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A driver’s violation of rules of the road may result in very serious bodily injuries or death caused by crashes with other vehicles, children crossing the roadway, pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicyclists. The Illinois Motor Vehicle Code rules and comparative negligence laws serve as the main criteria for the determination of drivers’ liability in causing accidents and corresponding compensation for personal injuries. This short digest of accident liability determination approaches is based on the author’s past experiences and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide as each factual situation is unique. 


Illustrations of determination of drivers’ liability in vehicle collisions.

Left Turn. 

  • The driver of the car making the left turn is considered to be at fault in a collision with a

  • Vehicle traveling in the opposite direction if the traffic light color was either green or yellow for both vehicles.


  • Possible defense: the oncoming car entered the intersection on a red light.

  • Not a viable defense: the turning car was barely in the oncoming car’s lane, or that 

  • The turning car was not moving at the time of the impact, or 

  • That the oncoming vehicle driver was speeding. 


  • The “percentage of fault” of about 10 and 30 percent could be allocated to the going-straight car, if the collided vehicles’ front sections came into contact, because 

  • the driver could possibly avoid or minimize the impact of the collision by braking or veering around the turning vehicle. 

  • The greater share of the fault is placed on the driver making a left turn at an intersection or roadway. 



  • The driver of a backing vehicle is considered to be at fault in causing a collision with a pedestrian, or a parked or moving vehicle standing or moving behind the backing vehicle. 

  • It is not a defense that one could not see at all or in time the car, bicyclist, or pedestrian positioned behind the backing vehicle. 


Liability allocation in rear-end collisions. 

  • The driver of the vehicle that hits the rear end of a moving or standing motor vehicle is at fault 

  • For causing the collision. 

  • If car A strikes the rear end of the front car and then strikes it again as a result of the push by the behind car B (or C if C caused a chain of collisions), then the injury compensation for the front car driver and passengers should be allocated between A and B (or A and C) cars. 


Pseudo-defenses do not exonerate the driver of striking the car, but may lower the driver’s share of the fault in causing the crash: 

  • The front car suddenly braked, or 

  • Changed lanes and suddenly stopped, or 

  • Its brake or turn lights were not functioning at the time of impact.  

  • If a vehicle is pushed into another vehicle, then the pushed car’s driver is not at fault in the second crash. 

  • The driver of a vehicle that initiated a chain of sequential collisions would be responsible for injuries and damages of other participants in that accident. 

  • That driver’s liability may be reduced if there was a preceding collision between the chain-collision vehicles.  


Leaving a Parking Spot. 

  • A driver of the car leaving a street parking spot is at fault for causing a collision with the vehicles moving in the adjacent lane.  

  • The same rule applies to parking lot accidents where the driver leaving the parking space is at fault in causing a collision with a car moving down the aisle between the parked cars. 

  • A viable defense to improper driving claims is to show that another vehicle was traveling in the aisle or street in the direction opposite to the marked arrow or posted sign directions. 


Changing Lanes. 

  • Drivers of vehicles changing the traffic lanes are at fault for causing collisions with 

  • The vehicles moving or standing in the adjacent lanes regardless of 

  • Noticing them in the sideview or rearview mirrors, their speeding, or previous lane change.


Stop Signs. 

  • The driver of the vehicle passing the stop sign, immediately prior to the collision with a vehicle moving in a cross traffic, bears the majority of fault in causing that collision.  

  • It would not matter if the vehicle was stopped before the crash, or 

  • Has barely encroached on the cross-traffic lane, or 

  • The driver’s view was obstructed, or 

  • The stopped vehicles’ drivers gestured to move across the traffic lanes. 

  • At the intersection with “4-way” stop signs, the driver of the last car to enter 

  • The intersection is at fault for precipitating a collision with the first-to-enter car.


Adverse Weather Conditions is not a defense in causing a collision: 

  • The driver of a vehicle, that skidded on an ice patch, wet road surface or 

  • Oil puddles on the roadway due to inclement weather conditions, 

  • Is at fault for causing the crash with another vehicle or pedestrian.


