In the 1990s, authorities launched a coordinated campaign against “drunk drivers.” This campaign included tough new laws and expanded police enforcement tools. Yet despite all these efforts, alcohol is still a factor in about a third of the fatal crashes in Indianapolis.
Most people know that it is dangerous to drink and drive, yet they engage in this behavior anyway, thereby intentionally putting other people at risk.
Therefore, an Indianapolis auto injury lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Additional punitive damages may be available in certain cases.
DUIs and Negligence
Many alcohol-related collisions involve DUI arrests. These tortfeasors (negligent drivers) either have a BAC level above the legal limit or have lost control of their normal physical and mental faculties. A car crash is clear evidence of such a loss.
Indiana law has a broad negligence per se rule that normally applies in these situations. Tortfeasors are liable for the aforementioned damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, like the DUI law, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
In civil court, the jury decides all factual matters. So, even if the tortfeasor beats the DUI on a technicality, the negligence per se shortcut may still apply.
Drinking, Driving, and Ordinary Negligence
Most people must consume at least two or three drinks before they are legally intoxicated. But alcohol’s impairing effects begin with the first drink.
This impairment affects both judgment ability and motor skills. Alcohol gives people an unnatural sense of euphoria, so they take more risks and are unable to make sound decisions. Furthermore, alcohol is a depressant which slows both motor skills and reaction time.
So, even if the tortfeasor was not legally intoxicated, victim/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence to establish alcohol impairment. Such evidence includes:
- Erratic driving,
- Bloodshot eyes,
- Odor of alcohol,
- Slurred speech, and
- Unsteady balance.
A little evidence goes a long way. In civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Third-Party Liability in Alcohol-Related Crashes
In many situations, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for damages in these cases. Victim/plaintiffs may also use the aforementioned circumstantial evidence to invoke Indiana’s dram shop law.
Commercial alcohol providers, such as bars and restaurants, may be liable for alcohol-related crash damages if the:
- Patron was intoxicated at the time of sale,
- Alcohol substantially caused a collision, and
- Subsequent crash was a foreseeable result of the sale.
Foreseeability is sometimes an issue in packaged alcohol sale cases. Generally, it is foreseeable that an already-intoxicated person will open a can of beer and drink it on the way home.
Indiana’s dram shop law also applies to non-commercial transactions, such as party hosts who provide alcohol to their guests.
Connect with Assertive Attorneys
Alcohol-related crash victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced auto injury lawyer in Indianapolis, contact Holland & Holland. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence matters.