People who have suffered injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver have a number of sources to claim compensation for their losses caused by property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The first, and most obvious, source of compensation is the drunk driver’s insurance policy. Assuming the drunk driver carries insurance, a plaintiff can make a claim for damages against the drunk driver’s insurance company. If one suffers injuries while riding in a car where a drunk driver gets in an accident, the passenger can file a claim against the driver.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Of course, many drivers do not carry insurance, or do not carry sufficient insurance. When a drunk driver who causes an accident does not have sufficient insurance, a second source of compensation is any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the plaintiff’s insurance policy. Illinois’ uninsured motorist law, 215 ILCS 5/143a, requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage of least $20,000.00 for property damage and $40,000.00 for bodily injury. If one selects additional liability coverage, their uninsured motorist coverage will match the higher limits, unless they elect to maintain the minimum coverage.
Collecting compensation under an uninsured motorist claim is similar to filing a claim against a negligent party’s insurance carrier. In such a claim, the insurance company steps into the place of the drunk driver and investigates the claim. If one is making a claim against their own policy, it may be advantageous to seek the counsel of an attorney.
Dram Shop Liability
Dram shop laws in Illinois allow for injured persons to seek coverage against a bar that overserved someone who caused an injury. Illinois, compared to other states, makes it easier for plaintiffs to claim injury under a dram shop claim. Most states with dram shop laws require proving that an establishment knowingly or negligently overserved a customer. However, Illinois’ Dram Shop Act, set forth in 235 ILCS 5/6‑21, does not require proof of intent or negligence. It is only necessary to prove that the establishment served the drunk driver, and the injuries were caused in part by the intoxication.
There are limits to what a plaintiff is able to recover under the Dram Shop Act. For accidents occurring on or after January 20, 2008, currently the liability limits are $58,599.59 for injuries to persons or property, and $71,621.72 for the loss of support or society. An injured person is able to claim the loss of support, or the loss of society, but not both. Each year, the Illinois Comptroller will adjust the liability limits, according to the consumer price index.
There are additional potential claims if a person is injured by a drunk driver. If the owner of the car negligently entrusted the vehicle to the drunk driver, the owner of the car can be sued for negligent entrustment. To claim damages against someone under a theory of negligent entrustment, it must be proven that (1) the owner entrusted their automobile to someone who was knowingly incompetent and (2) that the vehicle was the proximate cause of the injury. Therefore, if the owner of car loans their vehicle to someone they know is too drunk to drive, a claim may be filed against them.
In sum, if you or a loved one has sustained injuries caused by a drunk driver, there are numerous potential sources to compensate you for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine your options and navigate your way through the legal system.
This information is presented by Salvi & Maher, LLC.