Strictly by the book, the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in Prairie State is not too harsh. Violators face a maximum of one year in jail. Additionally, if the defendant caused more than $1,000 in damage, or caused a serious injury, the state will suspend the person’s drivers’ license.
However, mostly because hit-and-run is such a serious problem in Illinois, once the case goes to court, prosecutors are very aggressive. Unless the evidence is weak, as outlined below, they usually aren’t willing to make deals.
Criminal court convictions punish hit-and-run drivers, but they do little to help the victims of these accidents. Some negligible compensation might be available through court-ordered restitution.
However, if victims are to obtain fair compensation for all their economic and noneconomic losses, a Rockford car accident lawyer must intervene. Since most Winnebago County jurors intensely dislike hit-and-run drivers, these cases often settle quickly.
Criminal Law Implications
In criminal matters, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. So, the state normally needs an overwhelming amount of evidence to obtain a conviction.
Therefore, unless a hit-and-run driver is apprehended at or near the scene or voluntarily surrenders later, and gives a detailed and verifiable confession, it’s very difficult to convict a hit-and-run driver.
If investigators do not close the case right away, they often give up. This is true even if the hit-and-run driver killed someone. Frequently, there are few leads and little physical evidence. So, cash-strapped and short-handed law enforcement investigators often decide to spend their limited resources elsewhere.
Incidentally, even if you were not at fault for the accident, if you leave the scene before emergency responders arrive, you could be charged with a 625 ILCS 5/11-402(a) violation. The same burden of proof applies.
Illinois Injury Law Implications
The burden of proof is much lower in civil court. To obtain compensation, victim/plaintiffs must only prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s one of the lowest burdens of proof in Illinois law.
Assume witnesses see a red sedan strike a pedestrian and keep going. A few blocks away, a red sedan appears on surveillance camera footage. The camera also catches a license plate number.
This evidence would be almost useless in criminal court. There are thousands of red sedans in Rockford. Additionally, even if the hit-and-run vehicle and the camera vehicle are one and the same, there’s no way to tell who was driving the vehicle.
But this proof could hold up in civil court since the burden of proof is only more likely than not. It’s more likely than not that the witness and the camera saw the same vehicle. And, it’s more likely than not that the owner was driving the sedan at the time.
As a result, a Rockford car accident lawyer could obtain compensation not only for medical bills and property damage, but also for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses.
Even if a lawyer cannot locate a hit-and-run driver, compensation might still be available. Most people have UM/UIM coverage. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist policies pay damages if the at-fault driver cannot be located or is uninsured or underinsured. Since most insurance companies want to keep their paying customers happy, these claim disputes usually settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms.
Connect with a Dedicated Winnebago County Attorney
Accident victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Rockford car accident lawyer, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd or call 815-315-0574. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.