Drunk driving remains a significant problem throughout the country, and Illinois is no exception. In 2012, 321 lives were lost in alcohol-related accidents in the state, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Illinois has taken several steps to stop drunk drivers, including mandating the installation of ignition interlock devices with cameras for first-time offenders who want driving privileges. This measure is preventing accidents and saving lives by stopping a dangerous subset of drivers from making reckless decisions.
Stopping habitual behaviors
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the average first-time offender has driven drunk 80 times before being arrested. The same source reports 50 to 75 percent of convicted offenders continue driving after their licenses are suspended. Ignition interlock installation effectively prevents people who regularly disregard the law from continuing to drive impaired.
Stopping repeat offenders from driving drunk improves safety because these drivers may be more likely to drive while heavily intoxicated. According to Century Council data, less than two-thirds of fatal Illinois accidents occurring in 2011 involved drivers with a blood-alcohol content above .15. However, every repeat offender involved in a fatal accident that year had a BAC above .15, which is nearly twice the legal limit.
The interlock devices used in Illinois do not allow a driver with a BAC above .05 to start the vehicle, keeping drivers well below the legal limit. Video camera installation allows authorities to verify who blew into the device, so drivers cannot lie or take advantage of the program. Illinois DUI fatalities have fallen by 24 percent since the program was expanded to include first-time offenders, according to CBS Chicago. Unfortunately, some offenders still find ways to drive, and people with no prior record can cause accidents as well.
Negligence per se
In Illinois, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is illegal. For people younger than 21, driving with any detectable BAC is illegal. Someone injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver with a BAC above the legal limit may make a negligence per se claim, which contends that the other driver caused a personal injury in the process of violating the law. Establishing negligence per se may be easier than establishing negligence.
A DUI accident victim may use official evidence, such as police reports and blood-alcohol test results, to show the other driver was at fault. The victim must additionally prove the other driver’s negligence directly caused the victim’s injuries. In some cases, under the state’s dram shop laws, victims may also seek damages from third parties such as restaurants and bars that contributed to the accident by providing alcohol or a location for the intoxicated driver to drink.
Domestic animal attacks are a more common threat than many people in Chicago appreciate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that dog bites alone harm more than 4.7 million people yearly. More than 800,000 of those people require medical attention, while more than 25,000 eventually need reconstructive surgery. In some cases, pet owners may not have the knowledge or means to prevent animal attacks, but in Illinois, this does not prevent victims from seeking recourse.
Attacks and accidents
Illinois law establishes a strict liability policy for injuries resulting from animal attacks. Even when there is no reason to suspect the animal might be dangerous, liability for failing to prevent an attack lies with the owner or the person who has responsibility for the animal at the time. Under Illinois’ Animal Control Act, it is the owner’s responsibility to keep other people safe from any animal that can contract rabies, including dogs, cats and livestock.
An animal’s owner may also be held liable for injuries caused by an animal’s aggressive behavior, even if there is no direct attack. In one case, two children were riding their bicycles in front of a neighbor’s property, which was not fully fenced in, when three dogs began chasing them. One child accelerated to get away from the dogs, lost control of her bicycle and flipped over, injuring her knee. Although the dogs never touched the child and did not directly harm her, an Illinois court found that their behavior caused her injury and held the owner liable.
Under certain situations, the actions of the person harmed in an animal attack may negate the liability of the animal’s owner. If a person is threatening, abusing or otherwise provoking an animal or its offspring, he or she is not protected under the Animal Control Act. A person who sustains an injury while trespassing or committing a crime is not protected either.
Animals such as guide dogs, support dogs and guard dogs are exempt from the usual criteria for labeling a “vicious” animal, and owners are typically not liable if an attack occurs while the animal is performing its duty. However, a victim is not precluded from seeking compensation if an attack is wrongful or occurs when the animal is not performing its duties. As an example, in 2011, an Illinois man who lived next to a K-9 dog unit handler reported he was attacked in his backyard without cause when the dog escaped from its enclosure. The man did not seek compensation but could have chosen to, given the alleged circumstances of the attack.
Nursing homes or similar care facilities currently host over 1.5 million people age 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and this figure is projected to increase. As the elderly population grows, protecting family members from elder abuse and nursing home negligence is becoming a valid concern for many people. However, shielding mature family members from these situations may be difficult for people living in Illinois; a recent report has issued the state a failing grade on quality of nursing home care.
Inadequate elder care
The nursing home care report card, which is issued by Families for Better Care, uses official data on complaints, staffing, health inspections and other criteria to generate grades and ranks for nursing home care in each state. The report ranks Illinois 42nd in terms of overall care. The report cites staffing as one barrier to patients receiving the care they need. On average, Illinois patients receive less than an hour of daily care from registered nurses and just 2.41 hours of direct care from other staff members.
Understaffing is dangerous because it leaves patients undertreated and exposed to needless risks such as falls, which are the leading cause of injury and death among older adults, according to the CDC. In the Families for Better Care report, more than 95 percent of nursing care facilities in Illinois receive citations for some deficiency, such as giving residents incorrect medications. More than one in four facilities are cited for severe deficiencies. These are significant problems such as the staff losing patients or patients sustaining burns, fractures, pressure sores and fatal injuries.
Help for those harmed
Illinois’ Nursing Home Care Act protects nursing home residents against various forms of mistreatment, from being restrained as a form of punishment to being denied the right to make decisions regarding medical treatments. Nursing home residents may be physically or emotionally harmed by actions that directly violate the Nursing Home Care Act, or they may be harmed as a result of negligence on the part of staff.
Negligent actions are actions that could be reasonably avoided and reasonably expected to cause harm. Illinois law requires nursing homes and other care facilities to prevent any foreseeable harm to residents. A care facility may be held liable if a resident develops preventable conditions such as malnutrition or bedsores, but liability is not limited to harm directly caused by poor medical care. As an example, if staff supervision is inadequate and one patient attacks another, the facility can be held liable for failing to prevent the patient’s injuries, since the staff’s actions — or lack thereof — allowed the injury to occur.