Hit-and-run accidents in Illinois result when a driver collides with a vehicle, pedestrian, or object and flees the scene afterward. Learn more about how these accidents work and the surrounding details, which could help you if you decide to seek legal repercussions following a hit-and-run accident.
Definition of a Hit and Run in Illinois
The simple definition of a hit-and-run accident is an accident wherein a driver causes a collision resulting in injuries or property damage and leaves the scene before addressing the collision.
Drivers must stop at the scene of the accident and take certain actions to avoid committing this secondary crime. Otherwise, the consequences of hit-and-run accidents can be severe and lead to significant fines and jail time.
Most Common Causes of Hit-and-Run Car Accidents
There are several potential causes of hit-and-run accidents that involve various liable parties, but most of the time these accidents result from drivers who intentionally flee the accident scene after causing the crash, making them the liable parties.
Some causes of hit-and-run accidents include:
- Drunk Driving — Often, drivers flee the scene after causing an accident while drunk or otherwise impaired. They typically flee the scene to avoid the consequences of driving while impaired, such as driving under the influence (DUI) charges.
- Panicking — Some drivers may leave the scene of an accident out of panic. Even if they have a clean criminal record, they may decide to flee the scene out of fear of legal repercussions for causing injuries or property damage.
- Lack of Insurance — Drivers could leave the scene of an accident they cause because they’re either uninsured or underinsured and don’t want to face potential legal charges for failing to carry sufficient insurance.
- Outstanding Warrants or Unpaid Tickets — Some cases may involve drivers who know they have outstanding warrants or unpaid tickets for previous offenses and want to avoid arrest.
Possible Charges for Leaving the Scene
Hit and runs are serious offenses in most states, and Illinois is no exception. If a driver commits a hit-and-run, he or she faces misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the nature of the incident. For first offenses resulting in property damage without any aggravating factors, drivers could face a Class A misdemeanor charge, which may result in a fine of up to $2,500 and one year of jail time if convicted.
More serious offenses will result in felony charges. Specifically, a hit-and-run offense resulting in a minor or serious injury will warrant a Class 4 felony, which comes with a potential penalty of up to $25,000 in fines and three years of prison time. If the hit-and-run results in a fatality, this constitutes a Class 3 felony with maximum penalties of $25,000 fines and five years in a state prison.
Victims can also hold hit-and-run drivers liable when they are tracked down by filing a claim to recover damages. If the driver was drinking, he or she may owe punitive damages in addition to compensating the victim for medical costs, lost wages, and the emotional costs of an injury. With such steep consequences, hit-and-run drivers will go to great lengths to remain undetected.
How Hit and Run Drivers Can Be Identified
There are several methods to identify hit-and-run drivers once they flee the accident scene. These include:
Evidence Collected from the Scene
It’s possible to identify hit-and-run drivers using evidence left at the accident scene. This evidence may include everything from skid marks and paint remnants to debris, such as vehicle components resulting from vehicle damage. Footage from dash cams and nearby traffic or security cameras can also help identify a hit-and-run driver.
Eye Witness Testimony
Any witnesses present at the scene of the accident may also be able to help identify a hit-and-run driver. They may remember or have recorded the driver, the vehicle, the vehicle’s license plate, or any specific identifying damage the vehicle sustained because of the accident.
Compensation for a Hit-and-Run Victim
If you or a loved one are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to recover compensation to cover the damages the negligent party caused. These consequences are separate from those involved in criminal cases, as they apply to civil suits.
Types of Damages
There are two main types of damages you can recover in a hit-and-run accident case, depending on the types of injuries and property damage resulted in the accident.
These damages include:
- Economic Damages — Also known as special damages, these damages include all financial losses that accident victims sustained because of a collision. Specific types of economic damages may include medical bills, property damage, rehabilitation, lost income, and lost earning capacity.
- Non-Economic Damages — These damages, also called general damages, pertain to the personal losses experienced because of an accident. These may apply to physical pain, psychological trauma, disfigurement, depression, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In addition, victims or their loved ones may be able to recover wrongful death or punitive damages. Wrongful death damages could include all the aforementioned economic and non-economic damages, along with funeral expenses and other costs resulting from the person’s death.
Punitive damages, meanwhile, rarely apply in car accident cases, but the court may award these in a trial setting if the defendant engaged in egregious acts involving aggravating factors. For instance, a judge or jury may award these damages if a driver caused an accident while impaired and exceeding the speed limit, resulting in extensive injuries and property damage and culminating in a hit-and-run.
Damages That Insurance Covers in Illinois
You may ask, “What does car accident insurance cover in Illinois after a hit-and-run?” In Illinois, to recover compensation as a victim of a hit-and-run through insurance, you must have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
This insurance covers bodily injuries resulting from hit-and-run accidents, but it won’t cover property damage. If you sustained injuries and property damage or property damage alone, you will need to file a claim against the other party’s insurance company or file a lawsuit to recover full compensation once the driver is found.
Accepting a Settlement Agreement
Typically, you will begin negotiating a settlement with the negligent party’s insurance company following a hit-and-run accident. If the other driver can’t be found, you will instead negotiate with your own insurance company. This process entails working with an adjuster to reach a favorable settlement, but insurance adjusters work for the insurance company and may not help you recover full compensation.
If you accept a settlement agreement at any point during negotiations, you may not be able to recover a larger amount later, even if your case is worth more. This risk makes it critical to work with a hit-and-run lawyer to determine the true value of your case and work to recover total compensation. An attorney may be able to represent you during negotiations and make counteroffers until you reach a favorable settlement.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
In the event of a hit-and-run accident, there are some steps you should take to preserver your health and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
These steps include the following:
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If needed, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately after the accident. You or another party at the accident may call an ambulance to take you to the hospital.
However, if you don’t require immediate care, you should remain at the scene to help complete an assessment of the accident. Shortly afterward, you should seek treatment from a professional, even if your injuries don’t seem serious.
File a Police Report
If possible, call the police or have someone else call the police after the hit-and-run. Police officers may be able to locate and pursue the hit-and-run driver to make an arrest. They can also build a police report detailing the accident, which could help support a hit-and-run accident claim or lawsuit.
If you’re not sure how to get a police report for a car accident after the police have left the scene, an attorney may be able to help you obtain a copy along with any other relevant evidence.
Consult an Attorney
A lawyer with experience handling hit-and-run accidents can help you build a strong case. Typically, you will be able to meet with an attorney in a free consultation to discuss your case. If the attorney decides to handle your case, he or she may then be able to represent you in a claim or lawsuit.
If a driver causes an accident and immediately leaves the scene of the accident, this is an instance of a hit-and-run that may warrant total compensation. Taking the right steps may help you build a strong case against these individuals.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.