Chicago Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Driving under the influence of alcohol creates serious risks for others sharing the roadways. Our Chicago drunk driving accident attorneys at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates are tough advocates for people injured by drunk drivers. Collectively, our trial lawyers have more than 200 years of experience and have earned numerous accolades and awards. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, contact our firm for dedicated legal assistance in holding responsible parties accountable.
Drunk driving is a major contributor to traffic fatalities and injuries in Illinois and nationwide. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that, of the 1,000 fatal crashes that occurred statewide in a recent year, 30.7% involved alcohol. Nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 10,497 drunk driving deaths that year.
Illinois and U.S. Drunk Driving Statistics
The NHTSA statistics also estimate that 29 people die every day due to drunk driving related crashes; that amounts to one death every 50 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drunk driving affects the driver, other drivers, and has an unfortunately large impact on passengers. In fact, 17% of all traffic deaths in children fourteen and under result from drunk driving related crashes.
Crashes involving drunk drivers account for 28% of all traffic deaths nationwide. This being said, alcohol may be a factor in far more crashes than we realize. Only one million people out of the self-reported eleven million people (1.7% of the population) that drove drunk last year actually received citations. In addition, if a driver has a blood alcohol content below the legal limit, alcohol could still contribute to an accident although the officer does not include it on the accident report.
Illinois statistics are no less troubling. In fact, the percentage of Illinois residents who report driving drunk is above the national average at 2.2%. Over a recent five-year period, nearly 4,000 people died in drunk driving related crashes, comprising 25% of all accident-related fatalities. As a result, over 30,000 people faced drunk driving charges in Illinois during the last year of the study. Many drivers who receive a driving under the influence charge are repeat offenders. Mothers Against Drunk Driving states that one-third of all people charged with drunk driving have committed this offense before.
Illinois Drunk Driving Laws
In Illinois, driving while intoxicated is operating or controlling a regular motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of more than .08% is drunk driving. If the vehicle is a commercial vehicle, the legal limit drops to .04%. If the driver is a minor under the age of 21, Illinois’ legal age of consumption for alcoholic beverages, the only acceptable blood alcohol content is 0%; any trace of alcohol for a teen driver results in a zero tolerance law violation.
Generally, police obtain a blood alcohol percentage by using a breathalyzer to test the breath in the field, or a blood test administered at the police station. However, even if the blood alcohol content is lower than the legal limit, police officers may still feel the driver is incapable of operating a motor vehicle. If a police officer leads a suspected intoxicated driver through a field sobriety test, and that driver fails to prove capable of driving, the officer may ignore the results of the breath or blood test. In this case, the officer uses personal judgment to determine the driver intoxicated.
Upon failing a chemical test, a first-time offender receives a six-month suspension of driving privileges or a driving permit with a monitoring device, which increases to a year with DUI conviction. A second offense results in a one-year suspension of driving privileges which increases to five years or more with conviction. Third offenses carry ten-year suspensions, while a fourth offense leads to a lifetime suspension of driving privileges. Each tier includes mandatory fines, jail time, and court fees.
Pursuing Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Drunk Driver
When a drunk driver is clearly at fault for an accident, it should be a simple matter to recover damages. However, insurance companies have their own bottom line in mind. They typically fight to pay out as little as possible, even on a drunk driving accident claim.
Illinois is a comparative negligence state. This means that the plaintiff (injured party) in a personal injury case may be found partially at fault for an accident. In which case, damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault, as long as the plaintiff’s percentage of fault is found to be 50% or less. If you have been the victim in a drunk driving accident, the insurance company may try to blame you. They may claim that you were partially or totally to blame for the accident. The insurance company will try to minimize the value of your claim.
Our experienced Chicago car accident lawyers can negotiate skillfully with insurance companies on your behalf or fight for your rights in court if necessary. Clifford Horwitz, who heads our lead trial team, has won virtually every case he has taken to trial. With record-setting jury verdicts in more than 25% of these victories, we are confident we can help you.
Dram Shop Laws in Illinois
If you have been hit by a drunk driver in Chicago, you may be eligible to file a claim against more than one party. Under the Illinois Liquor Control Act (also known as “dram shop law”), victims of drunk driving accidents may be able to seek compensation from the bar, restaurant, or establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver before he or she got behind the wheel. The law in Illinois does not require victims to prove that the establishment that served the alcohol was aware the driver was intoxicated or showing signs of intoxication when being served.
Under state dram shop law, you may be able to hold an establishment liable if you can prove that:
- The establishment served alcohol to the driver
- The driver caused the accident in which you were injured
- The establishment was the proximate cause of the driver’s intoxication
- The driver’s intoxication was a major cause of your injuries
Our experienced Chicago dram shop liability lawyers can help you recover the compensation you deserve; contact us today to learn more.
Marijuana and Drunk Driving
Like many other states, Illinois imposes penalties for driving under the influence of drugs, not just alcohol. This includes marijuana, even though Illinois now allows medical marijuana. It is still illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. However, the state has not established a statewide test for the substance, and police officers only need test when they have a reason to suspect marijuana use – most frequently when the driver proves unable to operate a motor vehicle. Currently, trace amounts of marijuana, under five nanograms of THC in the blood from past use, cannot result in a DUI conviction. Greater amounts, however, could result in an arrest and criminal charges.
Tough Legal Advocates for Drunk Driving Victims
Drunk drivers cause thousands of fatal and serious injury accidents on our roadways every year. Our Chicago accident lawyers believe drunk driving victims deserve to be compensated. After a serious drunk driving accident, get in touch with Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates in Chicago. We have the experience, legal skills, and successful track record you need on your side.