It’s a cornerstone of Illinois motorist law: all drivers are responsible for the safety of their passengers. In other words, an individual driver may rationalize his own risky driving by saying that only he or she will face the consequences (assuming they don’t collide with someone else, of course). However, this won’t pass muster if this riskiness jeopardizes the well-being of someone else in the vehicle with him or her.
This point was illustrated earlier this month in Kane County. Shortly before 1am on the morning of Wednesday, October 16, a 1990 Mercedes Benz was traveling in Batavia on South River Street (which runs along the Fox River). Less than a mile south of Wilson Street, the northbound car swerved into the southbound lanes, left the road entirely, went airborne, and struck a tree on the west side of the roadway. Both the driver and the passenger were ejected from the vehicle.
The driver, a 32-year old man, succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital. The passenger a 33-year old man, suffered significant injuries and was hospitalized.
Unless information emerges that indicates the driver was forced off the road somehow, it appears that the 32-year old man will be held responsible for the crash and the injuries to his passenger. As a result, the 33-year old man has solid grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver’s estate. This suit could allow the plaintiff to collect reimbursement for medical expenses, including ambulance charges, hospitalization costs, medications and treatment, and physical therapy sessions. The 33-year old man could also receive monetary damages for pain and suffering and lost wages that he would have earned had the auto accident never occurred.
The moral of the story? It’s certainly tragic whenever someone dies in an auto accident. But even if your reckless driving kills you, you still may be held accountable for injuries inflicted on your passengers.