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Car Accident Liability

Posted on in Accident Liability

Illinois injury attorney, Illinois car accident lawyer, Illinois personal injury lawyer,When a loved one is involved in a car accident, the entire family can be dramatically affected. Losing a family member is a tragic and traumatic event that can take years to recover from, both emotionally and financially. In some cases, multiple family members are involved in the accident, and in some worst-case scenarios, one family member may have even caused the accident and injury to another. One such case occurred in Niles early this year and has led to a lawsuit between family members.

Grandson Accidentally Strikes Grandmother with Car

In March 2016, a 79-year-old woman asked her 12-year-old grandson to help her place her 2005 Chrysler minivan in gear in a parking lot. The boy did so, and while the woman was walking up to open the driver’s side door, he accidentally shifted the car into reverse while his foot was on the gas pedal instead of the brake. The car struck the woman, and she was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day. The woman’s husband filed a wrongful death suit seeking an unspecified amount of money in Cook County Circuit Court accusing his grandson of negligence, claiming that the boy carelessly failed to keep the vehicle under control, failed to give warning, and failed to yield the right of way.

Are Minors Responsible for Negligence-Caused Injuries?

It is legal to sue minors for injuring a person or damaging property, but generally, minors are unable to pay judgments against them, and thus parents of the minor may be added as defendants in the claim under the Parental Responsibility Law. Under this law, a minor is defined as a person who is above the age of 11 but under the age of 18. The law states that a parent or guardian is “liable for actual damages for the willful or malicious acts of such minor which cause injury to a person or property.”

The law specifically states that parents are only liable for willful or malicious acts of the minor, which is when a minor intentionally and purposefully harmed another person or property. The law does not hold parents liable for most accidents where a minor may be at fault but was simply negligent in causing such injury or accident. It is unclear why the plaintiff in this case did not add his grandson’s parents to the suit, but given that courts generally do not even hold parents responsible for simple negligence of minors, it seems unlikely that a court would hold a minor himself responsible for damages arising from negligent acts.

Contributory Negligence May Reduce Amount of Damages

If a court did determine that the plaintiff was entitled to damages from his grandson, he may not be able to recover the full amount requested. In most states, the actions of the injured party play a part in determining the level of another’s responsibility.

In Illinois, the court does indeed examine whether the injured party was at fault. If a court finds that the injured party was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, then the plaintiff is totally barred from recovering any damages. If the injured party is found to be less than 50 percent but still partially responsible, they may recover damages, but the amount will be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault attributable to their own negligence in causing the accident.

In other words, the fact that the deceased in this case gave her grandson the keys to her car and asked for his help in placing the car in gear, despite the fact that he was a minor with no driver education training or experience, may indeed play a part in whether the woman’s husband will prevail in his lawsuit. Ultimately, a court will determine whether the lawsuit is valid and, if so, to what damages the plaintiff is entitled.

What to Do If You or a Family Member Has Been Involved in an Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, consult an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to help you understand your rights. The experienced Lake County car accident attorneys at Salvi & Maher, L.L.C. can provide the representation you need and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Sources:

http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/13-year-old-boy-fatally-strikes-grandmother-with-minivan-in-niles/

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2045&ChapterID=57

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