Despite a reduction in drunk driving fatalities over the last decade, drunk driving remains a serious problem in Indiana and across the country, specifically around college and university communities, for example. In the fight against drunk driving, the civil justice system plays an important role alongside the criminal justice system. Compensatory damages awarded to the victims of drunk driving accidents by way of civil suits both compensate the victims and deter other would-be wrongdoers from exhibiting the same behavior. Read the following to gain a better understanding of DUI civil suits after an Indiana accident.
Compensatory Damages After an Indiana DUI Accident
In Indiana, a person who suffers a serious injury or loses a family member in a drunk driving accident can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver to recover compensatory damages. This is a completely separate action to any criminal action that may take place against the driver. The lawsuit can site negligence due to the driver’s violation of the state’s DUI/OWI laws, or negligence based on the driver’s breach of his duty to drive in a safe manner with respect to the wellbeing of others. Moreover, in accordance with Indiana’s Dram Shop Law, the victim(s) may also pursue a case against the individual or entity that supplied the driver with alcohol, if he or she was underage or visibly inebriated at the time. A civil action for wrongful death will allow the pursuant to seek compensation for, amongst other things:
- Medical expenses (Past and future)
- Loss of income
- Diminished future earnings
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship, consortium, and service of the deceased loved one
Indiana allows personal injury victims to recover punitive damages in addition to whatever compensatory damages are awarded, provided that they can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant “… acted with malice, fraud, gross negligence or oppressiveness…”, and if under the circumstances, the driver, “subjected other persons to probable injury, with an awareness of such impending danger and with heedless indifference to the consequences.” The purpose of awarding punitive damages above and beyond compensatory damages is twofold: to punish the defendant for his or her “willful misconduct” and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. In deciding whether or not to award punitive damages, the court will take into consideration three main factors:
- The amount of alcohol in the driver’s system at the time of the accident
- The way in which the accident occurred
- The driver’s drunk driving history
In addition, the amount of punitive damages awarded to the victim(s) will be limited in the following three ways:
- Punitive damages cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater.
- At the discretion of the trial court, the amount of punitive damages awarded by a jury may be reduced if the court finds them to be excessive.
- Indiana diverts 75% of all punitive damages to the state’s fund for the victims of violent crime. So, the plaintiff will only receive 25% of any punitive damages he or she is awarded.
After a DUI accident in Indiana, a person who suffers a serious injury or loses a family member in a drunk driving accident can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver to recover both compensatory and punitive damages. This is a completely separate action to any criminal action that may take place against the driver and is aimed at 1) compensating the victim(s) of the accident for the harm and losses they have suffered, 2) punishing those who are responsible for the accident, and 3) deterring others from engaging in similar behavior.
Have You or a Loved One Been Victimized by a Drunk Driver?
Jacobs Law, LLC has represented the survivors of wrongful death victims throughout Indiana, and we are currently offering free, no-obligation case evaluations to surviving family members of loved ones who have passed away due to the fault or negligence of another. If you feel that you need the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney to guide you through the legal process and assist you in recovering the damages to which you may be entitled, please contact us today toll-free at 317-520-9283.