When you are involved in an accident where the at-fault party was a drunk driver or operating their vehicle under the influence, it may make sense to assume that if the at-fault party is charged with criminal liabilities from the accident, that you should be compensated as well. This, however, is not the case, and it is crucial that potential plaintiffs know the difference between civil and criminal liability.
According to a local news report, three Indiana residents were recently killed in a wrong-way crash. A man was stopped in a Hyundai SUV on the shoulder of the road facing the wrong direction when an Indiana state trooper stopped at his vehicle to assist. When the trooper parked in front of the SUV and got out of his squad car to approach the Hyundai, the Hyundai began to drive forward. The trooper pounded on the driver of the Hyundai’s windshield, yelling for him to stop, but the driver swung around the police vehicle and drove about a half-mile in the wrong direction before crashing into another vehicle head-on. That vehicle was carrying two occupants. All three victims in both vehicles were pronounced dead at the scene. The crash is still under investigation, but local authorities suspect alcohol or drugs could have been a factor in the accident.
In Indiana, “operating while intoxicated” (OWI) is used instead of “driving under the influence.” When operating a vehicle under the influence, the state considers an OWI offense to be criminal. In Indiana, like other states, criminal investigations into whether alcohol or drugs were involved in a case have no bearing on a personal injury or civil lawsuit pertaining to damages. Thus, even if the at-fault party in an accident is facing criminal charges, potential plaintiffs must advance their own case separately if they wish to recover damages from the accident.