A previous post on this blog discussed tragic accident which left a young man dead. Police have indicated that they suspect drunk driving and have charged one of the drivers involved in the accident with a DUI.
These sorts of cases raise an important question that some residents of the Chicago area may wonder about. What if, for whatever reason, a drunk driver who causes a fatal drunk driving accident winds up being found not guilty or otherwise escaping a criminal charge? Does this mean that the family of the deceased victim is simply out of luck?
Fortunately, even after a drunk driver has avoided criminal liability, they can still be sued by the victims' family after a fatal car accident. This is for many legal reasons, but perhaps the most important is that the burden of proof in civil cases is very different. When prosecutors file criminal charges against a drunk driver, they must prove the suspect guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high burden of proof.
On the other hand, the victim's family in a wrongful death case need only prove that it was more likely than not that their drunkenness caused a fatal accident, which is a lower burden of proof If a victim is successful, then they can get compensation for the loss of their loved one. In effect, this means that a drunk driver can never have criminal charges stick yet still be held accountable for the accident that they caused.
While it is true that victims of drunk drivers and their families still have options even if the drunk driver never gets convicted of or even charged with a DUI, it is often best for a family to have the assistance of an experienced Cook County wrongful death attorney when pursuing their claims.