According to data compiled and published by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute in partnership with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, 175,816 traffic collisions occurred in Indiana in 2020. Of these accidents, 808 resulted in deaths.
Marion County had the most collisions, with 28,701 crashes, while Tipton County recorded the highest rate of fatal accidents, with 2% of crashes resulting in the loss of life.
Annually, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute develops programs to improve traffic safety, and these goals are incorporated into the state’s Highway Safety Plans. These include minimizing the number of fatalities and serious physical injuries, reducing drunk driving, improving seat belt use, and decreasing the number of young drivers involved in fatal crashes.
In line with the state’s Highway Safety Plans for the fiscal year 2023, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is investing in media and education campaigns for roadway users to help decrease fatal road accidents. This awareness drive builds on the laws that the Indiana state legislature has passed to prevent vehicular accidents and protect the lives and properties of motorists and pedestrians alike.
Indiana Basic Speeding Law
Speeding significantly contributed to the number of car crashes in 2020, causing 25% of all fatal accidents. The Traffic Safety Division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute observed that in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the state continued to see a rise in collisions involving speed-related causes.
The Indiana Code states that motorists should not drive on a roadway at a speed that is greater than what is reasonable in the circumstances and given the existing dangers. According to the same provision, a vehicle's speed must be regulated to avoid collisions with other vehicles, persons, or conveyances, in line with all relevant rules and regulations and in keeping with the responsibility of all motorists to exercise due care.
This implies that drivers must constantly maintain a safe speed. What is deemed "safe" depends on the surrounding circumstances, including weather, visibility, and road conditions. For example, driving at 50 miles per hour on a highway with little to no traffic on a sunny day might be safe. However, driving at 50 miles per hour on a slippery road on a rainy and dark night might be considered a violation of the basic speeding law.
A violation of the basic speeding law is considered, under Indiana Law, a class C infraction. This can result in a $500 fine or a maximum jail sentence of 60 days. In addition, a motorist who has been found guilty of operating a vehicle while intoxicated can have his or her driver’s license suspended for 60 days to two years, depending on the facts of the case.
Indiana Absolute Speed Limits
While Indiana’s basic speeding law does not specify speed limits because it considers external factors like weather and road conditions in gauging what can be considered safe, the state’s absolute speed limit law lays out clearer guidelines for motorists to follow. This means that merely going over a specified speed limit is already considered a violation.
In Indiana, the following absolute speed limits are in effect per the Indiana Code:
in an alley
in an urban district
on a highway that
(A) is not designated as a part of the national system of interstate and defense highways;
(B) has four or more lanes;
(C) is divided into two or more roadways by:
(i) an intervening space that is unimproved and not intended for vehicular travel;
(ii) a physical barrier; or
(iii) a dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic; and
(D) is located outside an urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000
for a vehicle (other than a bus) having a declared gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds on a highway on the national system of interstate and defense highways located outside an urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000
on a highway on the national system of interstate and defense highways located outside of an urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000
Indiana Drunk Driving Law
Alcohol-impaired driving was one of Indiana's leading causes of car accidents in 2020.
Under state laws, driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or with a blood alcohol content level over the legal limit is considered a criminal offense. This violation immediately and significantly affects a motorist’s privilege to operate a vehicle.
If an officer finds probable cause that a driver is violating the state’s drunk driving law, the motorist may be asked to submit to a chemical test to determine the amount of alcohol in his or her system.
The Indiana Code provides that a person who drives a vehicle under the following conditions commits either a class C or class A misdemeanor:
Class C Misdemeanor
Operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least 0.08 grams of alcohol but less than 0.15 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of the person’s blood or 210 liters of the person’s breath
Operating a vehicle with a controlled substance or its metabolite in the person's blood
Class A Misdemeanor
Operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least 0.15 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of the person’s blood or 210 liters of the person’s breath
A class C misdemeanor is punishable by a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $5,000, whereas a class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fine.
Indiana Seat Belt Law
From 2010 to 2019, Indiana’s observational studies of seat belt usage, conducted by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and the Purdue University Center for Road Safety, show that the rate of seat belt use among occupants of passenger vehicles in the state remained consistent, with an average of 93%. This figure is even 2% higher than the 2019 national rate.
Indiana law requires all occupants of motor vehicles to have seat belts properly fastened to their bodies whenever automobiles are in forward motion. Failure to do so is considered a primary offense. This means that a motorist could be stopped and issued a ticket for failing to comply with the state’s seat belt directive. In particular, an occupant of the front seat of a vehicle who is at least 16 years old and violates the seat belt law commits a class D infraction.
The Indiana Code lists the following requirements for safety belts:
They must meet the standards stated in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208.
They must be the standard equipment installed by the manufacturer.
