Important Information About Auto Accidents
Even good drivers can be involved in an auto accident. If this happens, it’s important to know what to do both at the scene of the accident and immediately afterwards.
- Stay calm. Even a slight fender-bender can cause frayed nerves and tense moments, but yelling at the other driver won’t resolve anything. Never leave the scene of the accident.
- Determine if anyone is injured and if so, seek medical assistance. Until help comes, do all you can to help the injured, but be careful. Unless you are proficient at rendering first aid, don’t try it. You may make matters worse.
- Contact the police. There is a duty to notify police in the fastest means possible of an accident, which involves injury, death, or property damage exceeding $500 in value. The police will investigate the accident and make a report, which may be helpful later if you are sued, or if you decide to sue someone else.
- Obtain information from the other driver and any witnesses. The Illinois motor vehicle law requires the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident to give a name, address, and the license number of the vehicle being driven to the other party. If requested, the driver must show his driver’s license. Leaving the scene without furnishing such information may subject you to criminal prosecution. A driver who strikes an unattended motor vehicle also is responsible for locating the vehicle’s owner to exchange information, or should leave written information in a conspicuous place for the owner to find upon his/her return to the vehicle.
- Volunteer no more information than the law requires. You may discover later that the other driver was equally or more to blame. Make notes of important aspects of the collision to help you remember them. Diagram the exact position of the vehicles before and after the accident. If you have any doubt about your own condition or that of the passengers, see your doctor and ask your passengers to do likewise.
- The next step is to notify your insurance company and file an accident report within ten days after the accident. Failure to do so may cause you to lose your driver’s license. Your insurance company may also refuse to pay any money to you or to protect you if others make a claim against you. You should promptly respond to any reasonable request for documents, such as medical and repair bills, a copy of the police report, etc.
An arrest does not necessarily indicate liability for the accident. However, a statement of guilt or plea of guilty to a traffic ticket may be used as an admission. Receiving a ticket is an arrest.
If a person loses work, sustains injuries or has other losses, he or she may be entitled to reimbursement under his or her insurance policy or from the other party. Awarding monetary damages is the law’s method of putting the wrongfully injured party, as closely as possible, into a position equal to that position before the injury. If a driver is in the right, he or she may be entitled to recover money for the injuries, pain and suffering, disability, reasonable expenses resulting from the injury, loss of income and value of damage to the property.
Consult with an attorney. A driver involved in an accident should ignore any attempt by a representative of the other party to influence him or her. Also, be aware of any attorney or someone claiming to be an attorney who requests to handle your case. Solicitation of business is an unethical practice in the profession.
Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association and is a joint project with the Illinois Press Association. Its purpose is to inform citizens of their legal rights and obligations.
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