Right turn. 

  • A driver of a car making a right turn from one of the inner lanes is at fault for causing

  • A collision with the vehicle moving in the “right” curb lane or in cross-traffic. 

Swerving on the Roadway. 

  • The driver of a vehicle swerving into or slightly encroaching the oncoming traffic lane 

  • To avoid hitting a pedestrian stepping into its path will not bear the majority of the fault 

  • In the collision with the oncoming vehicle. 

  • If the oncoming car veers to the side to avoid the collision and thus strikes a third-party car, then the encroaching car and veering away car would be both liable for the third-party car damages and occupants’ injuries. 



  • The driver of a disabled car may bear the responsibility for the collision with another vehicle

  • If the driver did not put out the flares behind the disabled car in a traffic lane.


Intoxicated and unlicensed driver. 

  • A driver operating a vehicle without a valid driver's license, or who

  • Was intoxicated, sick or under the influence of drugs, 

  • Is not liable for causing a collision if that driver did not violate the rules of the road 

  • At the time of the accident. 

  • That driver may have violated criminal or other laws, but this would not affect 

  • The determination of who was at fault in causing the crash.  


  • Drivers have to yield to pedestrians (and bicyclists) walking in the marked and unmarked crosswalks, particularly children, obviously intoxicated and blind people walking on the roadways. 

  • Drivers may not be liable for knocking down a pedestrian who suddenly stepped off the curb into the traffic lane or ran across the roadways. 

  • Pedestrians are not always right in collision situations. 

  • Pedestrians should not hitchhike in the lanes, stand in the middle of the road, jaywalk, or 

  • Cross the roadways not on green light or not within the designated areas. 


Opening A Car Door into an Adjacent Traffic Lane. 

  • A driver who opened the door, which was then struck by a bicyclist or another car moving in the adjacent traffic lane, is at fault for causing such a collision. 

  • Driver standing by the opened door while positioning to sit down into the seat 

  • Would not be liable in the collision with another car, which 

  • Struck the opened door and the standing driver.



  • Vehicles traveling on a highway ramp must yield the right of way to the vehicles traveling on that highway even if the “Yield” sign is not posted. 

  • But if the collision took place on the ramp roadway, then the driver of a vehicle crossing the ramp roadway (trying to shorten its exit from the highway or for other reasons) would be liable for that collision. 


Uncontrolled Intersection. 

  • A driver of the vehicle, that approached that intersection on the right side of another vehicle moving in cross traffic, will win the collision liability contest if 

  • There is no traffic light, “stop” sign, or any other traffic-controlling device at the street/highway intersection.


Exiting Alley/Driveway. 

  • A driver of the vehicle exiting an alley, gas station, parking lot, or private property driveway 

  • Is at fault for colliding with vehicles traveling in cross-traffic in either direction.  

  • This rule applies even when one or more drivers have stopped in cross-traffic to allow 

  • The car leaves the parking lot to turn onto the main street, and 

  • Even when the driver’s view of traffic in all lanes is obstructed.


Inadmissible Evidence. 

At the trial of a personal injury claim, a party may not admit to evidence:

  • Alcohol consumption, like drinking and time spent at a bar if the driver was not intoxicated  

  • Bicyclist’s failure to wear a helmet

  • Driver’s failure to fasten a seat belt

  • Passenger’s failure to warn the driver of impending collision


Emergency Vehicles.  

  • Police cars in pursuit of transgressors or fire department vehicles responding to emergency situations may violate the rules of the road, 

  • Provided that these vehicles turn on the flashing lights and sirens. 


Agricultural / construction vehicles. 

  • Such vehicles must follow brake and turn light signals and 

  • Follow the rules of the road like all other vehicles.

Hit-and-run collision. 

  • To obtain compensation for injuries sustained in collisions with vehicles driven by 

  • Uninsured or unidentified driver (hit-and-run accident):

  • An injured claimant must not be at fault in such collisions and 

  • A collision contact with the individual claimant (a pedestrian or bicyclist having an auto insurance policy) or the victim’s vehicle must be proven.  


