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Illinois investigators: Underage drinker caused fatal crash

Personal injury and wrongful death claims may be filed in Illinois civil courts, whether or not a defendant in a claim is charged with or convicted of a crime. Criminal cases are based on alleged wrongdoing. Civil cases concern fault, negligence and financial responsibility.

Two young women died last January in a Saturday night head-on collision in Randolph County. Following a lengthy police investigation, authorities declared an impaired driver caused the fatal crash by crossing the center line of Illinois 159. The defendant, recently charged with aggravated DUI and reckless homicide, is 20.

The victims who died in the auto accident were in the car struck by the defendant's vehicle. A 19-year-old Ruma woman, the driver of the second car, and one of her two passengers, a 20-year-old female were killed. Another passenger, a 21-year-old woman, was injured.

The surviving passenger and the defendant were hospitalized with injuries. If convicted on both felony charges, the young accused driver could be imprisoned for six to 28 years.

DuPage County civil courts acknowledge victims of fatal car accidents include survivors – spouses, children and parents -- deprived of the love and support of someone dear to them. Negligence and recklessness are avoidable behaviors. Damages paid in these cases are remedies for defendants' actions, which also may or may not be crimes that caused a needless death.

Wrongful death claims differ from personal injury lawsuits. Damage awards in wrongful death actions compensate the losses suffered by family members, not the accident victim. Damages may cover crash-related medical bills and lost wages that once provided part or, in some cases, all of a family's income.

Courts and money cannot reverse time or undo the harm caused by a thoughtless driver. However, damage awards can ease the financial hardships unfairly imposed upon plaintiffs due to a loved one's death in ways punishments in a criminal case may not.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, "Red Bud woman charged with reckless homicide," Jamie Forsythe, May 26, 2015

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