Car Crash - Distracted Driver

“L.G.” retained Stephenson to pursue a personal injury claim against the driver a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign and ran directly into her path. Our client received injuries to both her right and left foot and ankle resulting in numerous surgeries. Stephenson was able to negotiate a settlement in the amount of $500,000.

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Dram Shop Act in Indiana

Did you know that, in Indiana, the person who serves alcohol to a minor, or to an already intoxicated person, can be sued if the intoxicated person harms another as a result of their intoxicated state?

This law is known as the Dram Shop Act, and it first went into law in 1986. It has subsequently been amended to add various provisions to strengthen and broaden the Act. The odd name comes from 18th century England, where gin was sold by the spoonful, or dram.

In many states with dram shop laws, the law is limited to “overserving”—serving the already intoxicated—in commercial establishments only. Some of these same states also have laws that implicate non-commercial overserving of alcohol, such as at a private party. Such laws are known as social host liability laws.

However, in Indiana, there is no distinction between dram shop laws and social host liability laws. Anyone who knowingly furnishes alcohol to a person demonstrating intoxication can be legally liable if the intoxicated person causes injury or death (usually as a result of drunk driving). This means that owners of bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and package or convenience stores, as well as those who do the serving and selling in such places, are all liable, as are the social hosts of either a private party or a company party.

Keep the law in mind the next time you hold a get-together at which you serve alcohol.

Proving Fault Using the Act

In Indiana, according to the Dram Shop Act (Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15.5), the person who “furnishes” the alcohol to the person who later causes injury is liable only if both of the following two points apply:

  • The person who provided the alcohol knew that the intoxicated party was indeed intoxicated. Traditional evidence is considered sufficient—unsteady walking, slurred speech, and the amount of alcohol consumed in the specific period of time.
  • The intoxication was a foreseeable (“proximate is the legal term”) cause of the injury. For example, if the intoxicated person must drive to leave, driving while drunk is a foreseeable (potential) cause of injury.

It should be noted that the voluntary nature of the intoxication is not considered a complete defense under the Dram Shop Act. Also, punitive damages could potentially be recovered in dram shop cases, though there is no provision for such damages in the Act.

Example Cases and a Real Case

Here’s an example of how the law works. If Susie continues to serve Joe at her bar even though he is clearly intoxicated, and Joe then gets in his vehicle and injures Frank, Frank can bring a personal injury case directly against Joe. But Frank can also bring a dram shop claim against Susie, because she continued to serve Joe after he was visibly intoxicated, and a car accident could be considered a foreseeable consequence once Joe left the bar.

The same example can be used for a private party. Suppose Susie was hosting a backyard barbecue and continued serving Joe even though she could tell he was intoxicated. Joe leaves and injures Frank. Frank can pursue a dram shop case against Susie for the same reasons as previously mentioned.

In a 1985 decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that social hosts can be liable under the statutes (Ashlock v. Norris). In this case, an action was brought against Norris, who bought alcohol for Cindy Morrow, who later struck and killed Ashlock. So, even if you’re a in a commercial establishment, buying a drink for your inebriated friend can make you liable under dram shop laws.

Indiana Drunk Driving Attorney

In 2012, out of 779 Indiana traffic fatalities, 259 people died because of alcohol-related causes. That means 33 percent—1 in 3—of all traffic deaths were alcohol-related.

At McNeely Stephenson, we have zero tolerance for drunk drivers of any age. Period. Drunk drivers, and those who over-serve them in drinking establishments, think only about themselves. We put you first. As experienced attorneys, we can determine whether you have a dram shop case. We will interview witnesses, research police reports and blood alcohol concentration tests, and will review receipts, cell phone records, security camera footage, and posts and photos on social media to build a case in order to pursue the compensation that you deserve.

real-life cases

“B.K.” was driving on a two-lane road one Sunday afternoon with his mother in the front seat and his brother and sister-in-law in the back seat when his life was forever changed. B.K. was struck head on by D.C.

D.C. had spent the day drinking with a friend and had stopped at a restaurant less than five miles from the point of the accident where D.C. had been served several drinks. D.C.’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

As a result of the terrible wreck, B.K. received devastating injuries, which included multiple broken bones, facial fractures, and loss of vision. B.K.’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed in the accident.

As one would anticipate, D.C. had virtually no insurance. Stephenson, through his thorough and detailed investigation, was able to prepare claims against the restaurant and those that provided the alcohol.

Stephenson pursued dram shop claims against those responsible CASE SUMMARY

D.H. was a competitive bicyclist who was riding in preparation for a cross-country fundraising ride. In the spring of 2010, D.H. was riding across an old steel-grated deck bridge in Shelby County when he hit a hole in the bridge and flipped over the handlebars of his bike. The impact to the bridge decking caused severe injuries to his face, teeth, tongue, and elbow.

Through the investigation, they were able to learn as early as 1998, the bridge inspection reports showed the bridge in question needed to be replaced. The county never authorized additional inspections. The county obtained $844,000 in funding for the replacement of the bridge in 2000, but the Historical Society and adjacent property owners wanted the bridge repaired rather than replaced.

This crash could have been avoided if the inspectors and county had done their jobs. CASE SUMMARY

Our client (“D.W.”) was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a UDF truck making deliveries. D.W. received broken arms and legs, as well as internal injuries. Stephenson was retained by D.W.’s personal counsel to prepare and try the case. Discovery determined that the UDF driver had multiple driving violations. Stephenson retained numerous experts to show the jury the devastating effects of the injuries. Before trial, the defendant’s company stated that a jury in a small southern county in Indiana would never return a verdict for $1 million in this case.

The defendant was correct; the verdict was twice that amount. CASE SUMMARY

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

If you are researching the legal rights and resources available in the aftermath of a drunk driving crash, particularly one involving the dram shop laws, we hope you’ll consider calling Indiana attorney Mike Stephenson to talk about what happened. You can be assured that our lawyers, and our financial resources, are willing to go the distance on your behalf.

Like other personal injury claims in Indiana, a dram shop claim must be filed within two years of the date of injury, so don’t delay. We offer free consultations, and there is no fee for any of our work if we don’t win your case. Contact Mike today by calling 855-206-2555 or use our online contact form for a free legal consultation. McNeely Stephenson. We believe justice matters.


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