When an intoxicated driver causes a car crash in Illinois, he or she may not be the only one who can be held liable. Like all states throughout the nation, when an individual is injured in a car crash involving a drunk driver, he or she might choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the offender. Those who survive may be able to recover financial compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. In a fatality accident, surviving family members may also file a wrongful death suit against the offending driver. Under Illinois’ “Dram Shop law”, however, injured victims may also file a civil suit to hold the vendor who supplied the alcohol liable for damages as well.
What is Illinois Dram Shop Law?
Before the passage of the Dramshop Act in 1872, there was a common law rule that prevented injured victims from taking legal action against bars that sold alcohol to individuals who became intoxicated and caused injuries to others. When the Act was initially passed, anyone who gave or sold liquor that caused the intoxication of someone whose actions caused injuries or property damage could be held liable. In 1889, however, liability became limited to those who were engaged in the liquor trade, and for the most part, social hosts were excluded. While the Dram Shop Law applies to a wide variety of situations in which victims become injured, some of the most common types of cases are car crashes that involve an intoxicated driver.
Bars, taverns, restaurants and liquor stores and other businesses that sell alcohol can be held liable in a dram shop case. For a successful suit, victims or family members who wish to take action against a third party vendor to recover financial compensation for damages resulting from a DUI crash must be able to show that:
- The vendor in question sold alcohol to the intoxicated driver who was responsible for the crash.
- The alcohol that the vendor sold was responsible for the driver’s intoxication.
- The driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash.
- The intoxication was at least partially caused by the intoxication of the driver.
- The victim suffered property damage or personal injuries as a result.
While Illinois bans third-party lawsuits against social hosts who provide alcohol to adults who are of legal drinking age, individuals who give or sell alcohol to a person who is under 21 years of age who in turn causes injuries or property damages while intoxicated can be held liable.
Damage Caps on Dram Shop Cases in Illinois
Under the Illinois Liquor Control Act, there are legal limits to the amount of financial compensation that can be recovered in dram shop cases. These caps are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and can be increased or decreased by the state annually. As of January 2016, these limits are as follows:
- For personal injuries, loss of life or property damages resulting from a crash that occurred on or after January 20, 2016, the limit is $65,990.23.
- For suits related to the loss of means of support or loss of society caused by the injury or death of the victim, the cap is set at $80,654.73.
In Illinois, the laws pertaining to dram shop cases are unique. Unlike many other states, vendors are not required to have known or reasonably believed that the individual who was served was already intoxicated. As long as the establishment supplied the alcohol that assisted in causing the intoxication, it can be held liable. Additionally, these limits are per person injured, per incident, not per vendor. If an individual becomes intoxicated by consuming alcoholic beverages at more than one establishment, for example, the vendors would be jointly liable for damages.
For a dram shop case to be heard in court, the claim must be filed within one year of the incident occurring. For minors who are under the age of 21, the time limit for filing a claim is not tolled. In Illinois, intoxicated individuals who are injured cannot file a dram shop suit against the vendor who supplied the alcohol.
Despite dedicated enforcement of drunk driving laws, and the laws pertaining to the liability of third party vendors, incidents involving intoxicated driving continue to plague Illinois. The 2014 Illinois DUI Fact Book, issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, reports that there were more than 37,000 DUI arrests throughout the state in 2012 alone. Unfortunately, many of these occurrences end in serious injuries and even death. That same year, 335 people lost their lives to vehicle crashes that were related to alcohol use, and DUI deaths accounted for more than 30 percent of all fatalities related to car crashes.