Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Are The Legal Responsibilities Of A Motorist Who Causes A Bike Crash in Illinois?

Unfortunately, many of the cases we handle involve bicyclists who were not only injured, but the driver then fled the scene of the crash. As the old expression goes, this is literally adding "insult to injury." Obviously, the decent, moral thing to do is for a motorist to put aside their legal or other practical concerns and tend to the injured bicyclist. Yet this often isn't the case. Hit-and-run collisions are a very real and very common issue for bicyclists in Illinois and nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Administration reports a 14% increase in fatal hit-and-run crashes between 2009 and 2011. The reality is drivers flee the scene for any number of reasons: legal concerns, fear of being financial responsible, or even basic fear and panic.

No reasonable person would defend a motorist fleeing the scene. It is wrong. A hit-and-run places the wrongdoer's immediate selfish concerns above the potentially serious injuries sustained by the bicyclist in the crash. But moral issues aside, what are the legal requirements in Illinois for a motorist who causes a bicycle crash?

Section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides the groundwork for the motorist:

"The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible and shall then forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the requirements of Section 11-403 have been fulfilled."
Section 11-403 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code more specifically lays out the requirements any such motorist must fulfill before leaving the scene of a collision that leads to personal injuries:
"The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give the driver’s name, address, registration number and owner of the vehicle the driver is operating and shall upon request and if available exhibit such driver’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with an shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to the physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person."

In summary, any motorist involved in a motor vehicle vs. bicycle collision in Illinois resulting in personal injuries has a legal responsibility to:

1) Stay at the scene of the crash long enough to provide the injured party with their information; and

2) If necessary or if requested to arrange for medical care for the injured bicyclist.


Rather interestingly, in 2011 the law regarding hit-and-runs in Illinois was amended to allow the motorist to avoid prosecution for the hit-and-run by notifying the authorities within a half hour of the accident or within a half hour of being discharged from the hospital for an injury or incapacitation suffered in the accident. Section 11-401(b) provides as follows:
"Any person who has failed to stop or to comply with the requirements of paragraph (a) shall, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after such motor vehicle accident, or, if hospitalized and incapacitated from reporting at any time during such period, as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after being discharged from the hospital, report the place of the accident, the date, the approximate time, the driver's name and address, the registration number of the vehicle driven, and the names of all other occupants of such vehicle, at a police station or sheriff's office near the place where such accident occurred. No report made as required under this paragraph shall be used, directly or indirectly, as a basis for the prosecution of any violation of (staying at scene requirements)."
The bottom line is there is no excuse for a motorist to flee the scene of a bicycle crash. At worst, a bicyclist may be literally left to die at the scene of the crash. At a minimum, a person who needs help may ironically need the motorist's assistance in that moment. Even if there is that moment of fear or panic, Illinois law provides a half hour for the motorist to right the wrong without any penalty.

If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-239-6787 (Office) or 312-208-7702 (Nights and Weekends) or via email at 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All e-mails and phone calls are returned promptly. All initial consultations are confidential and free.