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Illinois family wants penalty equality in pedestrian accidents

A bicycle accident in Darien has set in motion a petition to change state law. The victim's family and members of an Illinois Valley community want harsher criminal penalties for drivers who cause pedestrian accidents.

DuPage County residents say the maximum punishments for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians should be stiffened. Drivers who injure pedestrians like the Downers Grove boy, who slipped into a coma after being hit by a car, pay as little as $500 in fines with a stint of community service. Petitioners are hoping lawmakers agree to make drivers pay the same price for hitting every pedestrian as they pay for striking a construction worker -- a prison term of up to 14 years and fines of up to $10,000.

The victim's grandmother and others who have joined the campaign say stronger penalties will encourage drivers to take pedestrian safety seriously. The boy, hit by a car in late February, is no longer in a coma but requires lengthy therapy.

A family friend posted a petition online with hopes that enough people will sign it to draw the governor's attention. With or without the petition's success, the victim's family has an option to recover expenses associated with the boy's accident.

A personal injury lawsuit filed on the child's behalf can help the boy's family overcome financial obstacles. The enormous cost of medical care could be draining the parents' resources. A future of treatments and therapies, possibly permanent disability, could alter the family dynamic forever.

A criminal court may not supply the justice the family is hoping to receive. Courts may only act within the boundaries of existing laws. Any change in that law would affect pedestrian accident cases in the future.

As the injured child's relatives and friends concentrate on seeking a fair criminal outcome, the filing of a civil settlement or jury award can help the accident victim and his family return to a normal economic state.

Source:, "Family wants law to change to protect all pedestrians," Allison Ryan, Oct. 11, 2012

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