A driver has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in an accident that claimed the life of a 44-year-old Chicago man. The driver, who has already spent about nine months behind bars, could be released after as little as two years, leaving some in the community upset that the sentence is too light.
Authorities say the driver was speeding as he drove eastbound on Devon Avenue last November. The victim, a well-known member of the Tibetan community in Chicago, was crossing the street in West Rogers Park with his brother-in-law as the driver approached. The driver reportedly swerved into the westbound lanes of traffic and struck both men, briefly stopping at the scene to see if the men were hurt. Witnesses say the defendant then fled the scene without calling for help or speaking to police.
The 44-year-old victim died as a result of his injuries and his brother-in-law was injured but survived. The extent of the brother-in-law's injuries are not known but a family friend of the men say that the deceased victim left behind a wife and three young sons. The victim worked for the Cook County clerk's office as well as holding the position of vice president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce board.
Police investigated the accident and eventually identified the driver. The 23-year-old man was arrested and charged with reckless homicide and failure to report an accident. Officials report that the defendant pleaded guilty to both charges and received a four year prison sentence in response. Police have stated that the defendant did not have a valid driver's license at the time of the accident and apparently had never held a valid license previously. It is not clear whether the defendant also faced charges related to driving without a license but his sentence was not based on any related charges.
While the criminal case facing the driver in this accident may be settled, the implications from his actions may not be. In the case of a pedestrian who is killed through the reckless or negligent actions of a driver, Illinois law allows for the possibility of a civil recovery by the victim's surviving family members. Here, the 44-year-old man's surviving family, his wife and children, may be entitled to bring a monetary claim for their losses against the defendant driver who caused the accident. A civil claim of this type seeks compensation for any medical bills incurred before a victim passed away, the wages the victim will be unable to earn for his family due to his death, and the loss of companionship and parental guidance suffered by his family.
The other pedestrian that sustained injuries in this accident also has the possibility of a civil claim for his losses. Though he survived, he was injured and reportedly needed medical treatment. He is therefore entitled to a recovery for his losses and for any expenses he was forced to incur.