Here in Illinois, when someone causes a car accident, he or she might be held responsible with criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit. The criminal aspect is handled by police and prosecutors, while it is up to victims and their families to choose whether to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation from the negligent driver. These processes are completely separate, and victims and their families can file lawsuits even if authorities do not press charges.
In a recent case, an Alton police officer faced criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit after allegedly causing a wrong-way collision. The police officer was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after the accident, but he ultimately pleaded guilty only to driving the wrong way. In a civil lawsuit, however, victims of the car accident are still accusing him of driving drunk.
The accident took place last April when the officer was allegedly driving the wrong way down Humbert Road in Godfrey. He struck a Pontiac, which was driving the right way, and then reportedly fled the scene. Madison County sheriff's deputies believe that he also struck two other cars that night.
He was arrested hours after the crash at his home and he refused to take a breath test.
A woman who was a passenger in the Pontiac has now sued him, accusing him of driving under the influence, failing to keep his vehicle under control, failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to see another vehicle and failing to reduce speed to avoid a collision.
This woman and her daughter, a minor, say that they were injured in the accident and have requested compensation for their continued medical treatment. Another minor was also injured in the accident and the lawsuit was filed on behalf of him as well.
In addition to the officer, the lawsuit targets an institution that allegedly over-served the officer.
The lawsuit seeks $50,000 in damages on each of 10 counts.
Source: The Telegraph, "Woman sues Alton cop over crash," Sanford J. Schmidt, March 5, 2013