Most Illinois residents have it drilled into their heads from the time they are teenagers: not only should you never consume drugs or alcohol and then drive a vehicle, but you should also avoid getting into a vehicle with someone who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Certainly, ignoring these warnings does represent a lapse in judgment. However, this lapse does not result in the forfeiture of rights if the vehicle is involved in an auto accident.
This point was illustrated earlier this month in Lake County. Early in the morning of Thursday, October 10, a sedan was traveling north on Route 41 (also known as Skokie Highway) in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. Shortly after 2:30am, the sedan lost control in a double curve just past Westleigh Road (southwest of Onwentsia Club Golf Course), skidded into the median, struck several trees, and overturned. The 20-year old Zion man who was driving the car was pronounced dead at the scene, and the two 24-year old male passengers from Waukegan suffered non-life threatening injuries. Lake forest police later found evidence of marijuana in the Zion man’s bloodstream and a blood alcohol content that was higher than the Illinois legal limit of .08.
Chances are good that the two Waukegan men knew that the driver was impaired. Even so, they still have grounds to file personal injury lawsuits in connection with this auto accident. The suits would be filed against the estate of the Zion man since he did not survive the crash. A jury could order the plaintiffs to receive reimbursement for ambulance charges, hospital expenses, treatments and medications, and physical therapy; as well as compensation for lost wages due to work absenteeism and perhaps monetary damages for pain and suffering.
One other thing: one of the passengers was wearing his seat belt, while the other one was not. Nevertheless, both have the right to collect damages related to their injuries, even if one passenger was injured more severely than the other.