Articles Posted in Car Accidents

A woman injured in an alleged Indiana drunk driving accident this month won her appeal seeking pursuit of punitive damages against the defendant. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant. The ruling is a victory for victims of Indiana drunk drivers in once again affirming the well-established view of courts in Indiana (going at least as far back as the Indiana Supreme Court’s 1985 ruling in Williams v. Crist) about the egregious wrong one does in taking the wheel while drunk. In that case nearly 35 years ago, the state high court held unequivocally: A person guilty of impaired driving is automatically guilty of the “willful and wanton misconduct” requirement necessary to to seek punitive damages in an Indiana injury lawsuit.

Why Punitive Damages in Indiana Drunk Driving Claims Matter

If you suffer injury and/or other losses because of somebody else’s negligence, there are two general kinds of damages you can pursue. The first, compensatory damages, applies in every case and the goal is monetary compensation that aims to “make the plaintiff whole.”

Of course, our Munster drunk driving injury lawyers know that there really is nothing – no amount of money – that can achieve that goal. There is absolutely no price tag on catastrophic injuries or death, and those affected would give back every dime if it meant they could regain what they lost. Still, the goal of compensatory damages is all about what a plaintiff has lost and what can be offered to help them heal to the fullest extent possible. The amount is supposed to be calculated in a way that equitably compensates a person, sometimes dollar-for-dollar (i.e., medical bills), but other times for intangible losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
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The Indiana Court of Appeals this month rejected an argument by an auto insurer that it should not be required to cover bodily injury damages caused by its insured because a policy exclusion barred him from coverage if he drove with a suspended license. As long-time Indiana car accident attorneys in Gary, we know well the ways in which auto insurance companies will seek to deny coverage. Exclusions drafted into auto insurance policies are the basis for many insurance claim denials. However, as our injury lawyers often explain, an insurance company denial is not the last word. With the help of a dedicated personal injury attorney, auto insurance denials can often be successfully challenged.

According to court records in the recent case, the insured/at-fault driver in this matter lost control of his vehicle and slammed into the side of the residence, resulting in both bodily injury and property damage for himself as well as the occupants of the dwelling.

Although the driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, his vehicle was insured by a policy he obtained months earlier. However, an exclusion contained in that policy stated: “We do not provide liability coverage for any ‘insured’ using a vehicle without reasonable belief that ‘insured’ is entitled to do so. This exclusion … does not apply to a family member using your covered auto, which is owned by you.”

A verdict of more than $1 million in favor of an Indiana car accident victim was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found reasonable basis for this compensation, even though the rear-end collision was low-speed and caused only minor damage to the vehicle. Highland car accident attorneys point to the outcome of this case as an example of the fact that an Indiana auto accident need not be severe or result in horrific crash scene photos in order to result in serious injuries. So long as your injury lawyer can prove the damages you suffered were result of the collision, compensation should be made available from the at-fault driver.

Possible losses may include past and future medical bills, past and future wage losses and lost earning capacity, emotional anguish, loss of life enjoyment and loss of consortium. To pursue a comprehensive damage claim is not excessive; those are real losses, and you should not be the one to bear them without compensation if they were the result of someone else’s negligence.

According to court records in Tunstall v. Manning, the 31-year-old plaintiff was stopped at a stop sign preparing to turn right out of her apartment complex in Indianapolis when the defendant approached from behind, failing to realize plaintiff was still at the intersection. Defendant hit her brakes and swerved just before colliding with plaintiff, striking the rear left corner bumper, and pushing plaintiff’s vehicle onto the road. Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic. After moving her vehicle out of traffic, plaintiff called 911 and then her mother. While at the scene, plaintiff experienced a headache and neck pain. She refused an ambulance but had a friend take her to the emergency room for treatment of whiplash. Continue reading

A severe brain injury stemming from a car accident in Hammond, Indiana two years ago is the basis of a personal injury lawsuit filed against the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and its deputy after the law enforcement officer allegedly ran a red light and t-boned another driver. NWItimes.com reports the officer told the investigating agency, a local police department, that he’d been “in the process of” turning on his sirens and emergency lights in order to initiate a stop on a suspected drunk driver at the intersection of Gostlin Street and Columbia Avenue in the Irving neighborhood when the collision occurred.

As our Hammond car accident lawyers understand it, the plaintiff alleges that the officer disregarded the red traffic signal, traveled at high speeds and did not act with reasonable care by failing to turn on his siren or emergency lights to alert other motorists. The officer did not maintain a proper lookout or press the brakes before proceeding through the intersection, the plaintiff alleges. The cruiser struck plaintiff’s pickup truck, which then overturned several times.

The plaintiff suffered numerous injuries, including a traumatic brain injury that is irreversible and which impairs his physical activity, and causes him pain and mental suffering and loss of life enjoyment. Adding to defendant’s alleged culpability, the plaintiff points to the department having a higher-than-average number of collisions involving deputies in pursuit, and the department’s continued lack of training and supervision despite this knowledge. The plaintiff’s injury lawyer also raised the issue of the sheriff’s office demanding to take over investigation of the crash from the Hammond Police Department, despite (at the least) a clear appearance of bias. Police officers did indicate the cause of the crash was apparently the deputy’s failure to yield and traveling at unsafe speeds, though the officer was not cited.  Continue reading

A jury verdict of $21 million that was awarded to an Indiana drunk driving injury plaintiff, who is quadriplegic as a result of the collision, has been affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which refused defendants’ request for a new trial. It is one of the largest personal injury damage awards in history. The original award, $35 million, was reduced upon a finding of comparative fault by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff and defendant worked together at a local restaurant chain and frequently drank together, which is what they did after work one night in February 2016. The two became so impaired that an employee asked plaintiff to leave, and the two exited together. The employee called a taxi for the pair. But as the taxi pulled in, the pair exited the parking lot, defendant at the wheel of his pickup truck, plaintiff in the passenger seat. Minutes later, defendant crashed into a tree, the impact breaking plaintiff’s neck, rendering him quadriplegic, with no sensation or control from the neck down. Defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.208 an hour after the crash.

