The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drunk driving accidents claimed 10,511 lives in the United States in 2018. That’s about one fatality every 50 minutes. In Indiana that year, about eight percent of fatal collisions were linked to alcohol, according to a report from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute. In Marion County alone, alcohol contributed to five fatal accidents and 113 crashes that produced injuries.
Drunk driving and operating a vehicle under the influence of illicit narcotics—and even some prescription medications—are crimes in Indiana. While law enforcement will deal with the criminal aspect of a drunk driving accident, you can seek compensation for your property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Depending on the circumstances, you might have to file a lawsuit against not only the drunk driver but potentially against a liquor store or bar that sold them alcohol.
You can contact an Indianapolis drunk driving accident lawyer today to schedule your free case evaluation. At Ben Crump Law, PLLC, we never shy away from the tough cases, and we never stop fighting for what is right. Call our team today at 800-598-7557 to review your case.
Drunk Driving in Indiana
It is a misdemeanor in Indiana to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 0.08 and 0.15, per Indiana Code § 9-30-5-1. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, it takes a 170-pound man four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach to reach a BAC of 0.08; a 137-pound woman does so after three drinks in one hour.
The penalty for a first drunk driving offense in Indiana is a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail, court costs and fees, a suspended license, and probation, according to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The penalties increase if you cause serious or catastrophic injuries or kill someone in a drunk driving accident. They also go up with repeat offenses—the second comes with a minimum of five days behind bars and a maximum of three years; a third offense has a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of three years, plus up to another eight years if the defendant faces charges as a habitual substance offender.
Dram Shop Law
Indiana Code § 7.1-5-10-15 says that “a person who, knowing that another person is intoxicated, sells, barters, delivers, or gives away an alcoholic beverage to the intoxicated person commits a Class B misdemeanor.” Commonly known as a dram shop law, it applies to bartenders, servers, package store retailers, and even party hosts.
In most circumstances, Indiana law grants those who provide or sell alcohol immunity from “civil action for damages caused by the impairment or intoxication of the person.” However, they become liable when they had actual knowledge that the person was “visibly intoxicated,” and the intoxication was the “proximate cause” of the damage, injury, or death.
While it is possible to pursue damages against a bar that sold drinks to the driver who hit your car, you have to show that the driver was clearly drunk when they purchased alcohol at the bar, and their intoxication led to the accident.
For a free legal consultation with a car accidents lawyer serving Indianapolis, call 800-598-7557
Indiana is an “at-fault” state, meaning the driver responsible for the accident pays for the other driver’s damages. Liability in car accidents generally comes down to negligence, or the notion that the at-fault driver:
- Owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- Breached that duty of care.
- That breach led to an accident.
- The accident led to your injuries and losses.
Because the drunk driver violated the law when the accident happened, you would assume that determining liability is straightforward. However, Indiana Code § 34-51-2-5 allows a defendant to assert a contributory fault defense. Under contributory fault (also known as comparative negligence), the court will reduce your compensation in proportion to your degree of fault for the accident. So, if you have 10 percent of the blame—perhaps you drove five mph over the speed limit—you would see your compensation reduced by 10 percent.
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Under Indiana law, every motorist must carry minimum insurance liability coverage. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) outlines the minimum coverage:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability (BIL) per person
- $50,000 in BIL per accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability (PDL)
Insurance companies must also offer you uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage with the same minimums, although you can opt out of purchasing it.
After the accident, you can file a claim against the drunk driver’s insurance policy. If they did not have insurance or their coverage does not cover all your damages, your uninsured or underinsured policy would pay for your damages if you did not opt out of the coverage.
If you do not have this coverage, you might want to file a lawsuit against the driver and, if the facts allow, whoever provided the driver with alcohol before the accident. You could also file a lawsuit if the insurance company’s settlement offer does not adequately cover your damages. An Indianapolis drunk driving accident can help you determine whether a lawsuit makes sense under the circumstances. Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC, today to learn more.
Damages and Limitations
Indiana has no cap on the level of compensatory damages you could receive, meaning you can pursue awards for the full value of the following:
- Medical bills
- Repair invoices
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
You could also pursue punitive damages if you can demonstrate “malice, fraud, gross negligence, or oppressiveness,” as the Indiana Court of Appeals put it—such as if the driver had multiple previous DUIs. The state places specific limits on what you can recover as punitive damages.
According to Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4, you must file personal injury lawsuits within two years of the accident. If you miss the deadline, the court might dismiss your lawsuit. A car accident lawyer can help you compile evidence and file your suit before time runs out.
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How We Can Help
With an Indianapolis drunk driving accident lawyer from Ben Crump Law, PLLC, in your corner, you will have an advocate working to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Our attorneys will handle every step of the legal process, from investigating the accident to negotiating with the insurance company and taking your case to trial if necessary. They work on a contingency basis, which means you pay nothing unless we win a judgment or secure a settlement on your behalf. To schedule your free consultation with a staff member, call our offices today at 800-598-7557.