposure to weather, excessive bleeding, or a leaking fuel tank. Further, victims may be elderly or may include infants and toddlers, or people with pre-existing disabilities who need special attention.
Common Injuries from Car Accidents
Hit and run car accidents can cause all types of injuries and subsequent medical bills and costs, and because the negligent driver fled the scene, it can leave you with serious stress about how you are going to pay for the bills. Additionally, a hit and run accident can also cause trauma and injuries that might require ongoing medical care associated with the accident.
Hit and run accidents commonly cause the following types of injuries:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain and head injuries can cause serious complications and high medical bills. Brain injuries can range from mild, like a concussion, to severe, like permanent brain damage. Brain injuries can also cause complications such as a coma, vegetative state, and brain death. TBIs are extremely serious and costly so when they occur because of a hit and run, it can create serious concerns about how the medical bills and lost wages are going to be compensated.
Spinal Cord, Neck and Back Injuries
Spinal cord and neck and back injuries as a result of a hit and run can range from minor, like a whiplash, to full or partial paralysis caused by a damaged spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries often require expensive treatments and surgery where costs can add up fast. The recovery process for spinal injuries can be a long process. There can be lots of physical therapy and recurring doctor’s visits, which not only generate medical bills but also can cause lost wages.
Sometimes broken bones don’t create lasting problems and don’t require much treatment other than a cast. However, often broken bones can require surgery and may lead to complications like infections.
Sometimes after a car accident your injuries may not be immediately noticeable. You may not see any visible injuries or feel any significant pain. Adrenaline can often mask even severe injuries. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that you get checked out after a hit and run car accident, even if you don’t believe that you’re seriously injured. For example, you could have internal bleeding or damage to the organs. These injuries sometimes require surgery and can be costly.
Common Causes of Hit and Run Car Accidents
Determining liability in your car accident case is based on which of the drivers involved was acting with negligence. Negligence in a car accident case means that a person breached their duty of care. Duty of care in a car accident refers to the basic obligation a driver has to keep other people on the road safe to the best of their ability. A breach of this duty is referred to as negligence. It next must be proved that the breach of duty directly caused the accident and your injuries.
Common causes of hit-and-run car accidents include: distracted driving, drinking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, speeding, aggressive driving, inexperienced driving, and more.
Distracted driving is often viewed as texting while driving, but can include so much more. Distracted driving is classified as anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road. It could be eating, applying makeup, talking on the phone, or even talking to a passenger while not looking at the road.
With hit-and-run accidents, drivers often flee because they feel like they know they have done something wrong and they're afraid of getting caught. Because of this, hit-and-run accidents are more likely to occur because of drinking and driving, driving while under the influence of drugs, texting and driving, and other causes that could be viewed as grossly negligent. These negligent drivers often know that they've done something wrong and think fleeing the scene is the best way to avoid punishment.
Hit-And-Run Accident FAQ
Here are the answers to common questions about hit and run accidents and injuries.
How Common Are Hit and Run Accidents?
There are no recent statistics from the State of Illinois on hit-and-run accidents exclusively. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimate that:
- Roughly 11% of all police-reported crashes involve a hit-and-run
- 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
- On average there are 682,000 hit and run crashes a year
- More than one hit and run accident occurs every minute in the United States
Further, every week our hit-and-run accident attorneys in Chicago receive inquiries about representation. At Abels & Annes, we handle these claims regularly.
Why do Drivers Leave The Scene of a Car Accident?
There are a number of reasons drivers flee after an accident in the Chicago area:
- Some drivers may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and they fear a DUI charge.
- They may also fear 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 are causing.
- 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, like an outstanding warrant.
- Others are simply fearful about what they have done, and are afraid to face the consequences.
What do I do After a Hit-And-Run Accident?
- Call 911 and make a police report
- Take photos of your vehicle and of the scene of the accident, and look for evidence to assist police
- Take down witness information from anyone at the scene who saw what happened
- Seek medical attention if needed, and do not refuse an ambulance ride if injured
- Contact a Chicago hit-and-run lawyer for your accident, and do this before you contact your auto insurance carrier
Is a Hit and Run Covered by Insurance?
Uninsured motorist coverage is standard on an Illinois auto policy. Your own insurer will typically cover the damages of any injury you suffer after a hit-and-run. This is true even if you were a pedestrian or bicyclist 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.
Abels & Annes handles hit and run and uninsured claims on a regular basis. We sometimes receive multiple calls a week where the at-fault driver has fled the scene. These claims have been a substantial part of our law practice for many years.
Can I Make a Hit and Run Claim as a Pedestrian or Bicyclist?
Yes, you can make a hit and run claim with your own auto insurance company:
- As a driver or passenger in a vehicle
- If you were riding a bicycle
- If you were a pedestrian
- As a taxicab passenger (that does not have UM coverage of its own)
- If you were a passenger on a bus or other common carrier, in some circumstances
- If you don't own a car, but you live with an immediate family member that has auto insurance
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 car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Just because the culprit fled the scene does not mean that you have no legal recourse.
Hit and Run Drivers Often Leave Evidence Behind
First, some hit-and-run drivers are identified after the fact. Vehicles involved in hit-and-run accidents in Chicago often leave evidence of one sort or another.
It could be an eyewitness, possibly even the victim, that 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 vehicle damage, 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, in Illinois, there is no statute of limitations for 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. Therefore, it is best to consult with a personal injury lawyer immediately.
Seeking Compensation for Your Damages
Getting into a car accident is stressful, but a hit-and-run car accident can leave a person feeling even more stressed out. You have to be able to find the person who hit you in order to sue them. However, with a good hit-and-run lawyer, you can pursue an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance carrier. In this type of claim, your auto carrier steps into the shoes of the hit-and-run driver and pays on the claim.
When it comes to receiving compensation for your damages, you can recover damages in two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages cover monetary expenses associated with your case, like medical bills (such as an ambulance ride, doctor's visits, hospital visits, surgery costs, mental and physical therapy, and visits to specialists). Economic damages also include any wages you may have lost and will continue to lose while you're recovering from your injury due to missed work.
Non-economic damages refer to damages that don't have a specific monetary value associated with them but still “cost” the victim something. This includes compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, loss of consortium, and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement.
Punitive damages could come into play if the at-fault driver is located. This is a third category of damages that are awarded as a way to punish the at-fault party for being grossly negligent. While these damages are very rare in a car accident case, they are handed out to prevent the at-fault party from committing the same act again in the future. Punitive damages are usually awarded in situations in which a person was grossly negligent, like causing an accident because they were very drunk. Again, punitive damages are extremely rare in motor vehicle accident cases and are usually reserved for defective drug cases or product liability cases.
Should You Settle Your Hit and Run Case?
Deciding whether or not you want to settle your case can be a big decision, but an experienced attorney will help you understand your options to ensure that you end up with the right amount of compensation and a settlement that you are happy with. An experienced attorney will negotiate with the insurance adjuster to help you get the highest settlement possible.
This is why it's important to do your research and hire an attorney with a good track record of getting high settlements for their clients and a good trial record.
Legal Help for Hit-and-Run Victims
It is bad enough to be a victim of a reckless and careless driver; do not let yourself become a victim 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. Witnesses may forget important information, or you may not be able to find them. Further, there are sometimes insurance policy notice deadlines to meet. Reach out to a Chicago car accident lawyer.
A Chicago hit-and-run accident lawyer at 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 the auto accident attorneys at Abels & Annes at (312) 924-7575, or by using our online form, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a free consultation and case evaluation.