In 2021, the Illinois government recorded 1,217 fatal crashes in the state, resulting in 1,341 deaths, which translates to a 12.2% increase from 2020. The number of injuries also climbed by 17%, with the total incidents reaching 83,914.
Because of the high number of auto accidents in Illinois, it is imperative for road users to understand the state’s car accident laws. Knowledge of these regulations can help car accident victims protect their legal rights and strengthen their compensation and justice claims. This guide provides various resources and information that Illinois drivers may find handy in such a case — from standard minimum requirements for motor vehicles and best driving practices, to the necessary steps to take after a vehicular accident and the claims process.
Illinois Motor Vehicle Requirements
Registering an Illinois Motor Vehicle
To apply for a vehicle title and registration, car owners must fill out and print the online Application for Vehicle Transaction (Form VSD 190). Other alternatives include obtaining application forms at a Secretary of State facility or calling 1-800-252-8980. Applications are submitted with a $155 fee. Additional registration fees should also be paid.
Car owners should fill out a tax form if they bring a vehicle into the state that was recently purchased and is not registered or titled. For cars bought from a dealer, Tax Form RUT-25 should be filled out. Meanwhile, Tax Form RUT-50 should be completed for those purchased from an individual. The appropriate form and the corresponding tax fee should be submitted to the state’s Department of Revenue.
Compulsory Inspection for Illinois Motor Vehicles
Car inspections aim to detect problems in a vehicle’s systems and perform the needed emergency and preventive repairs. Inspections ensure that vehicles are safe for use in transporting people. They can prevent car failure on highways and avoid accidents that can cause injuries and death. Another important function of vehicle inspections is to help clear one’s liability after getting involved in a car crash.
Additionally, inspections protect air quality by ensuring vehicles do not exceed federal emissions standards. In Illinois, cars at least four years old must complete and pass an emissions test every two years. Certain zip codes also demand onboard diagnostic tests for these vehicles and those manufactured after 1996.
Failing the emissions inspection means a retest should be done and, in some cases, a waiver needs to be granted. New residents of Illinois must register their vehicles and wait for the testing notice before completing their first inspection. Private and commercial vehicles that operate on Illinois highways require these periodic inspections:
Semi-annual inspection for intrastate carriers of property
Annual inspection for interstate carriers of property
Semi-annual and annual inspections for interstate carriers of passengers
Illinois Safety Belt Law
In 2022, more than 300 fatal car accidents in the state involved victims who were not wearing seatbelts properly. Illinois’s safety belt law requires drivers and passengers in the front and back seats who are at least eight years old to use safety belts at all times, even if their vehicle has airbags. Drivers should also secure and adjust the safety belts of passengers with a medical condition or disability, and it is their responsibility to ensure that every passenger obeys the law.
When fitting the safety belt, the lap strap must be worn across one’s hip bones and not across the stomach or the soft part of the abdomen. The shoulder strap should let the driver reach all important controls while being as snug as possible. Moreover, it must fit comfortably and not cross a driver’s body near or at the face or neck. Never place the shoulder strap under the arm or behind one’s back.
Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act
All children under eight years old should be secured in a child safety restraint system that is appropriate for them. Using booster seats with a shoulder or lap safety belt is also mandatory.
Since January 1, 2019, Illinois has required children to be secured properly in rear-facing restraint systems until they reach two years of age unless they weigh over 40 pounds or are more than 40 inches high. Children exceeding the stated weight or height can ride a vehicle without a booster seat and only use a lap belt.
Knowing and wearing the right restraint system—both for passengers and drivers alike—can lessen the possibility of injuries in case of a car collision. Consequently, it is important to determine the correct car seat type and its proper installation based on the vehicle’s specifications, as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Illinois Speed Limits
One of the most common reasons for vehicular crashes is speeding on roadways. In recent years, it has been the top cause of fatal car accidents in Illinois, with 39% of the logged incidents arising from a motorist driving too fast.
The state’s speed-related regulations dictate that drivers should slow down when going around curves, crossing and approaching intersections, approaching hilltops, and traveling on winding and narrow roadways. They should always be aware that danger could be present at any time due to the presence of pedestrians, traffic, bicyclists, adverse weather, road conditions, or mechanical problems. Illinois law states that individuals may only reach the maximum speed when conditions are safe.
