Find out how to receive compensation if you’re injured in a drunk driving accident
A little after 9 o’clock on a spring evening in Southern Indiana, the frantic calls started coming into 9-1-1.
“Oh my God, there’s somebody on the highway and they’re driving the wrong way and they just smashed somebody. Oh my God, those people are dead. There’s no way they survived that.”
The wrong-way driver, 31-year-old Taylor Barefoot, had left a work party at the Sazerac Distillery in Albany, Indiana, where a subsequent investigation found that she had been visibly intoxicated. She drove her SUV eastbound on Interstate 265 and struck a Chevrolet Cavalier head-on.
The 2 women and the child in the Chevy Cavalier were killed instantly. Taylor Barefoot survived.
This is a tragic story, and one that happens all the time in Indiana — from South Bend to Indianapolis to Evansville.
In this article we’ll take a look at the laws concerning driving under the influence in Indiana, as well as the steps you should take if you or a loved one are involved in an accident with a drunk driver.
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI) 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’re operating 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 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.
Consider the following example:
Because Raymond’s BAC isn’t .08% or higher, he’s not per se guilty of OVWI. However, the officer can still arrest Raymond for OVWI because his thoughts and actions appear impaired by alcohol.
Indiana implied consent laws
Indiana (along with most other states) has something called an “implied consent law,” which requires anyone who operates a vehicle to submit to a chemical sobriety test (blood test, urine test, or breathalyzer) if asked to by law enforcement.
If you’re pulled over and refuse to submit to a chemical test, your license will automatically be suspended for 1 year and you could face additional penalties.
Are checkpoints legal in Indiana?
Some states prohibit law enforcement from using sobriety checkpoints. In these states, checkpoints are thought to violate state constitutions because vehicles are being stopped even though the police have no reason to believe a crime or traffic violation has been committed.
In Indiana, however, sobriety checkpoints are perfectly legal so long as the locations are random and the duration is temporary.
Penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence in Indiana
If you’re convicted of OVWI in Indiana, you’ll face strict penalties. But, there are two consequences you’ll face just for being arrested:
- You’ll be handcuffed and taken to the police station
- Your car will be towed at your expense
Once convicted, the penalties will depend on whether or not it’s your first offense:
|Indiana OVWI penalties|
|First offense||Second offense||Third offense|
Indiana’s dram shop laws
Dram shop laws (named for shops where alcohol was traditionally sold by a small unit of liquid called a “dram”) address whether an employee or owner of an establishment (usually a restaurant or bar) can be held liable for a crash caused by a drunk driver who was served by the establishment.
In Indiana, an establishment can be held liable for a crash if the establishment sold or gave away an alcoholic beverage to a person who the establishment knew was intoxicated.
What’s more, dram shop laws extend to social hosts in Indiana. In other words, if you throw a party at your house and serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest, you’ll be liable if the guest leaves your party and crashes.
Civil damages for drunk driving car accidents
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file an insurance claim. If, however, the driver is uninsured, the insurance company doesn’t offer you enough money to settle your claim, or your damages exceed the applicable policy limits, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver.
In Indiana, you can recover the following damages through a personal injury lawsuit:
- Cost of medical treatment (past and future)
- Costs for lost wages or earning capacity (past and future)
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering damages
Additionally, because the driver was intoxicated, you may be able to recover punitive damages.
What to do if you’re involved in an accident with a drunk driver
Just like any other accident, your health should be your first priority. Call an ambulance or have someone call one for you if you’re hurt.
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 let the responding officer know 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 (empty beer bottles on the side of the road, for example).
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.