If you are driving your vehicle in the state of Illinois and you cause an auto accident, state law says that you are responsible for the injuries and deaths that occur as a result. But what if you are driving someone else’s car? Who will be held responsible: you, as the driver, or the owner of the vehicle? Since Illinois law places liability on the vehicle’s driver, the ownership of the vehicle is irrelevant in this case. (The only exception is if a minor is driving his or her parent’s car.) This rule holds true even if the owner of the vehicle is inside the car at the time of the crash.
That was the case in a fatal crash in Kendall County earlier this month. Shortly after midnight on Sunday, September 15, a 31-year old West Chicago woman was driving a car on Minkler Road just north of Hunt Club drive in Oswego (about a mile and a half east of the Fox River). The owner of the vehicle, a 38-year old Yorkville man, was a passenger in the car. The woman lost control of the vehicle and struck a guardrail, and the man was pronounced dead at the scene. Oswego Police placed her under arrested on aggravated driving under the influence charges, as well as failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident and improper lane usage.
It’s pretty apparent that the West Chicago woman will be held accountable for the death of the man, even though he owned the car. Should they choose to do so, the surviving relatives of the Yorkville man could file a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf. A jury could order the woman to pay monetary damages for pain and suffering and loss of care or companionship, reimbursement for burial expenses, and the estimated wages that the man would have earned in his lifetime had the accident never taken place.