Chicago Liable—$16 million—for Employee’s Drunken Driving Accident

January 25, 2014

One would think that a city struggling through financial hardship would take every precautionary measure possible to reduce unnecessary spending. In some cases, simple changes to policy can save a city thousands of dollars that could be put to use to help improve the community.

However, in Chicago’s case, one lack of policy will end up costing the city more than $16 million due to one man’s dangerous choice to drive a city sanitation truck while intoxicated.

On Monday, January 13, the City Council’s Finance Committee agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement to Jennifer Anton, one of three victims seriously injured in the May 2011 drunk driving accident caused by 61-year-old city worker Dwight Washington. The other two victims have already received their settlements awarded from jury verdicts. The combined total of all three awards topped the $16 million mark.

Why was a city worker picking up garbage allowed to drive a city truck while intoxicated?

Well, at the time of the accident, random alcohol and drug testing was only required for those city employees who held commercial driver’s licenses.  But, since Street and Sanitation workers who are assigned to collect garbage and debris did not fall under this criterion, they were exempt from undergoing such testing. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has since pushed for policy changes to be made in order to prevent such accidents from happening again.

Due to the new policy changes in place, Street and Sanitation Department drivers now must undergo the same random alcohol and drug testing as other positions within the city.

Apparently, this was not Washington’s first offense, either. About one year before the 2011 crash occurred, Washington was involved in another job-related accident that caused property damage. After that incident, he was apparently drug tested, and results came back negative. Washington was given an “oral reprimand” as a result.

Because of one man’s negligence, and a city’s insufficient safety policies for its workers, Jennifer Anton was critically injured while walking down the street with the 20-month-old child she was caring for. Fortunately, she was able to push the toddler out of the way in time. However, she was not so lucky. As a result, Anton suffered severe injuries below her waist. Virtually every bone on the lower half of her body was shattered, along with a fractured pelvis and hips. The skin tissue on her legs was also torn off due to the accident.

In all, seven individuals were injured to some degree on that fateful day. Hopefully, this costly choice will teach Washington, and the city of Chicago a valuable lesson about the roles they play in public safety. Policy and accountability matter!

If you have questions or comments about this case, or other drunk driving-related injuries, please contact us today to arrange a free, no obligation consultation. We want to hear from you!



Get Answers, Contact Us Now REQUEST A CONSULTATION
OR CALL NOW 312-332-1400