Are Drunk Drivers Always at Fault?

are drunk drivers always at fault
drunk driving

Drunk driving kills thousands of people every year. According to the NHTSA, 37 people die each day on average in the U.S. as a result of drunk driving. In 2021, the total number of deaths from drunk driving accidents was 13,384. In Indiana specifically, the most recent data for how many fatalities there were from annual drunk driving accidents shows 220 deaths. So, are drunk drivers always at fault?

While drunk drivers are the ones at fault more often than not for the accidents they were involved in, it is possible for other parties to potentially be held liable. No matter who was at fault, however, if you were the injured victim, you have the right to file a claim to recover compensation for your damages.

At Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery, our Indianapolis law firm has years of experience handling personal injury cases, including those involving drunk driving. If you were injured in a drunk driving accident in Indiana and need assistance filing your claim and holding the right party accountable, we can help. 

Drinking and Driving Accidents in Indiana

driver charged with drunk driving

In Indiana, drunk driving is legally referred to as “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” (OVWI). Someone is considered to be guilty of an OVWI when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or 0.02% if they are under 21. If a driver is guilty of an OVWI, they can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony, depending on the exact circumstances of the accident.

Aside from being guilty of an OVWI, a drunk driver can also be held liable for any accidents they cause while drunk because Indiana is an at-fault state. This means that the person who is at fault for causing an accident can be held liable for the damages caused.

However, for someone to hold the drunk driver responsible for their injuries and other damages, they must be able to prove negligence. To do this, you must prove that the drunk driver owed you a duty of care and that they breached that duty by causing the accident. You must also show that you suffered damages — such as an injury — as a result of the accident and that the drunk driver’s breach of duty was the direct cause of your damages. 

Are Drunk Drivers Always at Fault? 

Though drunk drivers are typically the ones at fault for an accident they were involved in, it is not true that they are always at fault. Negligence per se is a legal concept that makes it seem like the drunk driver is at fault simply because they were breaking the law by being drunk while driving. However, it is possible that their being drunk was not actually the cause of the accident.

So, the drunk driver could still be guilty of driving while intoxicated and charged with an OVWI, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the one you would file a claim against for the accident. There are other parties who could potentially be held liable aside from the drunk driver. 

Other liable parties could include:

  • Dram shops: In some cases, the establishment that provided or sold the alcohol that the drunk driver consumed could be held responsible for the accident. This can include liquor stores, bars, restaurants, event venues, and convenience stores. If the establishment continued to provide alcohol even after it was obvious that a person had too much, they could be the one held liable if that person then got behind the wheel and caused an accident. 
  • Social hosts: Similar to dram shop liability, hosts of private gatherings or parties can also be held responsible for providing alcohol to someone who was already visibly intoxicated. Social hosts can refer to anyone who hosts a private function or gathering, such as house or dinner parties, birthday parties, wedding parties, baby showers, office parties, tailgates, and other social events. 
  • Another driver: It is also possible that another driver could be at fault if multiple vehicles were involved. For example, someone else could have caused the accident by speeding or running a red light. 

It’s important to note that you could also be held liable in an accident with a drunk driver if you were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. Again, just because the other driver was drunk doesn’t mean they are automatically at fault. You could share in liability with the drunk driver or another party. 

Compensation for Pain and Suffering When Hit by a Drunk Driver

When you file a claim after a drunk driving accident, the compensation you can recover will depend on the damages you suffered. If another party was liable, you could file a claim against them and their insurance company will likely be the one that pays for the damages you suffered. 

Most people tend to associate these damages with things that hold an actual monetary value, such as medical expenses for the treatment of injuries or lost wages due to a person needing to miss work while they recover from their injuries. However, there are damages you can be compensated for that don’t hold a monetary value.

For example, the physical pain and suffering you experience as a result of a drunk driving accident is something you can be compensated for. You can also be awarded financial compensation for emotional distress or reduced quality of life. 

The best way to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for all the damages you have suffered is to work with a lawyer. Proving pain and suffering damages is not as easy as proving medical cost damages because, with medical expenses, you will have actual bills from your medical treatments to prove how much you are owed. But pain and suffering are harder to prove and calculate as they don’t hold an inherent value and can vary significantly from one case to the next. 

If you work with a lawyer, however, they will know how to help you gather all the evidence needed to win a higher-value settlement for all of your damages. 

Consult an Indianapolis Drunk Driving Accident Attorney 

At Poynter and Bucheri Accident Recovery, we know how devastating a drunk driving accident can be and are dedicated to helping our clients hold the right party accountable and get the compensation they need and deserve. We will help you file your claim, gather evidence, and ensure the insurance company awards you the full amount you are owed. 

Don’t hesitate — an experienced Indiana car accident lawyer can assist you right away. Call 1-800-265-9881 for a free case review.