Jury Awards $2.4 Million to Victim of Drunk Driving Crash

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a $2.4 million jury verdict out of Chicago, Illinois. The driver and defendant had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he plowed into a crowd of pedestrians on a sidewalk in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

The plaintiff in this case, along with six other pedestrians, was seriously injured by the crash at the intersection of Cedar and Rush Streets, suffering a shattered tibia, fibula, and several fractured vertebrae. He required emergency surgery to insert a plate into this fibula as well as a rod into his tibia.

The driver, Dwight Washington, is a former city truck driver and had an open bottle of brandy in the cab of his Ford F-150 pick-up when he crashed into the crowd of people. He was recently sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of aggravated driving under the influence. The plaintiff, 29-year-old Stephen Dewart, will receive $2.4 million for the pain and injury caused to him.

He recently recounted the fateful Saturday to the Chicago Sun-Times, saying that at first all he heard were screeching tires. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a white pick-up truck barreling toward him at a high speed. He heard the engine accelerate, and realized, frozen on the sidewalk, that an impact was imminent.

At the time he was on the Gold Coast assisting with a photo-shoot for his wife’s business. His parents in town visiting, not with him but in the area at the time of the accident and ran over to help victims. His father, not knowing his son was involved, helped others maneuver the truck off pedestrians crushed underneath it. Dewart looked up and saw his father, thinking he had died.

The jury in this case deliberated for less than two hours before delivering their verdict and award for Dewart. His doctors tell him that his body will never function in the same again; he has had three surgeries over the past two years and countless hours of physical therapy, which has taken its toll on his marriage as well.

The City of Chicago acknowledged partial responsibility for the accident, since Washington was an employee of the city and his pick-up was city-issued. Dewart holds Washington and the city equally responsible for the avoidable crash. He contends that, had the city supervised its employees properly, the incident never would have occurred.

Dewart asserts that, though Washington personally made the decision to drink and drive with an open bottle, the city was negligent in its hiring and oversight of employees. As stated, the Ford F-150 Washington was driving was city-issued, and Dewart believes that the city should have checks in place to ensure drivers are always safe on the road, such as modifying trucks to include ignition interlocks, for example.

Ignition interlocks are becoming increasingly commonplace in the United States to help prevent tragedies like this from happening. The devices require drivers to blow into a Breathalyzer every time they try to start the vehicle to ensure there is not alcohol in their system. Interlocks used to be court-mandated only for repeat or especially heinous drunk driving offenders, however in recent years more and more states are requiring them even for first-time offenders.

Dewart is the second victim of this crash to receive millions in compensation from Chicago. In 2012, the City Council agreed to a $6.25 million settlement with a computer scientist who suffered traumatic brain injury in the incident. The man, Richard Chang, suffered the most devastating injuries of anyone else involved.

After the crash in 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered the Streets and Sanitation Commissioner to increase supervision of drivers in effort to prevent any similar incidents. The Commissioner then implemented a new rule that subjects city workers to random drug and alcohol testing.

Truck accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously injured in drunken driving accidents, or in crashes otherwise caused by the negligence of another. If you or a loved one was involved in a car, truck, bus or train crash and was seriously injured, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.

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