Being a drunk driving victim is stressful. You can face injuries and emotional trauma. You are the victim of someone else’s own unlawful and selfish actions. Illinois law, however, allows victims of a drunk driving accident to seek several types of compensation. Navigating and potentially collecting compensation under these laws can prove a complicated and lengthy process. The attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., however, can assist in your review and possible claims against the drunk driver and other potentially negligible parties.
Under Illinois law, if a drunk driver injured you or someone you know, you have several potential sources from which to seek compensation for your injuries and damages.
Drunk driver’s insurance policy – If you sue a drunk driver for your damages and injuries, the first possible source of compensation is the drunk driver’s insurance policy. Illinois law may entitle you to recover for your actual damages and injuries up to the drunk driver’s policy limits. This might include recovery for medical damage, personal property damage, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Victim’s insurance policy (uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance) – If you are not made whole by the drunk driver’s insurance policy and you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, then you may file a claim against your own insurance policy.
Punitive Damages Against the Drunk Driver
The damages listed above are defined as compensatory damages. They compensate the victim for personal injury and property damage. However, in egregious cases, Illinois law may entitle a victim to punitive damages. Punitive damages are specifically meant to actually punish the actions of a negligent party (here, a drunk driver). In many ways, punitive damages are awarded to set an example, or deter others from similar behavior. Illinois sets out clear criteria that victims must meet before a court will award punitive damages. This includes:
- The drunk driver must have engaged in reckless conduct—greater than ordinary negligence. This essentially means that the drunk driver must have acted with intent (that is, made a conscious choice to drive drunk)
- The filed lawsuit must seek punitive damages and receive permission from the judge to pursue them
- The court must award compensatory damages before considering the award of punitive damages.
- Whether punitive damages are awarded depends on the facts of a specific case.
Compensation From Establishments That Served Drunk Drivers
Illinois has an extensive Dram Shop Act that allows a victim to file a lawsuit against the establishment (the bar, restaurant, or other licensed business) for injuries caused by a drunk driver whom they served to the point of intoxication. The law has specific limits about how much money a victim may recover, and it is updated annually. Victims must usually bring lawsuits against any such establishment within one year of the incident. The specific requirements that victims must prove to hold an establishment liable include:
- The establishment actually sold alcohol to the drunk driver
- The same drunk driver caused the victim’s injuries
- The establishment is the proximate cause of the drunk driver’s intoxication (this means that the drunk driver’s intoxication was foreseeable from the sale by the establishment)
- The drunk driver’s intoxication (as defined under Illinois law) was a major cause (that is, proximate cause) of the incident that resulted in the victim’s injury
Dram Shop Act lawsuits require a careful analysis of the facts and a complicated law, so hire experienced representation to guide you or your loved one. Having a good personal injury lawyer with knowledge about drunk driving recoveries for victims can make the difference between a successful recovery—or not.
Compensation for the Death of Drunk Driving Victims
In the horrible event that a drunk driver has killed a loved one, you or another (usually a personal representative of the loved ones estate) may file a civil lawsuit for wrongful death on behalf of the loved one’s estate. Illinois has a special law called the Wrongful Death Act. The rationale behind a wrongful death suit is to provide some financial stability for the surviving family members. This usually means a surviving spouse or children, but can also mean parents or siblings of the loved one. If criminal charges are pending in the death of your loved one, that will track separately from a wrongful death claim, which is filed in civil court.
The Wrongful Death Act allows the recovery of compensation related to:
- Funeral and final burial costs of the loved one
- Pecuniary losses (for example, loss of money, benefits, services, and society)
- Lost inheritance
- Emotional distress (including damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering)
- Loss of companionship (for spouses)
- Loss of parental guidance (for children)
There is no set amount of damages that a court can award in a wrongful death suit. Illinois law (740 ILCS 180/2) states only that the damages should result in “fair and just compensation.” This means the amount of compensation can vary greatly from case to case.
There are also time limits for when victims can file wrongful death cases. Depending on the facts of the case, this is usually only one or two years from the date of the loved one’s death. If you think you might have a claim, you will want to act quickly.
Contact a Chicago Attorney Today
After an accident occurs, it’s difficult to see past your immediate needs, which include rest and recovery. Seeking compensation as a victim for injuries and damages sustained by a drunk driver can daunt anyone. If a drunk driver injured you or someone that you care about, our law office can help guide you through the legal process. Contact us or call us at (312) 924-7575 today!