Peggy Claar of New Castle, Indiana, underwent 15 surgeries after Carol Wickes crashed into her while Carol was under the influence of prescription drugs.
To the disappointment of Peggy and others, Carol won’t face any jail time for her role in the car crash.
Let’s take a closer look at the crash and the growing problem of drugged driving in Indiana.
Peggy was driving to her local bank when Carol drifted across the center line and crashed head-on into Peggy’s vehicle.
Peggy described the accident as follows:
“Boom, boom, boom. That fast. I didn’t see her coming, so I had no time to react.”
Peggy’s car was completely totaled. Paramedics at the scene said they’d never witnessed anyone live through such a violent crash.
Although Peggy was grateful to be alive, she didn’t survive the accident unscathed. Peggy was forced to undergo 15 surgeries. What’s more, she continues to walk with a cane.
Charges and a plea agreement
A toxicology report taken shortly after the crash showed that Carol had two drugs in her system: Zolpidem (a sedative found in Ambien) and Cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxant).
Henry County prosecutors charged Carol with four crimes:
- Causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle while intoxicated (IN Code § 9-30-5-4)
- Public intoxication (IN Code § 7.1-5-1-3)
- Refusal to submit to a breath or chemical test (IN Code § 9-30-6-7)
- Driving left of center (IN Code § 9-21-8-2)
On December 19, 2022, as part of a plea agreement, Carol pleaded guilty to the first crime (causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle while intoxicated). Prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges. Instead of jail time, Carol received the following punishment:
- Formal probation, including 1 year and 3 months of electronic home detention
- 5 years license suspension
- Restitution to be determined by the court at a later time
Peggy was disappointed that Carol didn’t receive any jail time.
“I was disappointed because I feel like she's going to turn around and do it again,” said Peggy. "I'm not a vindictive person who is angry. My concern is her turning around and doing this to somebody else."
Peggy was also disappointed that Carol posted about taking a vacation to Florida shortly after the crash.
"It didn't feel right that I was in bed in a nursing home, and she was living it up,” said Peggy. “I just felt like she should have had some remorse."
Carol could still face jail time if she fails to meet the conditions of her plea agreement.
It’s important to remember that a criminal prosecution is different from a civil lawsuit. In this case, Peggy filed a civil lawsuit against Carol. The lawsuit, which is still pending, alleges that Carol was negligent. Peggy is seeking both economic and non-economic damages.
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated in Indiana
Indiana uses the term “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” (OVWI) rather than “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI).
In Indiana, you’re guilty of OVWI if you operate a vehicle and:
- You have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (or .02% or more if you’re under the age of 21);
- You have any amount of schedule I or II controlled substances in your system; or
- Your thoughts and actions are impaired by drugs (including prescription medication) or alcohol.
Most people are aware that they can receive an OVWI if their BAC is .08% or more (this is called a “per se” offense), but people are often surprised to learn that they can receive an OVWI if their thoughts and actions are impaired by drugs or alcohol even if their BAC is much lower.
People convicted of OVWI in Indiana face the following penalties:
|Indiana OVWI penalties|
|First offense||Second offense||Third offense|
Drugged driving has been on the rise in Indiana since 2016, according to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.
What to do if you’re involved in an accident with a drugged driver
Your health should always be your top priority. Call an ambulance or have someone call one for you if you’re hurt in an accident with a drug-impaired driver.
Once you’ve taken care of your immediate health concerns, call the police so they can come out to the scene of the accident and draft a police report. Be sure to inform the responding officer that you suspect the other driver is intoxicated. Your statement may help the officer establish the necessary reasonable grounds to administer a field sobriety test.
In addition to calling the police, look around for witnesses and collect their contact information. You should also take photographs of the scene, including anything that might support your claim that the other driver was intoxicated.
Drugged driving accidents can be traumatic. If the drugged driver is prosecuted, they may not receive the penalty you think they deserve. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the past and future damages you deserve.