Teen receives treatment instead of prison after killing 4 in drunk driving crash
The irresponsible decisions of drunk drivers have hurt many people in Illinois. In 2012, more than one-third of all state traffic fatalities occurred in drunk driving accidents, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In every state, laws establish significant penalties to discourage people from making this reckless decision. Sadly, some drivers cause horrific outcomes but are not punished appropriately, as a recent case illustrated.
Teen avoids jail time
In June 2013, a Texas teenager caused an accident that claimed 4 lives and injured 9 people, according to USA Today. According to authorities, the teenage driver was traveling 70 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone when he lost control of his vehicle. Blood tests taken three hours after the crash measured the driver’s blood-alcohol content at .024 percent, or three times the legal limit.
The driver crashed into a group of people who were trying to help a woman start her stalled car. The driver also hit a second, parked vehicle, knocking it into the path of oncoming traffic. Two people riding in the bed of the teenager’s truck were severely injured when they were thrown from the vehicle during the car crash.
In court, the defense argued that the teenager’s privileged upbringing prevented him from understanding the consequences of his actions. In February, a Texas judge sentenced the driver to 10 years of probation with rehabilitation. The judge believed treatment, rather than punishment, would be most impactful. The families of the victims expressed frustration and disappointment with this outcome, given the driver’s reckless conduct and its consequences.
In cases like this, accident victims or their family members may find justice in other ways. When a driver’s negligence results in fatal injuries, a wrongful death lawsuit may be an option.
Illinois wrongful death laws
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act requires surviving family members to prove the following three things when seeking compensation after a fatal accident:
- The other party owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- The other party did not perform the duty or act as a reasonable person would.
- The other party’s actions resulted in the victim’s death.
In fatal auto accidents, establishing that a duty of care existed and the other driver violated it is usually straightforward.
Illinois law allows family members to seek various damages for a wrongful death. Economic damages offset medical bills, funeral expenses and future earnings. Non-economic damages address the pain surviving family members experience, the loss of the services the deceased provided and the loss of the deceased’s companionship. While these damages cannot right a wrong, they can help a family transition past the loss and secure a less financially uncertain future.