In the vast majority of auto accidents in Illinois, one driver is held liable for the crash and the damages and bodily harm it causes. In some cases, criminal charges are warranted, especially if the person who caused the collision was driving recklessly, texting while driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit is not reliant upon the existence of criminal charges pertaining to an accident.
A case from last month in southeastern Cook County demonstrates this principle. Shortly after midnight on Sunday, August 18, a 27-year old man was riding his motorcycle along with a group of bikes on eastbound U.S. 30 in Matteson about a mile before the junction with Interstate 57. Near Willow Road, a sport utility vehicle that was westbound on U.S. 30 tried to make a U-turn across the divided highway. In doing so, the SUV cut off the bike of the young man and it crashed. The motorcyclist did not survive his injuries.
The 18-year old woman who was driving the SUV sped away from the motorcycle accident, but then turned herself in to police about 18 hours later. So it will be difficult (if not impossible) to charge the woman with anything other than leaving the scene of the accident, even though an attorney representing the motorcyclist’s family has launched an investigation.
But here’s the important thing to remember: the surviving relatives of the 27-year old man (in this case, his mother) can still file a wrongful death lawsuit against the teen regardless of whether she is charged or convicted. This suit could allow the man’s family to collect estimated future wages that he would have earned in his lifetime, as well as monetary damages for loss of care and companionship (he does have a child).