Legal U: Don’t Ditch the Scene of an Accident!

“What kind of idiot cuts off an [expletive] Hummer?”, Jason wondered as he viewed the remnants of the Suzuki Esteem through his front windshield. “How much ‘Esteem’ do you have now, [expletive]?”

Yeah, that really wasn’t young Jason’s fault. The idiot in the subcompact sedan cut him off and then slammed on his breaks.

“Crap. I’ve got a meeting in Oak Park in 15 minutes. What do I do?”

Sorry Jason. You’re going to miss that meeting. Whatever you do, you better not leave the scene of the accident. It doesn’t matter who was at fault, and it really doesn’t matter if you had an important meeting. Absent a hemorrhaging open wound or other life and death situation, the police aren’t going to look fondly upon your hit and run.

Exchange Information

Assuming no one was seriously injured, the first thing you’ll want to do is to exchange information with the other driver. This includes name, license, and insurance details. Do not admit fault, even if you are certain you were at fault. Leave it for the insurance companies.

The Police and the Paperwork

Can the cars move? If so, you should already be moved off of the road. If not, you’ll need to contact the police. They will come out and investigate the accident, fill out a crash report form, and probably issue someone a God-forsaken failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident ticket.

If you do leave, and the accident caused more than $500 in damage, you are required by the City of Chicago to file a police report at your nearest station within 24 hours.

In addition, you have to file another report with the Department of Transportation within 10 days. If the police filled out the standard carbon-paper Officer’s Traffic Crash Report Form, the red and white carbon page is what you will fill out.

Play Detective

No one knows what happened at the scene except for you and the idiot in the econobox that cut you off. This is your chance to document everything. If you are like most Americans, you now have a smartphone or a camera phone. Take photos of everything, including both cars, the overall scene, tread marks, and any empty beer cans that fell out of the other car. Get contact information for any witnesses as well.

Armed with that evidence, you’ll want to contact your insurance carrier immediately. They don’t want to pay for the other guy’s car, so, they’ll fight it out with the other insurance company.

The post is part of FindLaw’s Legal U series. We are working to help you learn what to do in your city to cope with some of the legal problems, questions, or issues that come up in daily life.

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Legal U: Don’t Ditch the Scene of an Accident!