Drunk driving injury lawsuits bring to the forefront a sobering reality with which our Munster injury attorneys are all too familiar. Here in Lake County, Indiana, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute reports there were 345 alcohol-impaired collisions in 2016, roughly 2 percent of the total but accounting for a disproportionate percentage of fatal crashes (10 percent) and injurious crashes (4 percent) . Statewide, the Indiana University Public Policy Institute reveals 83 crash deaths in 2016 involved a driver who was illegally impaired by alcohol (down from 177 in 2012). Alcohol was more likely a factor in single-vehicle crashes than multiple-vehicle collisions, and impairment rates were highest among drivers of pickup trucks. Continue reading

Millions of people are injured in U.S. car accidents annually. Roughly 30,000 die. Road rage injuries and deaths can be included in those figures, but not always. If a person is rear-ended by an aggressive driver following too closely, failing to yield or traveling too fast for road conditions (as spelled out in Title 9 of Indiana Code on motor vehicles), such instances would be included in crash statistics. However, incidents involving person-on-person violence stemming from road rage likely would not. For Highland personal injury attorneys, that difference is also instructive when determining a road rage victim’s legal options. That’s because while accidents are covered by Indiana auto insurers, intentional acts of violence generally are not, and are usually expressly excluded in the policy language.

That does not mean violent road rage incidents are not actionable and compensable, but your injury lawyer will have to carefully examine the facts of the case to identify defendants, determine theories of liability and find out whether there is a means to actually collect on whatever damages may be won.

Indiana Worst for Road Rage Fatal Injuries

Indiana was recently ranked the worst state for road rage by the Auto Insurance Center, which determined 10 percent of fatal crashes in Indiana between 2005 and 2015 involved road rage and aggressive driving. Troopers say drivers who commit road rage are either ignorant of the law or do not care. Even those in marked patrol cars say they have been targeted by road rage.  Continue reading

Many people look forward to the holidays, but fewer look forward to the drive time. There are the long-distance trips, for certain, but there is also the overall congestion, the aggressive driving by those pressed for time and snow and ice leading to slick roads and reduced visibility.

But there is one risk on the roads around the holidays that often gets overlooked: Fatigue.

Just recently in Putnam County, authorities reported a 20-year-old truck driver crashed his rig shortly before 2 a.m., veering off the highway, into the median and striking several trees. Although the dangers of fatigued truck drivers are well documented, given their long hours of tedious work, we often take for granted the devastation that can be caused by other motorists who aren’t getting enough sleep – and there are a lot of them.  Continue reading

When Pokemon GO was first released in early July 2016, it quickly became a smash hit, with millions scrambling to “catch” characters in the interactive game that required users to travel around their neighborhoods and communities. Apparently, some didn’t let the fact that they were behind the wheel stop them. Researchers at Indiana’s Purdue University have released a 49-page study that estimates this game alone caused 145,000 car accidents, 29,000 injuries and 250 deaths just in the first five months after it was released. 

But while the augmented reality Pokemon Go craze has since died down significantly, what hasn’t is the fact that smartphones and apps continue to divide drivers’ attention in a way that endangers all of us on the roads. Our Indiana car accident attorneys know that this raises some interesting legal questions about what duty of care – if any – technology companies have to motorists.

Case law on the matter has not been hopeful for plaintiffs. In August, a superior court judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of a young man killed when he was struck by a driver who was texting. The distracted driver was charged with a misdemeanor, but the parents took legal action against the technology giant, alleging Apple failed to implement a lockout system on the iPhone. In the order for dismissal, the judge cited another lawsuit in that state with a similar fact pattern, wherein the appellate court ruled it would be “unreasonable” to assume the tech firm was responsible for the ultimate harm.  Continue reading

Drunk driving in Indiana kills more than 200 people a year on average, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As part of an effort to address this, Nwitimes.com reports the Hammond Police Department is among the approximately 150 agencies that received new portable breathalyzer test devices to use in roadside stops. 

The NHTSA issued a $750,000 grant for the purchase of more than 1,700 breathalyzers to be used by state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Indiana. Another $300,000 has been allocated to buy 725 new breathalyzer tests for Indiana State Police over the next 12 months. The new Alco-Sensor FST includes gas canisters and mouthpieces to calculate the individual readings. These devices come equipped with “passive sniffers” that are able to detect alcohol in the air around an individual or concealed in an open container. Results of that particular feature can’t be used in court to prosecute criminals, but they can be used as probable cause to take the next step in evidence-gathering, WDRB.com reports.

Word of these purchases comes just in time for popular drinking days, which include the night before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

When a worker acting in the course and scope of employment is negligent and causes injuries or death to another person, there are two ways the employer could be held liable:

  • Vicarious liability, through the legal doctrine of respondeat superior; or
  • Direct liability (i.e., negligent training, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, etc.). 

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that plaintiffs in these cases may move forward with one of the two legal theories – but not both.

This Indiana car accident case, according to court records, involves the alleged negligence of a pizza delivery driver that resulted in a fatal crash that killed a man on a scooter.

It occurred in August 2012 while the defendant driver, while working for a franchise of a national pizza chain, was operating her own vehicle when she struck the back of a scooter operated by the decedent. The rider was tossed off the scooter and onto the road, where he was run over by another motorist. His injuries proved fatal. Continue reading