Infants and children must be placed in child safety seats since they are too small to be safely restrained by manufacturer-installed seat belts. These seats are installed in vehicles using existing safety belts and a system of specially designed tethers and anchors.
Indiana Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Motorists are not allowed to operate a car in Indiana if they are not insured to drive an automobile or if there is no insurance in force for the motor vehicle. Driving without a current liability policy that meets the state’s minimum standards is considered a violation.
Indiana’s liability insurance minimum policy limits are as follows:
bodily injury to, or the death of, one individual
property damage in any one accident
bodily injury to, or death of, two or more people in any one accident
Typically, auto policies provide various types of coverage, including:
Body Injury Liability: pays for the injuries a motorist causes to other people with their car
Property Damage Liability: pays for the damage caused by a motorist’s vehicle to other people’s property
Medical Payments: pays for the medical bills accumulated by the driver and passengers if injured while entering, riding in, or getting out of the vehicle
Collision: pays for the damage to the vehicle caused by the crash
Comprehensive: pays for the damage to the vehicle caused by any other reason other than a collision
Others: may include car rental fees and towing expenses
Indiana insurance providers must include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in every auto liability policy they issue. The following are the minimum liability limits for uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance in Indiana:
Bodily Injury: $25,000/$50,000
Bodily Injury: $50,000
The policyholder, however, can reject the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in writing. In this case, the driver may not recover insurance damages in an accident caused by a person driving without insurance.
Indiana Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Indiana follows a fault system regarding insurance claims. This means that a person involved in a car accident should file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance policy.
If the negligent party’s insurance is insufficient to cover the damages caused by the crash, the victim can file a claim based on his or her uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
If a driver who sustains injuries in a crash is not covered by uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, it does not mean that he or she has to shoulder all expenses resulting from the accident. He or she can instead file a lawsuit against the other driver to obtain compensation.
Indiana Is a Comparative Fault State for Car Accident Lawsuits
In Indiana, auto accident lawsuits are handled according to the state’s Comparative Fault Act. Under this law, victims injured in a car crash may still recover compensation even if their negligence contributed to the accident. Such negligence will only reduce the amount of compensation that they may be entitled to in proportion to the amount of their fault.
In lawsuits involving comparative fault, juries calculate the total amount of damages caused by the accident and the percentage of each party’s fault. To determine the amount of compensation that the plaintiff should receive, the damages are multiplied by the percentage of the defendant’s fault.
For example, if the total amount of damages arising from the accident is $100,000.00 and, after trial, the defendant is found to be only 80% at fault, then the plaintiff would get $80,000.00 instead of the full amount. The difference accounts for the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
However, if the plaintiff’s negligence exceeds that of the other party, he or she is barred from recovering any compensation. For instance, if it is proved at trial that the plaintiff’s fault is 55%, or more than half, he or she would not be allowed to recover any compensation for the damages sustained because of the accident.
Indiana Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
Under Indiana law, car accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a civil suit for recovery of damages, such as injuries and financial losses.
However, the law also allows for some exceptions, such as:
If the victim is a minor, the period starts from his or her 18th birthday.
If the injured party dies within the two-year limit, an additional 18 months from death is added to the end of the initial deadline.
If the victim becomes mentally or physically incapacitated, the statutory two-year period only begins to run from the day that the legal disability status is removed.
Average Settlements for Indiana Car Accident Lawsuits
There are several factors that can affect the amount of settlement in car accident cases, including the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim. However, it is difficult to gauge the average amount of settlements for several reasons.
First, there is no central clearinghouse for personal injury settlements. No place or authority exists that collects or compiles publicly announced settlements.
Second, it is common for parties involved in injury lawsuits to resolve in private. Cases that end in settlements rarely require court approval. In fact, even those that end up in litigation do not necessarily result in settlement figures that are disclosed to the public.
Lastly, there is usually no limit to vehicular crash settlement amounts involving certain types of damages. Car accident attorneys can assist clients in estimating or computing the amount of economic and non-economic damages that they deserve.
Legal Resources for Indiana Car Accident Victims
Title 9, Article 26, of the Code lays down the duties and responsibilities of persons involved in automobile mishaps in the state, including the drivers, owners of motor vehicles, passengers, and law enforcement officers.
This resource is published by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to aid motorists. It outlines the steps motorists should take after a vehicular crash, including presenting proof of financial responsibility in the form of a Certificate of Compliance filed by the driver’s insurance provider. It also lists how a motorist could avoid traffic collisions, how to detect an impaired driver, what to do in a roadside emergency, how to prevent vehicle theft, and how to properly respond to traffic stops initiated by police officers.
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles lists traffic violations that typically affect an individual’s license or permit. The list includes the following infractions:
Failure to Appear or Failure to Pay
Failure to Meet Insurance Requirements
Repeatedly Committing Traffic Offenses Over 10 years
Operating a Vehicle While Suspended as an HTV
Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated
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