Be on the look out for drunk drivers this holiday season

The holiday season can be particularly scary for motorists, especially given both the increased highway congestion and winter weather that makes Chicago famous. However, according to a recent survey, holiday travelers also need to be wary of drunk drivers - which likely comes as little surprise to those venturing out on New Year's Eve.

Specifically, a recent online survey compiled by MADD found that an alarming 73 percent of respondents aged 21 and over admitted to being at an event in which someone attempted to drive home after drinking too much. Sadly, these numbers merely bolster statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which indicate that in 2012, 1,091 people were killed in alcohol-related motor-vehicle accidents from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve.

Liability for drunk driving accidents in Illinois

There is no disputing that drunk driving is extremely dangerous to everyone on the road. However, victims of drunk driving car accidents in Illinois need to be aware of remedies available for injuries caused by irresponsible motorists.

For instance, DUI accident victims can seek damages against a drunk driver in Illinois civil court - damages that may include medical bills or lost wages. In addition, if the car accident tragically results in the death of the victim, the victim's family can also pursue a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver. Punitive damages, an award to punish and deter future bad behavior, may also be recoverable against a drunk driver and in some situations, even against his or her employer.

Interestingly, potential liability may also be established against bars or taverns under Illinois law if they serve alcohol to a drunk driver prior to an accident. In legal terminology, this is known as Dram Shop liability.

Illinois Dram Shop laws

Initially, under Illinois common law, no cause of action existed when a bar or tavern sold alcohol to an able-bodied person. However, potential liability was established with the passage of Illinois's Dram Shop Act.

Specifically, the Illinois Dram Shop Act created a cause of action against bars and taverns in circumstances in which bar patrons are sold liquor and subsequently injure third parties after getting behind the wheel. Importantly, even though patrons must be intoxicated before Dram Shop liability will attach to the bar or tavern, they need not be belligerently drunk. In fact, one Illinois case found that the serving of two 12-ounce beers directly before a car accident was sufficient to establish liability under Illinois' Dram Shop Act.

Although the damages available under Illinois' Dram Shop Act are capped, any award will likely assist the victims of drunk driving accidents with the mountain of expenses that often result. Accordingly, if you or a loved has been injured by a drunk driver, it is often best to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can assist in investigating the cause of your accident and help determine who may be liable for any resulting injuries.