We’ve mentioned a particular law in Illinois many different times on this blog: all drivers are responsible for the safety of their passengers. Practically speaking, this means that passengers who are injured in a single-vehicle auto accident can file personal injury lawsuits against the driver – and if the crash is fatal, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit on the victim’s behalf. However, there are certain rare circumstances where a driver might not be held fully (or even partially) responsible for passenger casualties.
One such incident took place last month in Chicago on the city’s far South Side. On the night of Sunday, June 16 shortly after 7:15pm, a 1987 Chevrolet Caprice was traveling west on East 79th Street toward South Jeffery Boulevard (about a half mile northeast of the Chicago Skyway). A 30-year old man who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car inexplicably decided to lean his body out of the door’s window. When this took place, his body struck a parked vehicle. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died less than 45 minutes later.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office is calling the incident an accident, and there are no reports of criminal charges being filed against the driver. And although there may be other circumstances that haven’t yet been reported, there’s a reasonably good chance that a civil court jury wouldn’t hold the driver liable for the death of the 30-year old man – because leaning out of the window of a moving car is a highly unusual behavior which contributed greatly (if not completely) to the victim’s death. That said, it is still within the rights of the victim’s family to file a wrongful death lawsuit; there’s just no guarantee that it will be successful in obtaining compensation for the plaintiffs.