In Illinois – Proof of Intoxication Is Not Always Admissible to Prove “Fault” In A Personal Injury Lawsuit

September 30, 2014

In a personal injury trial in the State of Illinois the introduction of evidence of alcohol consumption and/or intoxication may often determine the outcome of the entire lawsuit. 

Recently the issue of when and under what circumstances proof of  consumption of alcohol and/or intoxication is properly admissible to prove the defendant’s “fault” or a plaintiff’s “comparative fault” arose in an Illinois personal injury lawsuit.

Illinois case law recognizes that proof of the consumption of intoxicating beverages and/or that a person was “under the influence of alcohol” is a highly emotional and prejudicial piece of evidence and therefore, such evidence is only properly allowed when:

a) there exists a reasonable objective evidentiary basis for the trial court to make a finding that legally required behavior by the person who was allegedly “drinking” or “under the influence” contributed to the legal fault for the incident which caused the personal injuries and monetary damages that are the subject of the lawsuit; and,

b) there exists reasonable objective evidence that the person who was “drinking” or “under the influence” was (“impaired”) neurologically and/or physically affected by the alcohol at the time of the incident (vehicle collision) to the extent that they were “impaired” and their perceptions and/or reactions were diminished as a result of the “drinking” and resulting “intoxication.”

However, when there is no proof  that the alleged intoxicated person failed to perform any legally required act or failed to refrain from any legally prohibited action – proof of alcohol consumption and/or intoxication is not relevant and therefore should NOT be admissible at trial to prove either the fault of the defendant or the defense of comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff.

The legal principle which strictly limits evidence on the consumption of alcohol and/or intoxication is that evidence of drinking alcohol and/or of being intoxicated is so prejudicial when presented to a jury that it affects the ability of the court to provide a fair trial for all concerned.

In a personal injury case the analysis of when and when not to properly admit evidence of proof of alcohol consumption or intoxication is highly fact dependent and requires the close scrutiny and focused legal skills of the trial judge and the trial attorneys.

Any questions or comments – please feel free to give me a call.

Kindest regards – George Sachs 🙂

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