All automobile accidents are tragic. They are sudden and jarring. Our lives are immediately and irreparably altered in a way that completely changes how we live in the future. Obviously, if the accident arose because of a drunk driver, feelings of grief and sadness might also be accompanied by feelings of anger.
Why were not they more responsible?
These are completely natural thoughts and so are concerns for how you or a loved one will put the pieces together going forward. This is normally where our law office gets involved to assist victims in obtaining financial compensation for drunk driving accidents through the Illinois legal system. However, at the beginning and throughout the entire process common questions emerge about this type of lawsuit. Therefore, we have assembled some Illinois drunk driving FAQs for you to review that hopefully will answer some of your questions. Of course, if you have any others or if you want to begin the road to recovery, call us today. A member of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can address all of your concerns and explain to you exactly what you need to do to preserve your compensation.
- What are the facts about drink driving accidents?
- What are the laws surrounding drunk driving in Illinois?
- How are drink drivers punished in Illinois?
- Do I have a civil claim for damages against the intoxicated motorist who injured me?
- Who is responsible for drunk driving accidents?
- What type of damages can I recover from a drink driving case under Illinois law?
- How long do I have to file a drink driving lawsuit?
- What have other people injured in Illinois drunk driving accidents received?
- Where are the most drunk driving lawsuits filed?
- How can Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers help me if I have been injured in a drunk driving accident?
Alcohol-related auto accidents have a tremendous impact on families in every conceivable demographic. The below statistics demonstrate how pervasive these incidents are and lend some insight as to their measureable effect on men, women and children.
- Every year, there are over 10,000 deaths in traffic accidents involving intoxication across America.
- For children up to 14 years old, alcohol was a factor in almost 1 in 5 deaths from traffics incidents.
- Each year, approximately 1 million people are pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence.
- Only about 1% of all intoxicated drivers are pulled over or otherwise detained.
- Drug intoxication, as opposed to alcohol intoxication, is the cause in almost 1 in 5 motor vehicle deaths.
- Common themes of alcohol-related deaths in motor vehicle incidents include younger drivers (especially between the ages of 21 to 24), motorcycles, and persons with past DWI convictions.
- Every day, nearly 500,000 people drive while under the influence.
- Every other minute someone is harmed from an intoxicated driver and about 30 people die daily from one.
- Nearly 33% of all those caught for driving while intoxicated are repeat offenders.
- Since 1980, the number of deaths related to drunk driving has been reduced by almost 50%.
- Drunk driving costs the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
- Drunk driving deaths normally occur at night and during the weekend.
- The majority of those caught for drunk driving continue to illegally drive on a suspended license.
- In Illinois, over 30,000 people are arrested every year for drunk driving and almost 500 people die every year because of it.
- The total cost of a DUI can be as much as $20,000 for legal, administrative, and other fees.
In an effort to reduce alcohol-related auto accidents, the Illinois legislature has enacted the following laws for motorist on Illinois roads when it comes to alcohol use. The fines and penalties for drunk driving come from 625 ILCS 5/11-501:
“(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:
(1) the alcohol concentration in the person's blood or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11-501.2;
(2) under the influence of alcohol;
(3) under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;
(5) under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving; or
(6) there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person's breath, blood, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act. Subject to all other requirements and provisions under this Section, this paragraph (6) does not apply to the lawful consumption of cannabis by a qualifying patient licensed under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act who is in possession of a valid registry card issued under that Act, unless that person is impaired by the use of cannabis.”
Driving while intoxicated comes with the penalties found in section c:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Section, any person convicted of violating subsection (a) of this Section is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) A person who violates subsection (a) or a similar provision a second time shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of either 5 days of imprisonment or 240 hours of community service in addition to any other criminal or administrative sanction.
(3) A person who violates subsection (a) is subject to 6 months of imprisonment, an additional mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, and 25 days of community service in a program benefiting children if the person was transporting a person under the age of 16 at the time of the violation.
(4) A person who violates subsection (a) a first time, if the alcohol concentration in his or her blood, breath, or urine was 0.16 or more based on the definition of blood, breath, or urine units in Section 11-501.2, shall be subject, in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed, to a mandatory minimum of 100 hours of community service and a mandatory minimum fine of $500.
(5) A person who violates subsection (a) a second time, if at the time of the second violation the alcohol concentration in his or her blood, breath, or urine was 0.16 or more based on the definition of blood, breath, or urine units in Section 11-501.2, shall be subject, in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed, to a mandatory minimum of 2 days of imprisonment and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,250.
625 ILCS 5/11-501(c)
- First, according to 625 ILCS 5/11-501(b), even if you are legally entitled to use alcohol or certain drugs, you cannot use this as a defense if you are driving while intoxicated.
