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How Do Police Investigations of Fatal Car Accidents Work?

Published on May 5, 2023 by Thomas Law Offices.

How Do Police Investigations of Fatal Car Accidents Work?

The unexpected death of a loved one is one of the most profound losses a family can suffer. When that death is the result of a preventable car accident, families have the right to know who caused the collision so that they can hold them accountable for their financial and emotional losses.

While a Chicago wrongful death lawyer can fully investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s accident and related death, we also routinely rely on information gathered by police when building a strong wrongful death claim.

Creating as transparent a process as possible is important to us. In addition to being clear and upfront about what we do, we also find it helpful for our clients to have a better understanding of how police investigations of fatal car accidents work.

How Police Investigate Fatal Car Accidents

In Illinois, you are required to report a car accident when any of the following conditions are met:

  • Property damage exceeding $1,500
  • Bodily injury
  • Death

Anyone who has been involved in an accident that meets one or more of the above criteria should call 911 right away to report the crash. A police officer will then respond to the scene of the accident.

Police Investigation at the Scene

As outlined by the Illinois Vehicle Code, a police officer must investigate a motor vehicle accident meeting any of the above conditions. They will then create a written report that details their conclusions. In order to create this report, the responding officer will perform some of the following tasks:

  • Take statements from involved parties, including drivers and passengers.
  • Interview and take statements from eyewitnesses.
  • Draw a diagram or sketch of the accident scene.
  • Assess for driving or traffic violations.
  • Arrest drunk or drugged drivers.

The information from the accident scene investigation will be compiled into a police report. You can request a copy of this crash report online or by mail. We recommend requesting a copy of the crash report as soon as possible to ensure there are no factual inaccuracies. Errors in the crash report can be used by the insurance company to deny compensation in a wrongful death claim.

Information you will find in the police report of the accident includes:

  • The date and time of the accident
  • The location of the accident
  • Names and other identifying information for all involved parties
  • Names and other identifying information for eyewitnesses
  • Statements from involved parties
  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Conditions at the time of the wreck, including weather and lighting
  • Damage to involved vehicles
  • Any citations issued
  • A diagram of the incident

Not every police report concludes with the assigning of fault. The responding police officer may be unable or unwilling to assign fault while still at the scene. When serious or catastrophic injuries occur, ensuring that emergency care and transportation to the hospital are provided in a timely manner is paramount to deciding who was at fault.

When an accident does involve a traumatic injury or death, it is expected that the details of the police report may not be wholly complete. For this and other reasons, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) may, at times, request a supplemental written report from the investigating officer.

Continuing the Investigation

A police investigation of a fatal accident does not necessarily conclude once the responding officer leaves the scene of the crash. There are many reasons why police may choose to continue investigating the circumstances surrounding a deadly car crash, including if:

  • One of the drivers was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • One of the drivers was possibly using a hand-held device.
  • One of the drivers fled the scene of the accident.
  • There were significant traffic violations, including excessive speeding or tailgating.
  • Aggressive or reckless driving was potentially a factor.
  • There is the possibility that one driver caused the wreck on purpose.

During this part of the investigation, investigating officers may contact drivers, passengers, and eyewitnesses to ask for additional information or clarification about provided statements. Officers will also follow up on results of blood alcohol content (BAC) tests, arrests, and other criminal processes initiated against the at-fault driver.

Who Else Investigates Fatal Car Accidents?

Illinois police officers are not the only parties who investigate fatal car accidents. Personal injury lawyers play an invaluable role in the investigation of serious car accidents in the Chicago area. At Thomas Law Offices, we regularly investigate accidents with a high degree of accuracy by:

  • Reviewing the police report, interpreting information, and correcting any factual errors.
  • Speaking with eyewitnesses and corroborating their memories of the event.
  • Accessing and reviewing criminal information related to arrests or citations for the accident.
  • Requesting cell phone records of the at-fault driver.
  • Consulting with experts in related fields, including medical professionals and accident reconstruction experts.

We know how important it is to correctly identify the at-fault party in a fatal car accident. Far too often, the at-fault driver and their insurance company will try to unfairly shift the blame onto the accident victim, denying their loved ones their legal right to pursue compensation and a sense of justice.

Thomas Law Offices doesn’t allow that to happen. Our dedication to investigating the cause of fatal car accidents allows us to provide the best possible representation to Illinois families who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

What Is Accident Reconstruction?

Accident reconstruction involves the analysis and study of the ways in which vehicles impact one another. An accident reconstruction expert is an individual who is qualified to investigate, analyze, and draw conclusions regarding even the most complex of motor vehicle accidents.

When liability is unclear, or the results of a professional investigation are inconclusive, lawyers often choose to work with accident reconstructionists. These professionals will provide an invaluable air of authority to a claim. If the insurance company is disputing liability or the other driver is blaming your loved one for the accident, ask your wrongful death lawyer about whether working with an accident reconstruction expert could boost the strength of your claim.

Find the Right Lawyer To Investigate Your Wrongful Death Claim

When you’ve lost a family member due to the negligent, reckless, or dangerous actions of another driver, you need the right legal advocate on your side. At Thomas Law Offices, our wrongful death attorneys take a compassionate approach to every case we handle. We know that you are going through one of the most difficult periods of your life.

Through our legal advocacy, we fight for the compensation that your family is owed. You shouldn’t have to deal with things like funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, and other financial losses while you are going through the grieving process.

Let us investigate your claim for you. In addition to helping you understand how police investigations of fatal car accidents work, we’ll provide clear and accurate guidance through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Please contact our law offices at your earliest convenience to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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