Illinois law states that all drivers are responsible for the safety of their passengers. This means that drivers can be held accountable for the injuries or deaths of passengers in an auto accident – even if the driver himself or herself dies in the incident (in these cases, his or her estate can be sued). But sometimes, authorities are unable to determine who was driving in a given crash.
One such case presented itself in Rockford this week. On Wednesday morning around 6am, Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies arrived near the intersection of Mulford and Blackhawk Roads on the city’s southeastern side, near the border that separates the Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve and the Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve (a bit over a mile east of Interstate 39). The deputies found the deceased body of a 24-year old man in a ditch next to a flipped-over Lincoln Navigator, as well as a 28-year old man who was still alive. The injured man was rushed to a nearby hospital.
As of now, the sheriff’s office has not figured out which of the two men was driving or how the rollover accident took place. If a subsequent investigation determines that the 28-year old man was behind the wheel, then the surviving family members of the deceased man could file a wrongful death lawsuit with the hopes of receiving monetary damages for pain and suffering or loss of care and companionship, reimbursement for burial expenses, and compensation for estimated future unearned wages by the victim. But if it emerges that the 24-year old man was the driver, then the injured man could file a personal injury lawsuit against the estate of the decedent if he choose to do so. Such a suit could allow the plaintiff to collect reimbursement for medical expenses, compensation for missed time at work, and perhaps monetary damages for pain and suffering.