Wrongful Death Civil Suit Settled against Driver High on Chemical Fumes

A civil suit for wrongful death of a 5-year-old has been reportedly settled against the at-fault driver, according to local court records. The incident stems from a Labor Day car accident with a Highland Park teenager behind the wheel.

Police say the 18-year-old woman lost control of her Lexus while driving on Central Avenue in Highland Park. She veered across multiple lanes of traffic and drove up on a sidewalk where she struck a woman and the woman’s three children. A five-year-old girl died as a result of the accident and the woman and two other children were injured.

When police began an investigation into the crash, they noticed a bottle of computer dust cleaner in the teenager’s car. Blood samples were taken and the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory ran a toxicology panel, which revealed the presence of Difluoroethane, the same chemical that is present in the computer dust cleaner that was present in her vehicle. This lead authorities to the conclusion that the woman had been “huffing,” or inhaling the chemical from the bottle in an effort to get a high from the cleaner. With this information, the state’s attorney charged the driver with one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound.

These criminal charges could lead to a sentence of up to 26 years in prison if the driver is convicted on all counts. In addition to these charges, the family of the killed child filed a civil lawsuit for their loss, and court records show that suit was settled for an undisclosed amount on May 7, 2013. The criminal trial in this matter has been delayed twice and is currently set for September 27, 2013 with the defendant currently free after posting a $500,000 bond.

This tragic case illustrates just how easy it is to be a victim of a reckless driver when drugs are involved. These cases are often difficult because, unlike alcohol, there is no standard limit for determining when a driver is under the influence of a drug, meaning when the driver feels the affect of any substance such that his or her ability to drive is impaired. This impairment prevents drivers from making rational and appropriate decisions on the road, putting safety before all else, and even following basic rules of the road, like stopping for red lights or yielding the right of way.

With no standard for measuring drug impairment, it is critically important that all evidence be preserved in accidents where drugs may be a factor. As in this case, many factors pointed to a drug involvement, including the actions of the defendant, the presence of a container of chemicals in her vehicle, and her erratic driving. In Illinois, it is illegal to drive with any detectable amount of a prohibited drug or chemical in your system or even the drug’s metabolites. Having the presence of a prohibited drug in your blood stream creates a presumption that a driver is under the influence and may lead to criminal charges as a result.



When an accident is caused by a driver under the influence of drugs or chemicals and injury or death results, it is possible to bring a civil claim for damages, including any medical bills, against the driver. The Chicago DUI injury lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. have experience representing clients who were injured by a driver under the influence of drugs at the time of a car crash and we are ready to represent you. If you have been hurt in an accident, please call us 24 hours a day at (312) 924-7575 or toll free at (855) 529-2442. We offer a free telephone consultation to everyone who calls and we make ourselves available when it is convenient for you, so please call us today.

Prior Blog Entries:

Chicago Hit-And-Run Leaves Grandmother, Grandson in Hospital, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 11, 2013.

3-Year-Old Attacked By Pit Bulls in Chicago Home, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 10, 2013.


Suit settled in alleged “huffing” death; criminal trial postponed, by Ruth Fuller, Chicago Tribune, published June 11, 2013.

Highland Park teen charged with felonies in Labor Day crash, by Dan Hinkel and Jeff Danna, Chicago Tribune, published September 12, 2012.

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