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Drunk Driving Accidents and Indiana Dram Shop Laws

Updated May 3, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Drunk driving accidents are awful, terrifying, and sometimes fatal. They are, however,  avoidable. And the pain and suffering families must endure at the hands of a drunk driver are avoidable. Yet still, they happen. When they do, the victims deserve justice.  

How do you determine who is liable if you or a loved one are a victim of a drunk driving accident? In Indiana, liability can fall on the drunk driver or potentially even the establishment that sold the alcohol to the drunk driver. An experienced Indiana DUI accident attorney can help you determine who acted negligently to strengthen your case.

On this page, you will learn about the dangers of drunk driving, the details of a “dram shop” action, and what to do after a drunk driving accident. 

Impact of Drunk Driver Accidents

Drunk driving negatively impacts the lives of those hurt in accidents. Thanks to the Indiana University public policy institute, we now have the latest Indiana impaired driving statistics. 

In 2019 alone, Indiana experienced:

  • 3,926 alcohol-impaired collisions
  • 106 people were killed in intoxicated driving accidents
  • 40% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system
  • Of the 106 fatal crashes, 41%  were alcohol-impaired
  • 13% of all car accident fatalities in Indiana were drunk-driving related
  • Male drivers 21-34 years old represented the largest group of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal collisions 

Drunk driving can be fatal and changes the lives of all those involved. Reach out to the experienced car accident attorneys at WKW to file an insurance claim against a drunk driver or even take your case to court. We can help you get the justice you deserve. 

Drunk Driving Laws

Simply driving while legally intoxicated might result in license suspension and fines. Indiana drunk driving laws are strict (as they should be), and the punishments for sequential offenses get worse and worse. Drunk driving has consequences that go beyond the law: Losing loved ones is a pain unlike any other.

In addition to legal penalties, drunk driving liability laws explain what a person can do legally against a drunk driver. In the unfortunate event of an accident, a court can order the intoxicated driver to pay restitution to the victims.

Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated

Many states use the terms “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). Indiana uses “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” (OVWI), or simply OWI. OWIs are given to drivers who:

Those under 21 years of age can get an OWI for a BAC of .02%. The last point can often confuse drivers who get arrested and do not have a .08% BAC. An officer can still arrest a person if they see the driver has impaired thoughts or actions, even if their BAC is .04%.  

Hit by a Drunk Driver: No Injuries, No Car Accident Claim

Drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and all others on the road. Even so, personal injury law requires specific elements to make a claim. You need to have suffered an injury in order to sue if you’ve been hit by a drunk driver. Additionally, it must be proven that the drunk driver’s negligence caused the injury. 

Indiana Drunk Driving Penalties

Drunk drivers face a litany of penalties determined by the harm caused, the potential harm caused, and by the driver’s history. The specific consequences of drunk driving in Indiana are extensive.  Basic legal penalties are determined by the number of offenses the drunk driver commits. 

A convicted drunk driver will face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor to felony charges
  • Fines between $300 and $10,000
  • License suspension from 90 days to 10  years
  • Jail or prison sentences ranging from 10 days to 3 years or more
  • Possible community service 
  • Possible substance abuse educational course 

These penalties are for an OVWI charge and do not include drunk driving lawsuit settlements. If a drunk driver has hit you,  you may be able to make a claim against the person liable.

Can I Sue if a Drunk Driver Totaled My Car?

Tort law recognizes more than just physical injury. Any harm to your property entitles you to pursue an insurance claim against a drunk driver or even a lawsuit, if necessary. 

Dram Shop Laws

The term “dram shop” originates in 18th-century Britain. Shops like bars and taverns would sell alcohol in “drams,” which are about ¾ of a teaspoon. Today, the term refers to any commercial business selling or distributing alcohol of any amount. 

The laws revolving around dram shops do not exclusively apply to actual shops or businesses; they also apply to individuals hosting social events, for example. Some states do not have dram shop laws; Indiana is not one of them. 

Indiana Dram Shop Laws

In Indiana, dram shop laws sometimes allow hosts and establishments to be held liable for accidents caused by an individual they served alcohol to in circumstances where they knew the individual was intoxicated but continued to serve him or her anyways.

Suppose a bartender continues to serve a drunk person alcohol. In that case, the driver and the bartender’s establishment may assume the risks of that drunken individual on the road. Victims of a potential accident may be able to file personal injury claims against not only the intoxicated driver but also potentially against the establishment that supplied the negligent driver with alcohol.

Common Injuries in Drunk Driving Accidents

Injuries are common in drunk driving accidents. Major impacts can cause cars to spin or roll, even crash into other vehicles, like what happened after the Dodge Ram hit a car in the story at the top of the page. 

Some of the most common injuries that happen in drunk driving accidents include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Exterior lacerations such as scrapes or cuts
  • Knee injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Whiplash
  • Burns
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Amputation
  • Concussions 
  • And more

Collisions are frightening because there are so many variables that enable injury to occur. A vehicle’s weight, size, and safety can impact the severity of an injury.. Seek medical attention immediately if you have been injured in a drunk driving accident.


What Do I Do If a Drunk Driver With No Insurance Hit Me?

If you are hit by a drunk driver who does not have insurance, then your own uninsured motorist coverage may come into effect. If the person is uninsured, it’s crucial to talk with your car accident attorney to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. The damage done may exceed your uninsured motorist coverage. We can help you recover the amount of compensation that you deserve! 

Can You Sue a Drunk Driver?

You could sue a drunk driver if you were injured in an accident the drunk driver caused or if your loved one was killed. Talk to your Indianapolis car accident lawyer at WKW about the legal process of suing a drunk driver after an accident. 

What Do I Do in a Hit-and-Run Drunk Driver Accident?

If you have been involved in a hit-and-run, call 911 immediately. Give them as many facts as possible,  like vehicle and driver descriptions. Seek medical attention if you are in any pain or notice an injury. If not, it’s still wise to see a doctor after leaving the scene. 

If you do not see immediate injuries, wait for the police. While you wait, record everything you remember about the hit and run. You can write a note on your phone or record a voice memo. Next, contact your WKW car accident attorney. We can gather evidence and build a case against the hit-and-run drunk driver.

What Type of Compensation Do I Get?

There are three types of damages you can potentially recover from drunk driver accidents:

  • Economic damages include all measurable damages such as bills, lost wages, and property damage.
  • Non-economic damages are damages that do not have a cost, such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship but still require compensation.
  • Punitive damages to punish the drunk driver

Click the link to learn more about types of car accident compensation.

How Dram Shop Cases Work

Dram shop cases are civil cases, so the liability is expressed as financial compensation. A variety of types of damages could be compensated, including but not limited to the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damaged property

In Indiana, the timeline to file dram shop claims is two years. Even though dram shop is an outdated term, it is still very prevalent and applicable in drunk driving lawsuit settlements and lawsuits. 

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured due to a drunk driving accident, contact an Indianapolis auto accident attorney from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. For thirty years, the lawyers at WKW have handled treacherous cases involving severe injuries sustained in car accidents. We can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.669.9983 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


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