Car Crash? The Two Legal Battles Ahead
By Robert Monahan

The law is rarely straightforward.

Even something as simple as a car crash can have unexpected twists and turns. For example, did you know that if you are a victim in a car accident, you will probably be dealing with not one, but two legal battles. You will participate in:

  • a traffic ticket prosecution; and
  • a car crash claim.

These two legal cases are connected, but they are different in big ways.

Traffic Ticket Criminal Prosecution

In this case, you will be the witness for the State.

In theory, the State itself is the person who was wronged and you are just a witness, helping the prosecutor win his traffic case against the other driver.

The prosecutor’s goal is to punish the other driver and to stop or discourage others from breaking the law. Compensating you is not his concern.

If the other driver is convicted, he may face fines, jail time, and probation. The severity of these penalties will depend on the specific crime the driver is convicted of and the other circumstances of the accident.

Car Crashes and Injuries: Civil Lawsuit  

In this case, you will be bringing the claim. You were injured by the at-fault driver. Here, you are a plaintiff, not just a witness. But here, you will have to hire your lawyer yourself. He will be on your side – not the side of the State.

Your goal is to get compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


Let’s say that Benito rear-ended Antonio at a red light. Antonio is injured and goes to the hospital. Benito gets a ticket for reckless driving.

Benito’s reckless driving ticket is a criminal matter. The prosecutor will bring a case against Benito in branch court (in Park City, Round Lake, Mundelein, etc.). Antonio will be a witness in the ticket case. If Benito is convicted, he may face fines, jail time, and probation.

Antonio will also want to file a car crash claim against Benito. In the car crash claim, Antonio will seek to recover for his medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If Antonio wins, the court will award him damages to compensate him for his losses.

For Antonio, there are two courts – traffic court for Benito’s ticket; and civil court for Antonio’s compensation. Traffic court is about punishing Benito and not compensating Antonio. For compensation, Antonio must find a plaintiff’s lawyer to pursue the claim for injuries in civil court.


If you are in a car accident, it is important to know the difference between the traffic ticket and the car crash claim, so that you can protect your rights and avoid any unexpected “bumps in the road.”

Robert Monahan has been helping people for 25 years. His law office in Gurnee at 4229 Grove Avenue. His telephone number is (847) 848-6165. His website is If you have any questions, please contact Attorney Bob Monahan.

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