Over the last few years, hit and run auto accidents have been on the rise. Since 2009, there has been a 14 percent increase in fatalities caused by hit and run accidents across the country. They create especially dangerous conditions for drivers, as well as pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists who have limited protection from direct impact. In Illinois, confused victims of hit and run accidents require an auto accident lawyer Chicago who can unravel the legal consequences of accidents and injuries.
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Victims of Hit and Run Accidents
The victims of hit and run auto accidents face many legal and financial consequences. When serious injuries occur in Illinois, legal advice from an auto accident lawyer Chicago is necessary to resolve personal injury issues. Many injured parties need immediate medical care. The failure of a hit and run driver to render help or call for emergency medical assistance can mean the difference between an injury and a fatality. If left without aid after an accident, parties who are injured or left unconscious can be exposed to further hazards such as excessive bleeding; head trauma; being hit by subsequent oncoming vehicles; exposure to extreme weather conditions; being stranded in an isolated area; and a leaking fuel tank that could ignite.
When a driver leaves the scene of an auto accident, his/her behavior becomes especially egregious when injuries are totally ignored, regardless of the other driver’s age or existing health condition. When hit and run victims include infants and toddlers, the elderly, and people with disabilities, emergency medical attention is often critical to survival after injuries.
Fleeing the Scene of an Accident
According to national statistics, nearly 2,600 traffic fatalities are attributed to hit and run drivers each year. The American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that approximately 11 percent of all police-reported car crashes involve a hit and run accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 18 percent (nearly one in five) pedestrian fatalities are caused by hit and run accidents every year.
According to accident and traffic reports, there are a number of reasons that drivers flee the scene of an auto accident. These include:
- Driving while intoxicated and the fear of being charged with a DUI, especially if it’s a second or third offense
- Driving under the influence of drugs or having illegal drugs or alcohol in the vehicle
- Driving without a license or with an expired license
- Driving without proper registration
- Driving without insurance
- Driving a stolen vehicle
In some hit and run cases, drivers may be so intoxicated that they don’t realize they caused an accident or injured people. Others may be so fearful about what they have done and the potential consequences, they flee the scene of the accident to avoid responsibility and penalties.
In Illinois, laws make it illegal for a driver to flee the scene of an accident, whether he/she was at fault or not. Under Illinois law, a driver who is involved in an accident, particularly if there are injuries, must remain at the scene unless he/she needs immediate medical attention. Drivers are required to remain at the accident scene to provide specific information to law enforcement and to other drivers and/or passengers involved in the accident. If a driver leaves the scene of an accident without regard for these laws, he/she can be found guilty of a felony that requires an auto accident lawyer Chicago. If the accident results in the death of another party, the crime becomes a Class 2 felony that’s punishable by 3 to 14 years in prison.
Many hit and run drivers are often identified after the accident by an eyewitness or other parties involved in the accident. In many cases, hit and run vehicles can be identified by a car description, a license number, and paint scrapings or broken car parts left behind. In other cases, the driver can be identified by a description from people at the scene or people nearby who noticed erratic driving behavior before the accident occurred. Occasionally, the driver tells family and friends about the auto accident or turns himself/herself in. Since 2006, Illinois has not had a statute of limitations on criminal prosecution for hit and run drivers, but there are limitations on the time allowed for filing civil claims.
Despite Illinois laws and severe penalties for fleeing the scene of an auto accident, hit and run accidents are still on the rise. Although Illinois law enforcement has a high success rate in catching hit and run drivers, their victims still need an auto accident lawyer Chicago who can provide legal advice for personal injuries and other consequences in these types of auto accidents.