Breaking Down an Alcohol-Related Car Wreck

David Monteleone
Illinois Accident and Wrongful Death Lawyer

  Posted  |  Category : Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury AttorneyA decade ago, DUI was essentially a serious traffic ticket. Many police officers released drunk drivers with warnings. If the cases did go to trial, the laws were rather weak. That all changed when an extended DUI crackdown began in the mid-1990s.

Despite several decades of tougher laws and sophisticated gadgets, like ignition interlock devices, alcohol-related crashes still cause about 1/3 of fatal vehicle collisions in Illinois. Add driving under the influence of drugsto the list, and the proportion is close to half – in some jurisdictions.

Alcohol slows reflexes and impairs judgement, which becomes very dangerous when a individual is operating a motor vehicle.

Because of these dangers, a Rockville personal injury attorney might be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases, which usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Ordinary Negligence

The aforementioned driving impairments begin with the first drink. Circumstantial evidence of alcohol consumption includes things like:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Odor of alcohol,
  • Bloodshot eyes, and
  • Unsteady balance.

In civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest evidentiary burden in Illinois law meaning a little proof goes a long way.

Ordinary negligence claims are not just available in alcohol-related crashes. They also apply in drug-related crashes. Frequently, emergency responders do not cite drivers who are impaired because they ingested a legal substance, like prescription painkillers or an over-the-counter sleep aid. However, these drivers are dangerously impaired.

Negligence Per Se

Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violated a safety law and caused a crash might be liable for damages as a matter of law. That includes the DUI law.

Frequently, the civil claim goes to court before a criminal case is resolved. It’s possible the negligent driver “beats” the DUI on a technicality. In cases like these, the negligence per se doctrine still applies. A civil jury determines all the facts in a civil case, including DUI guilt or innocence.

Damages are frequently higher in negligence per se cases. Many jurors believe legally intoxicated drivers recklessly endanger the lives of others because they knew they were too drunk to drive.

Third Party Liability

In addition to a strong DUI law, Illinois also has a strong dram shop law. This law holds bars, restaurants and other commercial alcohol providers vicariously liable for damages if:

  • An Individual is Under 21: If the provider sold alcohol to a minor who later caused a car crash, the provider might be responsible for damages as a matter of law. Most Winnebago County judges do not allow defenses like “she/he looked older.”
  • Intoxicated at the Time of Sale: Regardless of the consumer’s age, if the customer was intoxicated at the time of sale, the provider might be vicariously liable for damages. Evidence on this point includes some of the circumstantial proof mentioned above.

Vicarious liability is especially important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Frequently, individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these situations.

Partner with Aggressive Attorneys

Substance-impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.