In addition, there are also minimum speed limits along particular roadways. In areas where there are no posted minimum speed limits, one must not drive so slowly that they will interfere with normal traffic movement.
Local governments are given the freedom to set and enforce different speed limits within their own jurisdiction. The following limits apply to specific types of roadways unless indicated otherwise:
Tollways and interstates
Highways with four lanes
Rural areas and other highways
Town and city areas
School zones during school days (6:30 AM to 4 PM, when signs are posted and children are present)
Illinois Distracted Driving Law
In Illinois, distracted driving was the third most common reason for fatal car crashes in recent years, accounting for 12% of the reported cases. Due to the serious consequences that distracted driving poses, the state has established a law prohibiting drivers from texting and using electronic devices such as cell phones during the operation of motor vehicles. This means that holding a mobile phone, using a speakerphone, and streaming or watching live videos on a device are all considered violations while driving.
Voice-activated controls and headsets are also not permitted. Some exceptions to this rule are hearing aids and single-sided headsets or earpieces with a cell phone or wireless device. In line with this, Bluetooth technology and hands-free devices are only allowed for drivers 19 years of age and older. However, it should be noted that making a call with these devices while operating a vehicle raises the chances of getting in a car crash.
Drivers may use their cell phones in certain circumstances, including when reporting an emergency, when parked on a roadway’s shoulder, and when stopped in the event of an obstruction in traffic while the vehicle is in park or neutral.
Individuals guilty of distracted driving who have been involved in a crash involving another motor vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or another road user could be jailed or receive a penalty.
Post-Accident Procedures for Illinois Motorists
Drivers in Illinois should be aware of and follow the procedures below should they ever be involved in a car accident:
Stop the car and stay at the scene of the accident. Leaving the crash site is a crime.
Get necessary medical assistance by calling 911. Contact the police immediately and inform them of what happened, follow their instructions, and get the officer's name and contact information. Ask them how to obtain a police report, which attorneys and insurance companies may need.
Obtain the other driver’s information, including their name, address, contact number, and insurance provider. Get information from witnesses, such as the passengers of the other vehicle, witnesses of the crash, and people who rendered aid. Details from these parties, which can substantiate claims, may be useful for insurers and lawyers in their investigations and if legal action is to be pursued.
Write down the facts of the accident as soon as possible. Documenting as many details as possible can be critical if a crash victim pursues a lawsuit.
Before contacting an insurance company, accident victims may consult a lawyer on what they should do and obtain more knowledge on the insurance claims process. Hiring a lawyer experienced with Illinois car accident cases gives drivers a high chance of preventing mistakes that may compromise insurance claims.
Drivers involved in the crash should contact their insurance provider, keeping in mind that there is usually a time limit within which policyholders can make reports.
Illinois Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Under Illinois law, motor vehicles operated and registered in the state are required to have liability insurance. This covers injuries and property damage that the driver may cause other people in the event of an accident. (Trailers are exempt from this rule and are not required to have any liability insurance.) The compulsory minimum liability insurance amounts are:
$50,000 for the death or injury of more than a single person in a crash;
$25,000 for the death or injury of each person in a crash;
$20,000 for damage to another person’s property;
$25,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage for each person; and
$50,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage for each accident.
Drivers should carry their insurance card in their vehicle to be able to present it upon request by a law enforcement officer. The entity that provides the insurance card is one’s insurance provider, which usually gives it upon policy issuance or renewal.
The law also states that liability policies must include minimum underinsured motorist and uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage types. The former covers the difference between a driver’s insurance limits and the at-fault driver’s liability limits if theirs are lower. Meanwhile, the latter pays for injuries due to hit-and-run incidents or when the at-fault driver has no auto liability insurance.
Determining Fault in Illinois Car Accident Claims and Lawsuits
Illinois is a tort or “at-fault” state for auto accident claims. This means drivers responsible for accidents pay for the losses incurred by injured victims. The latter should file an auto accident claim against the liability insurance policy of the at-fault driver to recover compensation.
