John Roska: What to do after a traffic accident

John Roska: What to do after a traffic accident

Q: What are you supposed to do if you're in a fender bender? Are you supposed to call the police? What happens if you don't?

A: You must always stop and provide basic information. If anyone is injured, you must "render aid." If there's injury, death or property damage over $1,500, you must immediately call the police and, within 10 days, file a report with the Department of Transportation.

You must stop long enough to render necessary aid and provide the required information. If you don't, it can be a misdemeanor or a serious felony, depending on the circumstances. You can also lose your license.

Article 4 of the "Rules of the Road" makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident. It applies to drivers, and requires them to do certain things.

In any accident, a driver must stop and provide four basics: name, address, license plate number and the vehicle owner's name. You give that information "to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with."

If asked, a driver must also show their driver's license.

If there's only damage to an "unattended vehicle or property," the driver must still stop and provide the same information. If you can't locate the damaged property's owner or operator — and the law says you must try — you must attach the required info "securely in a conspicuous place on or in" the damaged vehicle or property.

Then you must also report any damage to unattended property "without unnecessary delay" to the police.

If there's more than $1,500 of property damage, and the property owner or operator is present, but not the police, the driver must notify the police "by the fastest available means of communication." In that situation, the driver must also make a written accident report within 10 days to the Department of Transportation.

Even if it's just your property that's damaged, if it's over $1,500, you must still call the police and file an accident report.

This same duty to contact the police, and to file a report within 10 days with the DOT, also applies to any accident involving personal injury or death. If the driver is "physically incapable" of contacting the police, another occupant of the vehicle must.

When there's an injury, the law also imposes a duty to "render aid." According to the law, that's "reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment." This "carrying" duty arises "if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person."

The law defines injury as something that "requires immediate professional treatment in a medical facility or doctor's office."

If you hit and run, and there's only property damage, it's a possible Class A misdemeanor. That's a maximum $2,500 fine and one year in jail.

If you hit and run, and there's an injury or death, it's a felony. Depending on the details, it could be a Class 4 (one to three years), Class 2 (three to seven years), or Class 1 (four to 15 years).

John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.

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