House Bill 1155 May Redefine Teenage Drunk Driving Accident Liability

A newly enacted Illinois law aims to cut down on teenage drunk driving crashes by holding adults who provide alcohol financially liable. Although under the legal age for drinking, many teens still consume alcohol. However, when they choose to get behind the wheel after drinking, teens put themselves, their passengers, and others at serious risk.

Drunk young woman drives a car with a bottle of beer.

Our drunk driving accident lawyers can help you understand the dangers posed by teenagers driving under the influence, and liability for injuries suffered if drunk teens caused your accident.

The Dangers of Teenage Drunk Driving

Alcohol causes effects on the body that can impair teenage drivers’ ability to safely operate their vehicles. The most common of these include:

  • Decreased muscle coordination and control
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Slowed thinking
  • Exaggerated behavior

Teens may experience these effects at blood alcohol concentration levels below the legal limit for adults. While behind the wheel, these effects can cause teenage drivers to have difficulty steering, maintaining lane position, braking appropriately, and responding to emergency situations. 

Due to the impairments caused by alcohol, teenage drivers face an increased risk of crashes. Several factors contribute to the increased crash risk faced by teenage drivers under the influence of alcohol. Lacking experience behind the wheel, alcohol impairments can exacerbate teen drivers’ lack of proficiency at controlling their vehicles, adjusting their speeds based on the conditions, and identifying and responding to hazards on the road.

Teenage Accident Statistics

Statistics paint a stark picture of the problem of teenage drunk driving, despite laws preventing teens from consuming alcohol and programs aimed at awareness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.4% of high school students polled in one survey reported drinking and driving in the month preceding the survey. Approximately one out of every four teenage accidents involves a driver that was under the influence. Of drivers between the ages of 15- and 20-years-old killed in traffic accidents, 29% had alcohol in their systems. 17% of drivers in that same age group who were involved in crashes had BAC levels over the legal limit for adults.

Who Can Victims Hold Liable for a Teenage Drunk Driving Accident in Illinois?

When drunk driving accidents involving teenagers occur, there are several parties who can be held liable. 

Like other motorists who cause collisions because of their negligence or recklessness, teen drivers can be held liable for accident injuries or deaths. A car accident lawyer may help you pursue a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance, or seek damages through a civil lawsuit.

The parents of teenage drunk drivers can also be held liable for accident injuries, in some cases. For example, parents may be responsible if they knowingly allow their child to use a vehicle, and knew or should have known the child wasn’t fit to drive.

What Should You Know About HB 1155?

Enacted on January 1, 2024, Illinois HB 1155 amended the state’s existing Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. The aim of the amendment is to create increased accountability for adults who host or provide alcohol or drugs to minors. Consequently, the hope is to deter adults from knowingly giving alcohol to teens.

Under the previous version of the law, victims could only sue if they suffered injuries on non-residential properties. Further, only the victims themselves were able to take legal action against adults who furnish alcohol to minors. 

The amended law expands to allow victims to pursue damages for injuries suffered anywhere. Additionally, it allows the families of those killed by teenage drunk drivers to also seek compensation. A teen driver car accident lawyer can advise you of your rights and how the law impacts your case.

How Is Liability Determined When an Accident Involves a Teenage Driver?

As with adult motorists, liability in teenage accidents is based on negligence. Therefore, there are several factors that contribute to financial responsibility in these cases.

Although underage, teenage drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care while behind the wheel. Failure to do so, such as by consuming alcohol, may breach the standard of care they owe to those with whom they share the road. 

Any shared fault will also factor into determining liability in teenage drunk driving crashes. Illinois follows a modified comparative negligence rule. As such, if you, or your deceased loved one, contributed to the accident’s cause, your recovery amount may be reduced by your or their percentage of fault. For example, the court finds you 10% at-fault for a collision with a teenage drunk driver. Your recoverable damages would be reduced to 90%. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand how to prove you are not at fault in a car accident.

When it comes to holding adults liable for furnishing alcohol to minors, intent is a determining factor. The amendments established in HB 1155 require that an adult willfully allowed a teen to drink alcohol or use drugs. Under the law’s previous version, adults could be negligent, even if they didn’t intend for the teen to have access to alcohol or drugs.

How Do You Prove Liability in Teenage Alcohol-Related Collisions?

To hold a parent or other adult responsible for alcohol-related traffic accidents involving teen drivers, you will need to establish the four main elements of a negligence claim. The four main elements of negligence claims are:

Duty of Care

Adults over the legal drinking age have a duty to drink responsibly. Further, they have a responsibility not to provide alcohol to anyone who cannot legally drink it. Simply providing proof that the person who furnished the alcohol may serve as evidence of this element.

Breach of Duty

After establishing that adults have a duty of care, your case must prove that the adult violated his or her duty. Therefore, evidence that an adult furnished the alcohol to the underage driver who caused the wreck may serve as proof that the adult breached his or her duty of care. However, merely providing access is not necessarily the same as furnishing alcohol or willfully allowing its consumption.

Cause of Injury

To recover damages, you will also need to prove that the teenage driver’s intoxication directly caused the accident and your resulting injuries. Under the previous law, proving this element to hold adults who furnish alcohol to minors liable for accidents caused by the underage drinkers was often challenging. The passing and enactment of HB 1155 allows for an easier connection between the adult who furnished the alcohol and liability for any injuries resulting from a teenage drunk driving accident.


It is not enough to show that an adult gave alcohol to a teen, who got behind the wheel, and caused an accident that left you injured or took the life of a loved one. You must show that you suffered losses as a result of the accident. To this end, you may use documents such as medical bills, pay stubs, and funeral payment invoices to show the economic losses you suffered because of the crash and your resulting injuries or the death of your family member.

Understanding these elements can be important if someone else is driving your car and gets in an accident, or if you or a loved one suffer injuries as a result of a teenage drunk driving crash.

What Damages Can You Recover in a Teenage Accident Involving Alcohol?

If you were injured in a crash involving a teenager who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you can seek compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include tangible damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and lost future earning capacity. Non-economic losses, on the other hand, include less easily quantified damages. For instance, you may seek to recover compensation for your emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.

Surviving family members, under the enacted HB 1155, can also seek compensation for economic and non-economic losses resulting from the death of a loved one caused by a teenage drunk driver. Economic losses in such cases may include funeral and burial expenses, the value of services the decedent would have provided, and lost income. Non-economic damages include loss of companionship, companionship, and guidance or nurturing. 

Despite the legal drinking age, some adults knowingly give or let teens drink alcohol. Such negligence can turn serious or fatal when teens get behind the wheel after drinking. Through actions, such as the amendment to the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act, legislators seek to increase accountability for adults. The hope is, through holding them liable, the laws will deter adults from furnishing alcohol to teens.

Contact our Chicago car accident lawyers at Ankin Law to discuss your options if you were injured in a crash with a teen who was under the influence, or if you lost a loved one due to a crash with a teenage drunk driver.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
If You Suffered Injuries:
Get Your FREE Case Evaluation