Those who drive drunk may exhibit blurry vision, delayed reaction times, and poor judgment. Accordingly, drunk driving leads to many car accidents in Indiana. Fortunately, impaired motorists can face criminal and civil consequences for crashes they cause.
The defendant’s drunk driving conviction may indicate that your car accident case has a good chance of success and in some cases the conviction may be admissible into evidence and might help establish that the driver was negligent as a matter of law. However, a conviction does not itself guarantee they will be considered at fault in a civil car accident claim. Plaintiffs in such cases still must gather and preserve evidence that proves their accidents were caused by the defendants’ negligence and that they were not themselves fully or partially at fault for the accident.
After a drunk driving accident in Indiana, you can reach out to our team at Wruck Paupore for support and guidance. Our Indiana car accident lawyers will help review your claim and determine the appropriate next steps. Call our law firm at (219) 322-1166.
A drunk driver can face civil and criminal penalties for crashes they cause. However, the standard of proof in criminal cases is much higher than in civil cases. For a drunk driver to be convicted in a criminal case, the prosecution must establish their guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a heavy and strict burden. Reasonable doubt is fair, logical, and actual based on common sense and reason. Accordingly, in order to attain a criminal conviction, it is not enough for the state to merely prove that drunk drivers are probably guilty. Rather, the prosecution must supply facts and evidence to prove their guilt beyond a double which is reasonably.
However, in civil cases, plaintiffs do not need to satisfy the same burden of proof. Rather, to recover compensation from a drunk driver, your case must be supported “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Simply put, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits must convince factfinders that defendants are more likely than not responsible for their crashes.
Accordingly, a drunk driver’s conviction may indicate that your car accident case has a good chance of prevailing and the conviction may be admissible into evidence. The conviction might also be used to prove the defendant was “negligent per se” - or negligent as a matter of law - because of the violation of an Indiana law intended to provide for public safety.
Still, a conviction does not guarantee the success of your civil lawsuit. In order to recover damages in a car accident case, you must gather and present evidence to support your claims, including that the negligence of the drunk driver is what caused your injuries and that you were not at fault in the collision. Our Indianapolis car accident lawyers can help build your case and navigate the complex path to compensation.
Another important point to remember is that you may pursue a claim for damages against a drunk driver even if that driver is not charged with a crime or is ultimately acquitted of charges. Because the burden of proof is higher in a criminal case than a civil case, the acquittal of the drunk driver will not usually be admissible in court and you can still use all available evidence to prove that the driver was impaired at the time of your injury.
Crash victims may obtain very limited payment in a criminal case through a process known as restitution. Restitution refers to situations where criminals are ordered to compensate victims of their crimes for the economic damages they sustained. For instance, a drunk driver in Indiana may have to reimburse victims of their accident for the medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and other financial losses they incurred. However, unlike in civil claims, non-economic damages for pain and suffering cannot be awarded in criminal cases.
This type of remedy is usually not sufficient and is not the main purpose of a criminal case, so it is almost always in the best interest of an injured person to pursue civil remedies against a drunk driver if they have been insured in an accident.
You do not need to wait until a criminal case has finished to sue a drunk driver in Indiana. Under I.C. § 34-11-2-4(a)(1), you will generally have two years from the date of your crash to file a car accident case against a drunk driver. If you do not file within this time frame, you will likely forfeit your opportunity to recover financial compensation. Moreover, as time passes, pertinent evidence needed to support your case can become hard to gather and preserve. Therefore, you should connect with our law firm quickly after a crash. Our experienced Hammond, IN car accident lawyers, will start working on your case immediately.
Regardless of the defendant’s criminal conviction, you will still have to present evidence to support your car accident case in Indiana. This evidence must show that you suffered injuries because of an accident caused by another driver’s negligence. The following are all examples of evidence used by our car accident attorneys:
The process of gathering the aforementioned evidence can be complicated. Our Fort Wayne, IN car accident lawyers are skilled and experienced in using this and other evidence to prove a drunk driving negligence case and recover the money our clients are entitled to.
In Indiana, drivers are generally considered intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels rise to 0.08 or above. However, commercial truck drivers must maintain a BAC under 0.04. Furthermore, a driver under the age of 21 will be considered above the legal alcohol limit if their BAC does not remain under 0.02.
Drivers with higher BAC levels will experience more severe impairments. Moreover, a driver may be considered impaired for purposes of a civil case even if their BAC is below these levels. Our Indiana car accident lawyers can help victims prove that the impairment of a drunk driver was responsible for their collision in a wide variety of circumstances.
Drunk drivers are not the only parties who may be sued for drunk driving accidents in Indiana. In certain cases, bars and restaurants may be held responsible for over-serving drunk drivers. These kinds of claims are referred to as “dram shop” claims.
In addition to bars and restaurants, liability for drunk driving accidents can also extend to social hosts in Indiana. For example, a homeowner who hosted a party may be sued for a drunk driving accident caused by one of their guests if they served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated at the time.
If you were injured because of a crash caused by a drunk driver, then you should call our law firm immediately. Our car accident lawyers will help review your claim and assign fault.
After being hit by a drunk motorist, our Lafayette, IN car accident lawyers can help pursue the compensation you deserve. Connect with our team at Wruck Paupore by calling (219) 322-1166 for a free assessment of your claim.
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Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.
More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.
In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.
Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.
For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.
Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.
Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.