A man who was rendered quadriplegic in an Indiana drunk driving accident several years ago was awarded $35 million by a jury in Marion County recently, according to The Indiana Lawyer. However, the most he would be able to collect, following a finding of 40 percent comparative fault on his part, is $21 million. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only going to be enough to cover his around-the-clock care provided by his parents, doctors, nurses, and home health providers. Furthermore, he still faces a battle over whether the auto insurer will even be compelled to pay, since the defendant insurer in a separate case argues the coverage did not extend to the plaintiff as a passenger of his own vehicle.
There is a lot to unpack in this case, so let our injury attorneys start with what reportedly happened on the night in question. The two men were reportedly at a bar in Marion County, with the plaintiff’s truck parked outside. That truck was insured by Progressive. The two men consumed alcohol, and it is undisputed that both were impaired when they chose to leave the bar. A bartender at the establishment called a taxi company to give the pair a ride. However, as that taxi driver pulled into the parking lot, the two men opted to drive themselves home, with the plaintiff handing over the keys to his truck to his friend. (Although Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15.5, the state’s dram shop law, allows for bars and other establishments to be held liable for drunk driving injuries to third parties, the bartender’s effort to have a taxi driver take them home significantly limited the site’s liability, although it was later deemed five percent at fault.)
The driver crashed before the men reached their destination, rendering the passenger/vehicle owner paralyzed from the neck down. Although the defendant driver had initially argued he was not behind the wheel, security footage at a facility near the crash site proved otherwise, since he was seen exiting the driver seat.