Last Updated: January 16, 2017
Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer in Chicago
Drunk driving is a top cause of auto accidents. Every day approximately 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an intoxicated driver – that’s one death every 51 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately alcohol is not the only problem. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 30-35% of all traffic deaths involve a driver who had drugs or alcohol in their systems behind the wheel. Victims of accidents that were caused by an intoxicated driver…the consequences of an accident caused by an intoxicated driver can be fatal and often lead to serious injuries.
When Does Drinking and Driving Become Illegal?
According to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles, a person is considered legally intoxicated and not legally capable of driving when his or her blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher. But even if a person has a blood-alcohol concentration below 0.08 percent, he or she can still be cited for driving under the influence if he or she displays impaired behavior in front of a law enforcement officer. Regardless of exact blood-alcohol concentration, a person is statistically far more likely to be involved in a car accident after consuming any amount of alcohol.
Illinois Liquor Control Act
Also known as the “Dram Shop Act,” the Liquor Control Act in the state of Illinois provides a remedy for injured parties against bar, restaurant, club, and tavern owners. The Act allows the victim of a drunk-driving accident or the victim’s family to sue the establishment that sold liquor to the drunk driver.
In order to recover compensation in this type of claim, the victim or victim’s family must be able to prove five things:
- The drunk driver was, in fact, intoxicated at the time of the car accident;
- The defendant liquor establishment sold or gave intoxicating liquor that was consumed by the drunk driver;
- The liquor consumed caused the intoxication of the drunk driver;
- The drunk driver’s intoxication was at least one cause of the car accident; and
- As a result of the car accident, the victim or victim’s family suffered injury or damage to property.
If you are pursuing a lawsuit under the Liquor Control Act, you can sue more than one establishment, as long as both sold or gave the drunk driver alcohol, and that alcohol caused the driver’s intoxication. Case law in Illinois suggests that as little as two 24-ounce beers immediately before the car crash is a sufficient sale for liability under the Act.
Victims suing under this act can recover for physical injury and damage to property, and their families can recover for either loss of means of support or loss of society (but not both). The total amount of damages allowed under the Act is changed every January. There is a limit to how much people can recover, but it is increased every year.
In 2010, victims and their families could recover for damage to person or property in the amount of $60,247.68 and for loss of means of support or loss of society in the amount of $73,636.05. As of 2017, those figures are $67,356.23 and $82,324.28, respectively. It is important to note that you cannot “stack” establishments. Even if you sue more than one establishment for selling alcohol to a drunk driver, you still can only recover the total damage limits prescribed in the Act. You cannot recover more with more defendants.
Another important point about the Illinois Liquor Control Act is its application solely to accidents occurring within the state. Regardless of who sold a drunk driver alcohol, you cannot sue the establishment if the car crash occurred outside of the state of Illinois. However, the Act will reach across state lines if the crash did occur inside Illinois. This means you can sue the owner of a tavern located in another state if it sold alcohol to a drunk driver who then caused a car crash in Illinois.
Dram Shop laws, especially across state lines, can be complex, so it is important to retain experienced counsel if you believe you have a Dram Shop cause of action. Stein & Shulman, LLC, can help you understand your options under the Illinois Liquor Control Act.
Pursuing Negligence Claims for Full Compensation
There is little comfort that can be given to those who have endured serious injury or loss of a loved one in alcohol-related accidents. While money damages may never make up for the physical and emotional costs endured, these victims are owed compensation. There are two way a victim of a drunk driving accident can seek compensation – (1) pursuing a claim against the drunk driver and (2) pursuing a claim against the bar, restaurant, or other establishment that overserved the intoxicated driver.
Dealing With the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company
In an auto accident in which one driver is determined to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is fairly clear cut that the intoxicated driver was at fault. The fact that the driver was intoxicated can be used as powerful leverage during negotiations with the intoxicated driver’s insurance company. The insurance company’s claims adjuster knows the fact that his or her insured was arrested for drunk or impaired driving is strong proof to present to a judge or jury that will most likely result in a verdict in your favor. That is why it is very important to call the police and to have a police report of the accident, as evidence of the at-fault driver’s negligence and proof that he or she was driving impaired.
What to Do After an Accident With an Intoxicated Driver
If you were involved in an auto accident, first and foremost, it is important that you assess your own condition and that of your passengers and others involved in the accident. Call for medical attention immediately if anyone shows signs of an injury. Next, call the police and notify the responding officer of how the accident happened, of the parties involved and any witnesses to the accident. If you noticed the at-fault driver was serving, smells of alcohol or he/she is acting strange be sure to tell the police officer so that officer can properly conduct an investigation and accurately document his or her findings on the police report. As we mentioned above, your strongest piece of evidence when dealing with an intoxicated at-fault driver is the police report that is constructed by the responding officer. Click here to see a list of the key things you must do following an accident. An experienced car accident attorney who can guide you through the claims process and work to get you the best compensation possible while giving you the time you need to recover from your injuries.
Illinois’ Dram Shop laws
If the at-fault driver is determined to be intoxicated, you may also pursue a claim against the establishment that overserved the at-fault driver under Illinois’ Dram Shop laws. It is important to note that Dram Shop cases must be brought within 1 year of the date of the accident. That is why it is important to seek legal advice immediately if you or a loved one was involved in an accident that was caused by an intoxicated driver.
Free Accident Case Review – 45+ Years of Legal Experience
The attorneys at Stein & Shulman can help you seek justice for your loss and injuries. Our attorneys will aggressively pursue your claim and help you maximum your compensation. It is FREE to speak with one our attorneys. Call us today at (312) 422-0500.