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As readers of this blog likely know, a death that results from another's reckless behavior can cause immense frustration and grief for the family of the deceased. In such cases, families often file a wrongful death civil suit to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering. Southern Illinois residents who are considering filing a similar claim may be interested in a recent local case involving a car accident that resulted in a tragic death.

On Nov. 9, a young Belleville man was sentenced to almost 11 years in prison for his involvement in a drunk driving fatality. In court, the man pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence involving a death. The accident, which occurred in December 2010, killed a 33-year-old Swansea man as he was returning from a holiday party.

During court proceedings concerning the imposition of a sentence, the wife of the victim described the fatal accident. While following behind her husband's car, she saw the convicted man's speeding vehicle cross the center line on St. Clair Avenue near 70th Street in East St. Louis. The speeding car struck her husband's vehicle. As the woman exited her car and ran toward her husband's, she saw his lifeless body held inside. She yelled and stroked her husband's face as he lay on the roadside, but he had already died from massive head injuries. Police estimate that the convicted man was traveling at more than 100 mph.

Unfortunately, the kind of reckless behavior that led to this fatal accident is all-too-common. And although the Belleville man who caused the accident has been held criminally responsible, there are also legal grounds for the victim's family to pursue a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. Illinois law specifically provides for the right of a victim's estate, as well as his family, to recover monetary damages occasioned by the negligent conduct of another in causing the fatality. It may well be that the family is entitled to compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses endured as a result of their loved one's fatal injuries.

Source: bnd.com, "Belleville teen 'set the record for driving the fastest' in fatal DUI, judge says," Beth Hundsdorfer, Nov. 9, 2011

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Bonifield & Rosenstengel
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Belleville, IL 62220

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