Illinois DUIs and Negligence Per Se: Who is at Fault?

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In the News: Tragedy Strikes, Fatal Elgin Car Crash Results in DUI Charges

In the early morning hours of March 22, 2019, a driver in the westbound lanes of Summit Avenue near the intersection of Summit Avenue and Dundee Avenue in Elgin left the westbound lanes and caused a collision with a Nissan Altima.  The 26-year-old woman and 30-year-old man in the Nissan Altima were both killed.

Subsequently, the driver was charged for this Kane County crash with four counts of aggravated DUI resulting in death, two counts of aggravated DUI causing great bodily harm, two counts of aggravated DUI while driving without insurance, and two counts of reckless homicide – according to a story by CBS Chicago on this tragic and fatal crash.

Illinois DUI Facts

Illinois DUI Facts

Auto Accident Fatalities in Illinois by the Numbers

The rates for auto accident fatalities in Illinois are stark. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), in 2018, 1,031 people perished in car accidents in Illinois.  Of those deaths, 309 (nearly 30%), were due to alcohol-impaired driving.  The silver lining to these striking statistics is that the numbers have improved from years past.  IDOT reported that in 2016 there were 336 Illinois fatalities due to intoxicated driving and in 2017 there were 357.

Illinois DUIs and  “Negligence per se

In Illinois, DUI accidents usually fit under a theory called “negligence per se.”  This means that the law presumes someone who is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and who is involved in an automobile accident, is presumed to be at-fault for the accident.  If the intoxicated driver caused personal injuries, Illinois Courts will assume that the drunk driver caused the accident and will then assess the nature of the injuries sustained.  While the theory of negligence per se can be defeated, it is extremely difficult for someone guilty of DUI to overcome this presumption in court.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Unfortunately for the young man and woman involved in the fatal Elgin car accident, the presumption of negligence under the theory of “negligence per se” does not guarantee a financial recovery from the alleged drunk driver.  As discussed above, in addition to the numerous charges relating to his intoxicated driving, Mr. Velasco was also cited for not carrying valid car insurance at the time of the accident.

Every Illinois Driver Must Have Basic Auto Insurance Coverage

Under Illinois law, every driver must have at least basic auto insurance coverage to help cover personal injuries and property damage that occur in an auto accident.  As of April 20, 2020, Illinois Law required that drivers carry at least $25,000.00 in coverage.  This means that if you are injured by a driver with the State Minimum Coverage, his or her insurance company is only required to pay out up to $25,000.00 in personal injury damages.

Injured by an Uninsured Driver: Options for Financial Recovery

Of course, just because it’s required by law, does not mean that every driver is insured. Unfortunately, there are countless uninsured drivers on Elgin roads every day.  If an uninsured individual causes an auto accident resulting in injuries, there are several options to recover for personal injuries and property damage.

First, if an uninsured driver causes an accident, you can always file a lawsuit against the driver directly.  While this may seem logical, even if one was to win a judgment against the driver, there is no insurance to foot the bill.  More importantly, uninsured drivers rarely have substantial assets to cover the damages.  For this reason, many attorneys refuse to file suit against uninsured drivers as it rarely results in a financial recovery.

Second, the most prudent choice when injured by an uninsured driver is to pursue one’s own insurance for uninsured motorist benefits.  Most insurance companies offer these policies in their standard insurance packages. Policies for injuries caused by uninsured drivers generally cover $25,000.00 to $50,000.00 per person, but can be substantially more.  While uninsured motorist coverage may slightly increase your auto insurance rate, it’s essential to obtain this coverage to protect yourself and your loved ones from the unexpected.

Injured by an Uninsured Motorist?

Remember these important facts:

  1. Filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver rarely results in financial recovery because they often have limited assets
  2. Most insurance companies offer uninsured motorist coverage with standard packages, so you may be covered by your own auto insurance

Seek Help from an Experienced Lawyer

Intoxicated drivers cause hundreds of deaths in Illinois every year, and while those numbers have improved in recent years, DUIs still make up nearly one third of all motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois.  When a drunk driver causes an accident resulting in injuries, the injured party can rely on the legal theory of “negligence per se” when seeking a judgment for money damages.  However, just because the driver was intoxicated, does not mean that you are guaranteed to recover financially – especially if the drunk driver was uninsured.  For this reason, it is essential that drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage to protect themselves from intoxicated, dangerous, and uninsured drivers.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated or uninsured driver, contact The Kryder Law Group immediately for your free and confidential consultation.

Illinois DUI Facts
Learn about who could be at-fault in Illinois DUIs and negligence per se cases.

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