A drunk driver may be found liable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit

In 2014—the most recent year for which final statistics are available—369 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Illinois. This accounts for 40% of all motor vehicle accident fatalities in Illinois. Nationally, one person died every 53 minutes because of a drunk driver, and thousands of families were left grieving the tragic and unnecessary losses of their loved ones.

If you have lost a loved one in an Illinois drunk driving accident, then you may have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death case can hold the person(s) responsible for the accident accountable and can result in financial compensation for your family. Accordingly, it is important to know who is responsible for your loved one’s death.

Three Potential Defendants in an Illinois Drunk Driving Case

Before you can file a lawsuit, you have to identify the right defendant(s). In Illinois, that may include the drunk driver and others.

The Drunk Driver

In Illinois, a driver is legally defined as “driving under the influence” if the driver is a…

  • Driver under the age of 21 with any blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.00%.
  • School bus driver with a BAC above 0.00%.
  • Commercial driver with a BAC above 0.04%.
  • Driver over the of 21 with a BAC above 0.08%.

You may also present evidence to prove that a driver with a lower BAC, a driver under the influence of drugs, or a driver taking prescription drugs was impaired.

The Bar That Sold the Driver Alcohol

According to the Illinois Dram Shop Law, you may have a claim against a bar, tavern, or lounge which provided the alcohol that caused the driver to become intoxicated. While some states require that the survivors of a drunk driving accident prove that the bartender or others knew the driver was intoxicated, the Illinois law does not require signs of visible intoxication in order to hold the bar liable. Instead, you will need to prove that:

  • The person who killed your loved one was intoxicated.
  • That person was intoxicated because of alcohol sold to him by the bar.
  • It was the intoxication, and not some other form of negligence, that caused the accident and your loved one’s death.

Holding the bar responsible in no way lets the drunk driver off the hook. He may still be found liable for his actions. However, it may help your family recover damages and it may send a valuable message to other Illinois bars.

An Adult Who Provided Alcohol to a Minor

In 2013, the Illinois Social Host Law went into effect. This law makes adults accountable for underage drinking that happens in their home. The law says, in part, that if someone under the age of 21 is drinking at an adult’s house and the minor who was drinking hurts or kill someone as a result of that drinking, then the homeowner could be guilty of a felony. This law should be discussed with your wrongful death lawyer if the driver who killed your loved one was under the age of 21.

It’s Important to Identify the Right Defendant(s)

We encourage you to think about everyone who had a part in the accident that killed your loved one and to hold everyone responsible accountable for their actions. For more information about how to protect your rights and your potential recovery, please contact us directly via this website or by phone. We would be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with you at your convenience.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham