Drunk driving is illegal in all 50 states, and when drunk drivers cause serious injuries or death, they face serious penalties. In Illinois, a person who drives drunk may face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Mandatory license suspensions and the use of an interlock ignition device may also be ordered.
For the victims of drunk driving accidents, the fact that the drunk driver may have to pay a fine or spend some time in jail does little to alleviate the pain they have endured. Therefore, in addition to facing criminal liability, drunk drivers may also face civil liability for the injuries they have caused. In a civil claim, a private individual seeks monetary compensation from someone accused of wrongdoing.
Drunk driving claims fall under the umbrella of negligence lawsuits. In a negligence action, the victim must prove three elements:
- The at-fault party owed the victim a duty;
- The duty was breached by a negligent act or omission; and
- Due to this breach, the victim suffered damages.
On public roadways in Illinois, all drivers are required to operate their vehicles in a manner that is safe and reasonable under the circumstances. Clearly, driving while intoxicated is a breach of this duty. Driving while intoxicated can cause blurry vision, poor motor control, and a slow reaction time—a formula for a deadly accident. Breathalyzer results, blood test results, and field sobriety tests may all be used as evidence of negligence in a civil claim.
The damages aspect of a drunk driving lawsuit is often the most contested—and most time consuming—part of the case. In a drunk driving case, there may be a variety of damages, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- The cost of any future medical care that is necessary (such as surgeries, long-term physical therapy, and other types of care)
- The expense of altering a home to add wheelchair ramps and other modifications
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
If the victim was killed, surviving family members may also be able to seek funeral and burial expenses, as well as the loss of future income from the victim.
In a drunk driving case where the victim has been injured or killed, the damages may easily reach into the millions of dollars.
To prove the extent of the damages in a drunk driving civil claim, attorneys submit many different types of evidence, including:
- Medical records and bills
- Expert witness reports
- Police reports
- Eyewitness statements
- Cell phone records
- Driving records
- Video camera surveillance footage
- Data taken from a car’s internal computer
- Coroner records
- Car accident reconstruction reports
Additional types of evidence may also be submitted, depending on the facts of the case.
If you were injured by a drunk driver in the Chicago area, contact Stein & Shulman
At Stein & Shulman, LLC, our car accident injury lawyers offer a free consultation to discuss your legal options. To schedule your consultation, call 312.422.0500.