Articles Posted in Dram Shop and Intoxicated Drivers

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 parents of a teen killed in a drunk driving accident in Muncie have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the motorist accused of killing him. The negligence lawsuit comes little more than a year after the defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated causing death and driving while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury. The 25-year-old defendant is now serving eight years in prison.

This case underscores the options drunk driving victims have to seek compensation for a serious injury or death caused by these actions. That’s because drunk driving, in addition to being a form of negligence, is also a crime. Still, the criminal trial is completely separate and apart from the civil case. There is a separate standard for the burden of proof, and the outcome of one case won’t necessarily affect the outcome of the other.

Furthermore, our Highland injury lawyers can explain Indiana’s liquor liability laws are such that you may be able to hold accountable the bar or restaurant that served that drunken driver, as well as the driver and potentially the owner of the vehicle.

The estate of an Indiana man who died following a fistfight at a house party won a partial victory before the Indiana Supreme Court recently, paving the way for at least one wrongful death claim to proceed to trial. 

In Rogers v. Martin, the plaintiff alleged the defendant, who co-hosted a house party at which alcohol was served, breached her landowner-invitee duty to exercise reasonable care to protect those on her property and also violated the state’s Dram Shop Act, resulting in harm to another person.

This case highlights the duty of care party hosts owe to their guests, which is an important consideration especially as we’re nearing the holidays, when there tends to be an increase in large gatherings.

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A few years back, I wrote a blog article entitled Negligent Party Hosts in Indiana May Face Liability. The article provided some general rules and suggestions concerning possible liability issues for people who have parties during the holiday season.

A recent Indiana decision, F. John Rogers, as Personal Representative of Paul Michalik, Deceased, and R. David Boyer, Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Jerry Lee Chambers v. Angela Martin and Brian Paul Brothers, 02A05-1506-CT 520 increases the potential for liability and the responsibilities for a party host.

In that case, the land possessors, defendants Martin and Brothers shared a residence.  They threw a party and alcohol was purchased using funds from a joint bank account.  Jerry Lee Chambers was a guest at the party.