Picture this scenario: You have a few drinks at a bar, restaurant, or party, and decide to call it a night and head home. You don’t realize it at the time, but your BAC is over the legal limit. On your way home, another driver collides with you because they were speeding, driving while distracted, or failed to stop at a traffic light or stop sign. The night ends in a call to 911 and police and emergency responders being dispatched to the scene.
You end up suffering serious injuries and significant damage to your vehicle, and although you weren’t at fault, you failed the breathalyzer or field sobriety test. So, in addition to facing an operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge, you still have expensive medical bills to pay for a crash that wasn’t your fault.
Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? If it has, you’re probably wondering if you can still get compensation.
While it’s possible to get compensation in this scenario, it’s unlikely—and here’s why.
Insurance companies are always looking for reasons to not pay injured drivers and their passengers when they are hurt by their policyholders. Sometimes, they refuse to pay even when it seems obvious that they should. But an OWI charge is seen as a very good reason not to pay in their eyes, even if you technically weren’t at fault.
Unfortunately, fault can be subjective, especially when the injured driver was also violating a traffic law in some way. Insurance companies know that impaired drivers don’t generate much sympathy, especially in the eyes of a jury and judge. So, they may be more likely to fight a compensation claim knowing that it could go to trial, where they will have more confidence in winning and being let off the hook for paying your medical and vehicle repair expenses.
Many drivers in Indiana purchase separate auto insurance coverage called MedPay. This type of coverage kicks in regardless of who is at fault in a crash. That means that when drivers cause their own crashes, they can get money from these policies, and if someone else caused their crashes, they can get additional compensation on top of the money they get from at-fault drivers.
However, there is one major exception to MedPay coverage: drivers who were intoxicated. Simply put, insurance companies that offer MedPay don’t want to be liable for paying drivers who get behind the wheel when they’re over the legal limit. So, if you have MedPay coverage and are counting on it to help you pay for some of your medical bills after a crash that wasn’t your fault that occurred when you were intoxicated, you may be disappointed by the outcome.
Under scrutiny, even the victims of many auto accidents may bear at least a small percentage of responsibility for their crashes. Because of that, Indiana uses a modified comparative negligence system for determining compensation in personal injury claims. When a victim’s percentage of fault reaches at least 51% or higher, they’re barred from pursuing any compensation at all.
Being cited for DUI shortly after the crash can make it extremely difficult to get a favorable fault rating for the crash, especially if you had other contributing factors that led to it occurring. For example, if you were rear-ended but had a taillight out and were intoxicated, the other driver’s insurer could argue that you’re at least 51% responsible, jeopardizing your chances of getting paid.
Auto accident settlements are already complex enough as-is, but they can be even more difficult to win when the other side has a strong argument against you—in this case, an OWI conviction. Even though the other driver may seem to have been clearly at fault for the crash, you being over the legal limit at the time it occurred significantly increases the difficulty of getting compensation.
However, it’s always worth asking a lawyer about your options and the best path forward. At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, our Indiana car accident lawyers know that all auto accident claims are different, and it’s important to review all evidence before moving forward. Contact us today if you were hurt in a crash that wasn’t your fault, and we’ll help you decide on the best move for your family.
Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & NewlinN/a
The financial burden that often comes with a serious injury can be too much for many people to bear. Unexpected medical debt, damaged personal property, and the sudden loss of income can impact the budgets of most families. The good news is that a successful injury claim could help reduce that financial strain after a serious accident. Get in touch with a Terre Haute personal injury lawyer with Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin to learn more.
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