- Second, if your blood alcohol content is over 0.08 you are considered legally drunk and are not allowed to drive under any circumstances. However, if your blood alcohol content is between 0.05 and 0.08 a police officer might cite you for driving while intoxicated if he or she believes you are impaired.
- Third, all fines and penalties can be increased if you among other things drive while intoxicated three or more times, drive a school bus while intoxicated, or seriously injure someone in a motor vehicle accident while intoxicated.
From the laws mentioned above, here is a review of the penalties that drunk drivers face after getting caught:
- FIRST OFFENSE: Up to one year of jail time; up to $2,500 in fines; license suspended for at least 1 year; and an ignition interlock device placed on your car.
- SECOND OFFENSE: Up to one year of jail time; up to $2,500 in fines; license suspended for at least 5 years; and an ignition interlock device placed on your car.
- THIRD OFFENSE : Between 3 and 7 years of jail time; up to $2,500 in fines; license suspended for at least 10 years; and an ignition interlock device placed on your car.
For information on more than three offenses, click here: http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/dsd_a118.pdf.
The first thing to understand in looking for a drunk driving claim is that civil actions are wholly separate and apart from criminal actions. The latter are brought by the state to punish defendants and deter similar behavior. Drunk drivers are subject to criminal prosecution even if they do not harm anyone or cause any damage. However, you or a relative might also be able to bring a civil action if the drunk driver harmed or even killed you.
This type of lawsuit is normally either a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death and attempts to recover for damages including medical costs, property damage, lost wages, and even non-economic losses in some circumstances (for more on damages in drunk driving lawsuits, see our section below entitled: “What type of damages can I recover from a drunk driving case in Illinois?”) Here are the broad elements of both negligence and wrongful death in the drunk driving context:
- Did the defendant owe you a duty? Yes, all drivers owe other drivers and pedestrians the duty to handle their cars and maintain a sufficient lookout to avoid injuring others.
- Did the defendant breach that duty? Normally, in civil litigation, pointing to evidence of the accident itself should be evidence enough to demonstrate that a breach occurred.
- Did the defendant’s breach cause your injuries? This is where it gets tricky. You must prove that defendant’s conduct is the factual and legal reason why you were injured. In other words, no one else including yourself could have primarily contributed to your harms in order for you to be successful on this point.
- Did your injuries result in damages? You are not allowed to use the legal system unless your injuries manifested into recognizable economic or non-economic damages including among others medical costs, property damage, or pain and suffering.
What a negligence lawsuit basically alleges is that the defendant acted unreasonably and that that unreasonable conduct injured the plaintiff. However, in drunk driving situations, plaintiffs are assisted in demonstrating that the conduct itself was unreasonable because it is also against the law to do so. Therefore, the law presumes that drunk drivers were negligent if the following elements are present.
- The defendant broke a law.
- The law gives a criminal penalty.
- The conduct caused a harm that the law was meant to deter.
- The plaintiff was a member of the group the law tried to protect.
Laws against drunk driving are meant to protect other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Therefore, if defendants drink and drive and then crash into and harm others, they were negligent per se because they broke the law and harmed people in the manner that the law meant to avoid. This is helpful because it saves you a lot of time at trial. Instead of arguing over whether the defendant’s conduct was wrongful, you just have to show that it caused your injuries.
- WRONGFUL DEATH
You can also bring a wrongful death claim if a relative or loved one died because of a drunk driver. To be successful on this action, you must allege and prove the following points:
- The defendant owed a legal duty to the decedent.
- The defendant breached that legal duty.
- The plaintiff died and incurred monetary damages as a result of the defendant’s breach.
Old Second National Bank of Aurora v. Aurora Township , 156 Ill.App.3d 62, 65 (1987); Vaughn v. Granite City Steel, 217 Ill App 3d 46, 50 (1991); Wrongful Death Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 70, par. 1 et se)
After the incredible grief and sadness subside, your thoughts will likely turn to putting the pieces back together after a drunk driving accident. The focus will then shift to finding the person that was responsible for the tragedy. Here is a simple list to start with in determining who to bring a drunk driving claim against:
- THE DRUNK DRIVER: Obviously, the people to start with are the drunk drivers themselves. Assuming that there was no intervening force that forced them to cause the incident or you were not partially responsible for it, they must pay for the damages that they personally caused.
- THE DRUNK DRIVER’S EMPLOYER: Employers are vicariously liable for the torts that their employees cause as long as they are foreseeable and committed while in the course of their employment. As long as the drunk driver was not deviating too much from the intended work, his or her boss will still be liable for all of your injuries.
- THE DRUNK DRIVER’S SERVER: If a bar, restaurant, or other establishment serves a customer alcohol and that customer becomes intoxicated, then that establishment is liable to victims if the customer injures them under the Illinois Dram Shop Act. Of course, if the drunk driver visited multiple places prior to harming you then it can be tricky finding the culpable establishment but it is important to remember that they are responsible as well.