Should a lawsuit be pursued: If the victim was partially at-fault for the incident, a comparative fault ruling is applied, wherein both parties share the blame for the accident. Based on the available evidence, the jury usually calculates the total amount of the losses incurred by the plaintiff and each party’s percentage of fault. The award is then reduced by the percentage of the victim’s share of the responsibility. If the share of the plaintiff’s fault is over 50%, they are barred from recovering any compensation.
The Statute of Limitations for Illinois Car Accident Lawsuits
The statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits and other personal injury cases in Illinois is two years. People injured in a vehicular crash can pursue legal action from the accident date until the deadline. For cases that only involve property damage, the statute is five years.
For wrongful death cases, which apply to instances where someone was killed during an auto accident, the deceased victim’s family members or estate representatives also have the same deadline. However, the two-year period begins on the day the victim passes away, which may occur later than the accident date.
Some exceptions to the statute of limitations include:
Victims with legal disabilities have two years to file a lawsuit, starting from the date of the removal of their disability.
Minors have two years to file their claim once they reach the age of 18.
If the at-fault driver leaves state borders after the crash but before the statute of limitation ends, the two-year period begins upon their return.
If a government employee is involved in a car accident, a notice of claim must be filed against their office within one year of the accident, and another year is given to file the lawsuit, for a total limit of two years.
How Much Someone Can Sue for a Car Accident in Illinois
Illinois’s compensation laws state that there are no limits on how much car accident victims can get for the losses they have suffered. In 2010, the case of LeBron v. Gottlieb showed that putting a cap on the amount of compensation that can be claimed is unconstitutional.
However, Illinois is a modified comparative fault or negligence jurisdiction; its tort liability rules mean that individuals involved in a car accident and planning to seek compensation should provide proof that the other party was at fault or has more fault than they do. If they are found to be, for instance, 25% responsible for the car crash, the amount of damages compensable will also be reduced by this percentage.
Car accident victims and their families can file a claim for non-economic and economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, disability or disfigurement, and emotional stress. Some examples of economic damages are the repair or replacement cost of damaged cars, lost income, medical expenses for past and future treatments, and out-of-pocket expenses. Other damages include the cost of rental cars, the loss of affection or companionship, and wrongful death.
Legal Resources for Illinois Car Accident Victims
Illinois Rules of the Road
This resource helps improve road safety and protect the well-being and lives of everyone using Illinois roadways by providing information on safe driving behaviors and traffic laws. It is useful for first-time driver’s license applicants and long-time drivers renewing their licenses.
It also has information about the federal REAL ID Act to help make driver’s license ID cards REAL ID-compliant forms of identification when boarding domestic flights. Calling 833-503-4074 or visiting REALID.ilsos.gov will get you more information.
Illinois State Police
The Illinois State Police's Division of Patrol (DOP) sends uniformed patrol officers out on the roads to enforce traffic and criminal laws. They are strategically placed in different parts of the state and work to help the public and other federal, municipal, and county law enforcement agencies. They try to keep people safe on the roads and stop crime while helping people who need it.
Some of the DOP officers involved in traffic safety are the following:
Patrol troopers perform general patrolling functions, which include law enforcement, response to citizens’ calls, and safety-related education.
Vehicle identification officers conduct investigations on matters of vehicle ownership.
Commercial motor vehicle officers enforce laws governing commercial motor vehicles and hazardous materials.
Canine officers handle crowd control, safety education, and general patrol.
For inquiries, contact the division at 217-524-0191.
Illinois Department of Transportation
The IDOT offers information on the state’s transportation system and policies that meet and reflect transportation users’ needs. One of its goals is to show how its stakeholders and partners can be involved in its drive to make zero fatalities on Illinois roads a reality.
Part of its role is developing programs and projects in line with the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. It collaborates with various local, federal, and state agencies and partners with different transportation groups.
It allows users to report problems and make inquiries through its online form or contact number (800-452-4368). Moreover, the site’s IDOT Claims Procedures page discusses property damage claims procedures. For more information, please refer to the agency’s contact details below:
Illinois Department of Transportation
2300 S. Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62764
(217) 782-7820 or TTY (866) 273-3681
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