Unconscious Driver. 

  • A driver, who passed out as a result of a heart attack, epileptic fit, or diabetic coma and

  • Caused an accident, will be responsible for other crash participants’ injuries and damages arising from this accident.


Accident liability defenses 

  • A front car stopped in a dense fog 

  • The striking vehicle’s unforeseen mechanical failure, such as a new tire blowout

  • Obstruction to view from a non-preferential road (like low-hanging tree branches or high bushes)


Pseudo defenses in vehicle crashes:

  • A vehicle’s undiscovered defects which caused the vehicle malfunction at the time of the accident, do not excuse the car driver/owner as the vehicle maintenance is 

  • Within their realm of responsibility/duty to maintain the vehicle in good order. 

  • A driver’s theory that another vehicle came out of nowhere, or that 

  • Another vehicle did not cause the crash but struck the driver’s vehicle is not dispositive of a liability issue.


As one can see, a lot of factors are considered by the courts, insurance company adjusters, and attorneys to ascertain who is at fault for causing the collision, the proportional allocation of that fault, and the respective payment of compensation for injuries sustained in the accident. 

In motor vehicle accidents, the drivers’ responsibility for causing a vehicle crash is mainly based on their compliance with applicable rules of the road.  The knowledge of these rules is imputed to every driver operating a vehicle in Illinois. Other states have similar rules. This is a short digest of the rules most considered for crash liability purposes in vehicle-pedestrian collisions.


The driver of a vehicle shall:

  • When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation: Stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger. 625 ILCS 5/11-1002(a). 

  • When vehicles approach from the rear of the stopped vehicle: Do not overtake and pass a vehicle, which was stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway. 625 ILCS 5/11-1002(d).

  • Exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power and 

  • Shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and 

  • Shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person. 625 ILCS 5/11-1003.1. This rule applies notwithstanding other provisions of the state Code or any local ordinance.

  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians whenever stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections. 625 ILCS 5/11-1002(e).

  • Stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger. 625 ILCS 5/11-1002.5. 

  • This rule applies to school zones when school children are present on a school day (from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and a potential hazard exists because of the close proximity of the motorized traffic and when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation.

  • Yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian with clearly visible disabilities. 625 ILCS 5/11-1004.

  • Yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk. 625 ILCS 5/11-1008.


Compliance with these and other Motor Vehicle Code rules is considered by attorneys, insurance company adjusters, accident investigating police officers, traffic, and civil courts for the determination of negligent acts or omissions by the vehicle drivers in causing an accident.

In determining liability in vehicle-bicycle and bicycle-pedestrian collisions, the rules of the road may be applicable to bicyclists as “pedestrians” in crashes with trucks and cars, or “motor vehicles” in their collisions with pedestrians and children. 


A bicyclist riding upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, 

  • Shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian. 

  •  Shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian. 


Motor vehicle drivers shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle or other device propelled by human power. 625 ILCS 5/11-1003.1. 


“Bicycle” means every device propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels or two front or two rear wheels. 


“Crosswalk” is a portion of a roadway connected to sidewalk lines at intersections, or clearly indicated for pedestrian crossing by markings. 


“Sidewalk” is a portion of a street intended for use by pedestrians, i.e., not a roadway. 


Some insurance policies specifically define a bicycle as a “motor vehicle” operating on land if it has any motor-like bike-moving device, such as an electric or gas engine. 

Therefore, in ascertaining the liability of the parties involved in motor vehicle accidents, a bicyclist can be deemed either a motor vehicle or a pedestrian depending on the terms of the applicable insurance policies and collision circumstances


© 2023, Parad Law Offices, P.C

Disclaimer: The publisher and the author give no legal or other professional advice by this publication and disclaim any liability, loss or damages, which may arise from the use of the information stated herein. No attorney-client relationship shall be established by this publication.

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