See 235 ILCS 5/6-21 (2000).
- ADULTS: Illinois law specifically singles out and gives civil liability to adults who knowingly serve alcohol to minors who then injure others because of their intoxicated state. Additionally, Illinois has recently adopted legislation to expand the meaning of the term “social host.” The consequence of this is that an adult can be legally responsible for the actions of other adults to whom they served alcohol.
See The Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act (740 ILCS 58/1)
- INSURANCE COMPANIES: Do not forget that recovery might be right under your own feet! Even if the drunk driver that injured you does not have any or enough cash or insurance to pay your award, you can still turn to your own insurance provider and collect under your personal policy for underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.
In order to determine what type of damages you can recover from a drunk driving case it is important to distinguish between negligence actions and wrongful death actions.
In negligence actions, you can typically recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and other non-economic damages. Compensatory damages are meant to replace your out-of-pocket losses that the incident directly cost you including primarily medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the drunk driver and reward you for the particularly wanton nature of this offense. Non-economic damages are meant to reimburse you for the intangible losses that the drunk driver caused you or continues to cause including pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, disability, disfigurement, and others.
In wrongful death actions, loved ones and next of kin can typically recover compensatory and punitive damages as any plaintiff in a negligence action could. However, they can also recover for things that arise out of the decedent’s lost presence going forward. Examples of this include lost wages the decedent might have earned for the plaintiffs, lost support the decedent might have given to the plaintiffs, lost companionship the decedent might have had with the plaintiffs, and others. Who can collect on these wrongful death actions? Typically that class of people includes spouses, children, and parents but there might be others that qualify.
Generally, all lawsuits for personal injuries related to drunk driving accidents in Illinois need to be filed two years from the date of the incident. 735 ILCS 5/13-202 (2010). However, that time period does not start until you know or should have known about the existence of the cause of action in the first place. Del Bianco v. American Motorists Ins. Co., 73 Ill. App. 3d 743, 747 (Ill. App Ct. 1979).
All lawsuits for property damage related to drunk driving accidents in Illinois need to be filed five years from the date of the incident. 735 ILCS 5/13-205
All lawsuits for wrongful death related to drunk driving accidents in Illinois need to be filed two years from the date of the incident and that clock begins running when the victim dies. (740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/2 (2010). For survival actions brought on behalf of decedents of drunk driving accidents, plaintiffs have either the limits for the underlying claim itself or one year from the decedent’s death, whichever is later. 735 ILCS 5/13-209(a)(1) (2010).
To sue an establishment for injuries under the Illinois Dram Shop Act, plaintiffs have one year from the date of the drunk driving incident to file a lawsuit. 235 ILCS 5/6-21 (2000).
Here is a breakdown of what other drunk driving accident victims have recovered across Illinois according to data collected from jury verdict reporters and reported settlements.
- RECOVERY RANGE
- PERCENTAGE OF PLAINTIFFS
Here are some of the most popular counties for drunk driving litigation in Illinois:
- Cook County
- Madison County
- Kane County
- Winnebago County
- DuPage County
- St. Clair County
- Will County
- McHenry County
- Champaign County
- 41% of all drunk driving cases.
- 10% of all drunk driving cases.
- 7% of all drunk driving cases.
- 7% of all drunk driving cases.
- 6% of all drunk driving cases.
- 5% of all drunk driving cases.
- 4% of all drunk driving cases.
- 2% of all drunk driving cases.
- 2% of all drunk driving cases.
- EXPERIENCE. From day 1, we can come in and put our years of experience to work for you in order to preserve every dime of recovery that is possible. We have worked with many victims such as yourself and can utilize this asset to quickly and efficiently move your case through the justice system. You do not have to worry about your lawyers learning on the job or stalling due to inexperience because we have been there before and will not waste your time or money.
- RESOURCES. We pledge to commit every resource necessary to protect and maximize your recovery. If you or a loved one has just been the victim of a drunk driver, you should not have to add insult to injury and inject thousands of dollars to force the offender to pay for injuries. Instead, we do that so you do not have to worry about anything during the lawsuit. In fact, we do not collect anything unless you are successful in court or settlement.
- COMMITMENT. At all times during the litigation, we commit to being by your side. One problem many clients experience with other law firms is that they can never reach their attorney. We promise to be available 24 hours a day for your questions, comments, and concerns.
Do not wait! Contact us today if you have been injured by a drunk driver in Illinois so that we put you on the road to recovery. We have lawyers available all day long to take your call and explain exactly what you need to do next. You can take comfort in the fact that you lawyers experienced with representing people injured in drunk driving accidents representing your interests.