Pedestrians and drivers get critically injured in car accidents each and every day. Some of these accidents are unavoidable, but most could have been prevented. Unfortunately, unless the at-fault driver was drunk or obviously impaired in some way, there is little punishment to be found within the criminal justice system.
Furthermore, a criminal conviction in most cases will not help victims pay for medical costs or compensate their pain and suffering. That's why a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is often necessary and justified after a serious car accident.
A recent case from just outside of Chicago illustrates the fact that drivers who cause devastating injuries sometimes face only minimal charges. Last February, a Darien man was attempting to make a turn on a street in Downers Grove and somehow ran over a 14-year-old boy who was riding home on his bicycle. The boy suffered a traumatic brain injury and has yet to recover. According to his mother, he now requires hospice care and he is not expected to survive.
Yet despite causing these gruesome injuries, the at-fault driver was sentenced to only 300 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine. Since he was convicted of "failure to yield to a pedestrian on a sidewalk," the judge was unable to impose a harsher sentence.
This pedestrian accident was almost certainly unintentional, but that doesn't change the outcome or compensate the victim or his family. In a recent news article, the boy's father shared his opinion that the driver who struck his son has not owned up to his actions. He said: "He has not contacted our family; he has not taken accountability for what he did. In my opinion, he has made a mockery and further desecrated my son by coming in here and falsely testifying that my son somehow magically appeared under his car."
In the aftermath of a horrific car accident, the at-fault driver may or may not face criminal charges. But regardless of any criminal proceedings, victims and their families may wish to seek justice and compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Driver guilty in accident that left teen severely disabled," Dawn Rhodes, Nov. 15, 2012