Thousands of drunk driving car accidents occur in Illinois each year. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), 47% of Illinois car accident fatalities involve alcohol.
When a person chooses to drive while drunk in Illinois, they have no regard for the safety of others. At Nessler & Associates, our drunk driving accident lawyers hold negligent drivers accountable for driving while intoxicated and don’t take pushback from aggressive insurance companies that try to deny or reduce what you are owed.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a driver under the influence of alcohol, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, loss of income, and even the wrongful death of a loved one.
About Drunk Driving Accidents
The National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration reports that 32 people die in drunk driving accidents every day; that is one person every 45 minutes. These accidents cost the U.S. $44 billion annually.
Underage drinking is a factor in a quarter of fatal accidents involving teen drivers. One in five children under the age of 14 killed in auto accidents is killed in drunk driving crashes. Drunk drivers are four times more likely than sober drivers to have a past DUI conviction.
Drunk driving is a misdemeanor, and convictions impose stiffer penalties for each offense, ranging from small fines to jail time, mandatory minimum fines, and community service. Convictions result in stiffer penalties if the driver’s blood alcohol content is twice the legal limit or if the driver has children under 16 in the car. The at-fault driver may be charged with aggravated drunk driving if:
- The driver has two previous DUI convictions
- The driver is operating a school bus with one or more passengers
- The driver’s actions cause great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another person
- The driver has a previous conviction for reckless homicide related to substance abuse
- The driver causes a crash in a school zone while the speed limit is 20 and causes bodily harm
- The driver has no license or a suspended license
- The driver knows the vehicle isn’t covered by liability insurance
- The driver has a previous DUI conviction and has a child under 16 in the car
- The driver causes bodily injury to a child under 16 in the driver’s car
- The driver is transporting people in a vehicle for hire
Aggravated drunk driving is a felony, and subsequent convictions carry stiffer penalties.
How Alcohol Impacts the Ability to Drive
Alcohol impairs the brain’s functions. The higher the concentration of blood alcohol content, the higher the degree of impairment. The following are functions necessary for driving that alcohol impacts most.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs cognitive processes. This impairment means the driver can’t react to conditions around them and might be more prone to road rage.
Alcohol is classified as a depressant, and it slows your ability to react to changing conditions or emergencies.
Alcohol intoxication affects your hand/eye/foot coordination. This impairment of motor skills can cause a driver to brake or accelerate improperly.
The impaired driver loses the ability to evaluate the situation around them and react accordingly. They might become confused by road signs or unable to read them.
Alcohol causes eye movement to be less coordinated than usual and can affect depth perception. Double vision and dizziness make attempting to drive hazardous.
A drunk driving accident attorney will ask you questions about the driver’s behavior at the accident scene. You may be able to observe some of these effects.
Drunk Driving Legal Procedures
When a police officer arrives at the accident scene, they assess everyone for injuries before asking each person what happened. If they suspect a driver of drinking, they will follow procedure to gather evidence.
Who is considered a drunk driver?
Drivers of passenger vehicles, motorcycles, trucks, lawnmowers, tractors, scooters, mopeds, and bicycles can be considered drunk drivers if they are found to be intoxicated. The legal limit for alcohol is 0.08, which means you can’t legally drive if your blood is more than 0.08% alcohol. A blood alcohol content above 0.04% results in a DUI for commercial drivers.
Signs of impaired driving
You may suspect another driver of being intoxicated if you notice any of the following signs.
- No turn signal
- Extremely fast or slow driving
- No headlights
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals
Field sobriety tests
Police will conduct field sobriety tests to determine whether the driver is intoxicated. Common field tests include:
Officers ask the driver to follow their finger looking for nystagmus or the driver’s inability to control eye movement.
Officers will ask the driver to perform tests that require a high degree of motor control. These might include a one-leg stand test and a walk-and-turn. If coordination is impaired, they will suspect intoxication.
A breathalyzer tests the alcohol content in exhalation vapor. It is a quick and accurate way to determine if a driver is drunk. It doesn’t test for any other substances.
If cops believe the driver to be intoxicated but not by alcohol or not just alcohol, they will take them to the hospital for a blood test.
Any injured person should seek immediate medical treatment to determine the severity of injuries and make proving the cause of injuries easier during the drunk driving accident claim process.
The police will document the scene, interview all the witnesses, make diagrams, and compile all the necessary information in an accident report. This police report is essential for your claim.
Consequences and Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents
Drivers who ingest alcohol, marijuana, prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or illicit drugs that affect their ability to drive safely are liable for drunk driving accidents—driving while intoxicated is considered a negligent or reckless act.
These drivers can be charged with a crime and sued in civil court.
While the driver bears primary liability, the Illinois dram shop laws hold bartenders and servers liable for injuries and property damage caused by overserved patrons. In some cases of drunk teen drivers that were willfully allowed to consume alcohol, those adults might share liability.
Drunk driving accident cases may be brought against intoxicated drivers and, in some cases, the responsible parties who served them. However, the at-fault driver is the only one who will face jail time if the case is brought to criminal court.
Legal Options for Drunk Driving Victims
Drunk driving accident victims have two options for getting financial compensation for their injuries. They can hold the drunk driver liable by filing a claim with the driver’s insurance company or filing a personal injury lawsuit. People who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Hiring a drunk driving attorney can help you get fair monetary compensation for your injuries. Your lawyer will know how to calculate a fair settlement based on financial losses, like medical bills, ongoing medical care, property damage, and lost wages.
They can also calculate non-economic damages like emotional distress, loss of ability to participate in everyday activities, and loss of ability to return to work following your accident.
In some accidents caused by a drunk driver, your lawyer may also help you pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages seek to hold the driver responsible for their actions and deter other people from driving while intoxicated.
Most non-economic damages are won after severe injuries, like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, neck injuries, organ damage, and severely broken bones. Injuries that affect your cognitive abilities, personality, and mobility negatively impact your life and are compensated accordingly.
Hold Irresponsible Drunk Drivers Accountable for Their Actions
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact Nessler & Associates. We will fight to get you compensation for medical expenses caused by a drunk driving motor vehicle accident, alongside non-monetary losses and punitive damages. We will seek to hold all at-fault parties accountable for your pain and suffering.
Nessler & Associates has been handling personal injury claims for more than 35 years. We aggressively pursue the maximum compensation our clients deserve, and we will do the same for you.
Contact a drunk driving attorney at Nessler & Associates at (800) 727-8010 for your initial free consultation and get fair compensation for your accident injuries and hold the alcohol-impaired driver liable.