Any accident that causes injury is terrifying and difficult. But when the accident happened because another driver chose to drink too much before getting behind the wheel, it’s especially frustrating.
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a serious public health concern. Findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that over 30% of motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the nation involved alcohol-impaired driving. Moreover, nearly one million DUI arrests were made during the same year. While there are various laws in place to reduce drunk driving, this dangerous behavior continues to cause significant societal problems.
If you or a family member has been the victim of a driver who was impaired by alcohol or drugs, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Gerling Law attorneys go after drunk drivers to obtain compensation for victims. We thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the accident and the effect it has had on your life. We also look at the driver’s behavior, decision-making, and any past violations of the law. In addition, we determine whether a bar or restaurant may have contributed to the situation by serving too much alcohol to the driver or continuing to serve an already-intoxicated driver.
Drunk Driving Laws in Indiana
Indiana drunk driving statutes use the term “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” (OWI). Under the law, a person is guilty of OWI if they are operating a vehicle under the following circumstances:
- When they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher or 0.02% if the individual is under 21 years old;
- When they have any amount of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances in their system; or
- When the person’s thoughts or actions are impaired because of drugs or alcohol.
Indiana maintains implied consent laws which require anyone who operates a vehicle to submit to a chemical sobriety test if requested by a law enforcement agent. Chemical sobriety tests include blood tests, urine tests, or breathalyzers.
Penalties for OWI in Indiana
Even small amounts of alcohol can impair your ability to operate your vehicle safely. However, the risk of serious injury or death increases when a motorist’s BAC exceeds the legal limit. Indiana drunk drivers could face criminal and civil penalties for their dangerous conduct. While a criminal charge may help a civil case for damages against a drunk driver, you don’t have to be criminally convicted for a jury to hold you responsible in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. An Indiana drunk driving accident lawyer can help you understand how the criminal and civil justice system might interact in your case.
Personal Injury Lawsuits for Drunk Driving
Indiana is an “at-fault” state for purposes of liability. Under this framework, the responsible driver usually pays for the other party’s damages. However, drunk driving accident victims must still establish the following elements of negligence before they can collect compensation:
- The driver owed you a duty of care;
- The driver breached their duty of care;
- The breach caused the accident; and
- The accident resulted in your injuries and damages.
Proving each element of a drunk driving personal injury claim requires strict adherence to various complex statutory, procedural, and evidentiary rules. An attorney can assist accident victims in ensuring that they meet these requirements.
How Does Negligence Per Se Affect Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Negligence per se is a doctrine whereby the law considers an act to be negligent because it violates a statute designed to protect against the harm that occurred. Drunk driving personal injury claims typically elicit the negligence per se doctrine because the laws against this conduct are specifically designed to protect against physical harm to others. In other words, violating the law against drunk driving means that you breached your duty of care to others on the road. Therefore, if you were driving drunk, that act will likely be considered negligence per se, and you will likely be held financially liable for any resultant harm.
At-Fault Parties in Drunk Driving Lawsuits
While many drunk driving accidents involve impaired motorists, other parties or entities might be responsible for the accident or injuries. For example, bicyclists, pedestrians, property owners, and manufacturers of defective car parts could be responsible for or contribute to a drunk driving accident.
Does Comparative Fault Apply in Drunk Driving Claims?
In some cases, the victim may be partially responsible for the accident or their injuries. In these situations, the at-fault party may assert contributory negligence principles to reduce or eliminate their financial responsibility. Indiana follows the modified comparative fault theory of liability. Under this model, if you are a victim, your damages are reduced by your level of fault. Moreover, the law prohibits recovery in cases where your fault was greater than 50% of the total fault.
Can Bars and Restaurants Be Liable for Drunk Driving?
Businesses that serve alcohol are required by law to stop serving people before they become intoxicated and a danger to others and themselves. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other establishments that serve alcohol are covered in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky by what’s known as the dram shop legislation. That law protects people by holding those businesses accountable when they over-serve someone who then kills or injures other people in an accident or through negligence.
A driver who has been served or sold too much alcohol is a danger to himself, his passengers, people in other vehicles and pedestrians. Far too many residents of our area are killed or seriously injured each year by drivers who had too much to drink.
The problem can even be worse when a driver who is taking medications drinks alcohol. The alcohol can intensify the negative effects of the medication, adding to the driver’s impairment. This can even happen with over-the-counter medicines sold in your local drug store or supermarket.
Personal Injury Damages for Drunk Driving Accidents
If you are a drunk driving victim, Indiana law permits you to secure compensatory damages from the at-fault party for your losses. Compensatory damages address economic and noneconomic losses. Economic damages include tangible losses such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage. In contrast, noneconomic damages include intangible and more subjective losses related to pain and suffering and emotional distress. Moreover, Indiana courts permit punitive damages in certain limited situations. Unlike compensatory damages that focus on compensating the victim for their losses, punitive damages work to punish the wrongdoer. Victims may only recover these losses in cases where they can prove that the other party engaged in malicious, reckless, oppressive, or grossly negligent conduct.
Know Your Rights
If you or a family member has been injured by a drunk driver, you may have a case against not only the driver of the vehicle but also the alcohol provider. Serious personal injury can occur to a customer who has been served too much alcohol. Binge drinking can cause a person to become drunk so quickly that they may suffer from alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly. Gerling Law attorneys have experience helping people in cases that involve businesses that over-serve alcohol.
If you or a family member has been the victim of a driver who was impaired by alcohol or drugs, you deserve compensation for your injuries and trouble. Gerling Law attorneys go after drunk drivers to obtain compensation for the victims of their actions. We thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the accident and the effect it has had upon your life. We also look at the driver’s behavior, decision-making and any past violations of the law. In addition, we determine whether a bar or restaurant may have contributed to the situation by serving too much alcohol to the driver, or continuing to serve an already-intoxicated driver.
No matter what the circumstances may be, Gerling Law’s attorneys will seek out the truth and act in your best interests to ensure that you are properly compensated.
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Get the Legal Help You Deserve by Speaking with an Indiana Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Today
If you or a family member has been seriously injured because of an alcohol-related car accident, talking to a law firm with experience in drunk driving cases just makes sense. Call Gerling Law with locations in Evansville, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Owensboro today at 888-437-5464 or complete the free case review form for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We have recovered more than $500 million on behalf of our clients and offer free consultations to all accident victims. And, because we accept DUI accident cases on a contingency basis, we will not bill you for our services unless we can recover compensation on your behalf.