In a survey on alcohol-impaired driving behavior, 475 of 1000 Illinois residents self-reported driving while impaired. This is astounding considering people have a tendency to lie in these types of surveys in order to make themselves look good. This suggests the actual rate of drunk driving could be much higher.
Many of the Chicago area car accident victims we represent here at Stein & Shulman suspect that the driver that caused the accident they were in was driving under the influence. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury due to a drunk driving accident, contact our experienced personal injury attorney today.
What Is Driving Under The Influence?
Illinois law defines the term “driving under the influence” (DUI) as driving, or being in actual
physical control of a motor vehicle, while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. While observational methods are used to determine if a driver is legally impaired by a substance other than alcohol, alcohol intoxication is typically measured by checking a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
The legal blood alcohol limit that indicates intoxication is .08, however, individuals with a BAC under .08 at the time of arrest may be convicted of a DUI in Illinois if there is additional evidence that the driver was impaired.
(Note, people tend to use the terms DUI and DWI (driving while intoxicated) interchangeably, but under Illinois law the proper term is DUI.)
Because driving under the influence is a crime, a driver that causes an accident, and is then charged with a DUI, can be presumed to be responsible for the accident. The legal term for this is “negligence per se,” which is Latin for negligence itself. It is very hard for a drunk driver to prove they were not at fault when they have been charged with a crime.
Holding Drunk Drivers Responsible
Determining who is at fault when an accident occurs is critical. Illinois is a comparative negligence state, which means the amount of compensation you are eligible for depends partially on who is to blame for the accident.
Based on the evidence in the case, the court, or if you are negotiating a settlement, your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, will assign a percentage of blame to each party involved in the accident. The percentage of fault assigned to you (the plaintiff) is the same percentage that will be deducted from the total amount of damages you have suffered.
If, for example, your medical bills, lost wages, decreased future earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages adds up to $100,000, but the evidence suggests you are 20% to blame for the accident because you were going slightly over the speed limit, the damages you are eligible for will be reduced by 20%. In this example, that would reduce your compensation by $20,000, leaving you with $80,000.
If you are found to be more than 51% to blame for the accident, you will receive no compensation at all. This is what the “modified” part of modified comparative negligence means. If the other driver is charged with DUI, it is very rare for them not to be held responsible for the accident.
As your attorney, it is our job to get as much of the blame as possible assigned to the other driver so you can get the money you need to heal.
Other Responsible Parties
Illinois law allows accident victims to hold other parties who contributed to a drunk driver’s actions responsible as well.
Negligent Entrustment of an Auto
Under Illinois law, if someone loans their car to an impaired driver, the car’s owner can be sued for negligent entrustment. The idea is that the car owner should have known better than to loan their vehicle to someone so irresponsible.
Dram Shop Liability
If the impaired driver was out drinking at a bar or restaurant before the accident, the Illinois Dram Shop Act may allow the victim to sue the establishment that supplied the driver with alcohol.
How Do I Know If The Other Driver Was Impaired?
If you are reading this after you have already been in an accident where you suspect the other driver was impaired, but was not charged with a DUI, it is probably too late to do anything about it now.
For future reference, we recommend accident victims always ask the police on the scene to document whether or not the other driver appears impaired. Police reports are important evidence in any personal injury case, but are especially important in automobile accident cases.
Is My Case Tied To The Criminal Prosecution?
If the other driver is charged with a DUI following your accident, they will face criminal prosecution. Although this is a court case, it is completely separate from the civil case you will bring against them seeking compensation for your injuries. The two cases are completely unrelated. However, the outcome of the criminal case may be important evidence in your civil case. As discussed above, a DUI is evidence of negligence per se.
Getting You The Compensation You Deserve
Under Illinois law, DUI accident victims can seek both economic and noneconomic damages. In order to maximize the amount of money you can collect, we will gather evidence of your:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost income;
- Decreased future earnings; and
- Property damage.
We also talk to experts who can estimate a fair compensation for non-economic losses like:
- Physical pain;
- Emotional anguish;
- Permanent disfigurement or disability;
- Loss of consortium; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
If the other driver was driving under the influence, it may also be possible to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and to discourage others from engaging in similarly egregious behavior.
We Do Not Get Paid Unless You Do
The Stein & Shulman team is not going to pressure you to settle for the first low-ball offer an insurance company throws at you just so we can cash a check. We will aggressively fight for every penny you deserve because we know that holding a drunk driver responsible for their actions is just as important as getting you the money you need to heal.
This is one of the reasons our team takes automobile accident cases on a contingency fee basis. We aren’t going to nickel and dime you, or bill you by the hour. Our fee will always be just a portion of what we recover on your behalf.
Contact Our Experienced Team Of Chicago Area DUI Accident Attorneys Today
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury in an accident with a drunk driver, we are here to help. Whether you are ready to take legal action right now, or are just curious about what options are available to you, we are ready to take your call. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.