Illinois Car Accident Laws

Find out how long you have to file an Illinois car accident lawsuit, learn about Illinois’ car insurance and accident reporting laws, and more.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

If you've been in an auto accident in Illinois, you should learn the basics of Illinois' motor vehicle accident laws. We'll introduce you to:

  • Illinois' car accident reporting requirements
  • how Illinois' auto insurance system works
  • the deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit in Illinois
  • what happens when both (or several) drivers are at fault in an accident, and
  • the compensation you can collect for your injuries in an Illinois car accident case.

When Do I Need to Report an Illinois Car Accident?

Illinois law creates a variety of potential auto accident notice and reporting requirements, including:

  • an obligation to notify the police when you're involved in an accident
  • a duty to remain at the scene, provide information, and render aid to other drivers, and
  • a requirement to file a written accident report.

Notify the Police of Your Accident

If you're involved in an Illinois motor vehicle accident, you must notify the police unless they've already arrived at the scene. Illinois law requires you to give notice, by "the fastest available means of communication," to either:

  • the local police department, if the accident happened within a municipality, or
  • if the accident didn't happen within a municipality, the nearest sheriff's office or office of the Illinois State Police.

When a driver is incapacitated but there's a passenger in the vehicle, that passenger must provide the required notice. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-407 (2023)). In most cases, the "fastest available means of communication" will be a cell phone.

Duty to Remain at the Scene, Provide Information, and Render Aid

You're also obligated to remain at the accident scene, exchange information, and render aid to others. In addition to showing your driver's license, here's some of the information you'll need to provide:

  • your name
  • your address
  • your vehicle registration number, and
  • the vehicle owner's name.

If the other driver is injured and can't receive this information, and if no police officer responds to the scene, you'll have to report this information to the nearest police department. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-403 (2023)). Violation of § 11-403 is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, together with mandatory court assessments.

File a Written Accident Report

If a police officer responds to the scene to investigate, the officer must file a written report within 10 days after the investigation. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-408 (2023)).

If the police don't respond and investigate, then each driver must, within 10 days after the accident, file a written accident report with the Illinois State Police when the crash:

  • resulted in injury or death,
  • caused more than $1,500 in property damage, if all drivers were insured, or
  • caused more than $500 in property damage, if any driver was uninsured.

In some cases, you might be able to file the report online. For $5, you can get a copy of a crash report by mail or online.

Illinois law allows municipalities to require written crash reports, too. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/11-415 (2023)). Several do, so be sure to check with the city, township, or county where your accident happened to find out about local reporting requirements.

Illinois Isn't a No-Fault State

Several states follow a "no-fault" system for car insurance. Illinois, by contrast, is a traditional "fault-based" state. Under Illinois law, the person who is at fault for a car accident is legally responsible for all resulting injuries, property damage, and other losses. In other words, when you're injured (or your property is damaged) in an Illinois car wreck, you can bring an insurance claim or file a lawsuit against the responsible driver.

Illinois law requires that most vehicles operated or registered in the state must be covered by liability insurance. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/7-601 (2023)). Liability insurance pays for your injuries and property damage when the other driver is at fault. Minimum coverages are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death per accident, and
  • $20,000 for property damage per accident.

(Learn more about Illinois auto insurance requirements.)

Car Accident Lawsuit Filing Deadlines in Illinois

A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a strict time limit on the right to file a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered and the kind of case you want to file.

Statute of Limitations for Illinois Car Accident Injuries

The Illinois statute of limitations on a lawsuit for car accident injuries is the same one that applies to all Illinois personal injury cases. Specifically, a lawsuit "for an injury to the person . . . shall be commenced within two years . . . after the cause of action accrued." (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/13-202 (2023)).

In other words, if you're injured in a vehicle crash—whether as driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—you must file your personal injury lawsuit within 2 years from the date your claim "accrued." Typically, a car accident injury claim accrues on the date of the accident.

The Illinois Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Might Apply

When a person is killed in an auto accident, and a family member or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the same 2-year deadline applies. But the wrongful death statute of limitations "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim's death. (740 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 180/2(d) (2023)). That date could be later than the date of the accident itself.

Statute of Limitations for Illinois Vehicle Damage Lawsuits

If you're suing only to collect vehicle damages (or for the repair or replacement of other property), the statute of limitations is 5 years from the date your claim accrued. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/13-205 (2023)). Here too, your claim likely accrues on the date of the accident.

What If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you try to file a lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations has expired, the court will have no choice but to dismiss your case unless a rare exception applies to extend the deadline. Even if you think your situation will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, it's a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to get a car accident lawsuit filed.

If you're concerned about the statute of limitations in your case, talk to an experienced lawyer.

What If Both (or Several) Drivers Are at Fault?

When the other driver is entirely at fault for your car accident, their insurance pays for your losses. But what happens if you were partly at fault, too?

Illinois follows a "comparative fault" system when both (or several) parties are found to share blame for an accident. Under the Illinois comparative fault rule, your damage award is reduced by a percentage equal to your share of the total fault. Importantly, though, if your share of the fault is more than 50% of the total, you can't recover any damages at all. (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/2-1116 (2023)).

Here's an illustration. Suppose that in your case, the jury decides your total damages (including your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and "pain and suffering") are $100,000. But the jury also decides that because you were speeding, you're 40% responsible for the accident.

Under Illinois' comparative fault rule, you're entitled to 60% of your $100,000 total damages, or $60,000. Had the jury found you to be 51% (or more) to blame for the accident, you'd collect no damages.

What Car Accident Damages Can You Collect In Illinois?

When you're injured (or your property is damaged) in an Illinois car accident, you can collect several kinds of damages, including:

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