Answers can be elusive for Cook County families who've lost someone they love in a preventable car accident. Questions starting with "Why?" may be painfully unresolved for widowed spouses, children and parents. Some emotional and financial relief is possible when a criminal court reaches a guilty verdict and a civil jury awards damages.
The trial date for an Urbana man accused of aggravated DUI and reckless homicide is still several weeks away. The 58-year-old was taken into custody and jailed last fall after the car he was driving struck two female University of Illinois students. One of the pedestrians, both 20, died and the other was injured.
After the fatal accident in October, the defendant tested positive for marijuana use. Witnesses told investigators the man's driving was erratic blocks before he crashed into the students. Court arguments over bond began about two months later.
Bond was set initially at $250,000 and reduced in December to $75,000. The amount was low enough for the man to gain his freedom. The lowered bail was conditional – the defendant had to wear a tracking device and submit to periodic drug testing.
The defendant was back in custody less than a month later, after a judge raised bond back up to $250,000. Authorities learned the man had used Vicodin without a prescription while he was out of jail. The defendant admitted a friend gave him the painkiller.
A pedestrian crash analysis report stated 3,000 pedestrians were involved in Chicago accidents in 2011. Forty-eight pedestrians died in traffic collisions in 2012. A Chicago commissioner said the problem was compounded by a 40 percent rate of pedestrian fatalities involving hit-and-run drivers.
Liability lawsuits were designed to hold careless or reckless defendants responsible for their behavior. The job is harder when victims are left behind by fleeing drivers. Legal options still may be available, even for plaintiffs with hit-and-run cases.
Source: The News-Gazette, "Judge leaves bond at $250,000 in fatal UI crash" Mary Schenk, Feb. 18, 2014