The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Son of a ... What to Do When You've Been Rear-Ended

Well, that wasn't fun. You were driving along and some idiot on a unicycle fell into the street. You slammed your breaks on to avoid running him over and a Cadillac Escalade just crumpled your Ford Probe like a soda can. Rear-ended.

Quick, what's your next step?

That’s going to depend on the other driver. If they decide to take off, that is a hit and run. Try to notice any distinguishing characteristics of the vehicle. A few characters off of the license plate as well as the make, model, and color will help the police track them down.

More unique details, especially if the plate wasn’t visible could also help. Do they have a Los Angeles Lakers flag hanging from the window? Do they have a “My Child is an Honor Student in Reform School” bumper sticker?

Assuming they do not run, ask yourself if you are in any pain. You’ve just slammed on your breaks, which caused you to fly forward. Then you were hit, sending you backward. Then that darn airbag popped out and punched you right in the nose. If you are feeling pain in your neck or back, call 9-1-1 immediately and seek medical attention. Whiplash is common in rear-ending accidents.

You also need to seek medical attention for the other driver, if they are severely injured. Do not move them if they are hurt, as moving them could make spinal injuries worse.

Now, if the other driver stayed, and neither party is injured, the process is pretty simple. If possible, both cars should be moved to the shoulder of the road to avoid causing another accident. Both drivers shoul exchange information, including license and insurance details. Do not admit fault, even if you think you were at fault. Leave it for the insurance companies to fight over.

If the accident caused more than $500 in damage, you are legally required to file a police report here in Chicago at your nearest police station within 24 hours.

If the damage is severe, one or both cars won’t move, or someone is injured, now is the time to contact the police. They will come out, investigate the accident, and possibly cite one or both drivers if they determine that there was a traffic violation. They’ll also handle your required police report.

You also must file a report with the Department of Transportation within 10 days. If you fail to file a report, you could face a $2,500 fine or up to a year in jail. The police officer’s Traffic Crash Report Form is printed on carbon paper. One of the attached copies is the Red and White form that you must finish filling out and submit to the DOT.

With the miracle of modern technology, now is also your chance to document the scene. Get pictures of both vehicles, as well as the overall scene. If there are lengthy tread marks coming from either vehicle, capture those as well. If you can get a picture of the unicyclist who started the whole thing, it’ll at least be good for a story.

Finally, you’ll want to contact your insurance carrier immediately. Though you were the one rear-ended, they’ll probably have to debate fault with the other person’s insurance and work out payment for your vehicle and other injuries.

Though this whole scenario is obviously speculative and hypothetical, it’s important to keep these tips in mind during this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. This weekend is one of the busiest time of the years for roads and traffic accidents. A car is rear-ended every 8 seconds in America. It’s important to be prepared.

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