If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Indiana, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Indiana statutes in each section.
Here are the Indiana car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway lawfully within an adjacent intersection. Pedestrians facing any green signal, except when the sole green signal is a turn arrow, may proceed across the roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk.
Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian-control signal, pedestrians facing a steady yellow signal are advised that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway and no pedestrian shall then start to cross the roadway.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
Walking or running into the path of a vehicle is not prohibited. Also, a pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady.
- Pedestrians shall obey instructions on any traffic-control device specifically applicable, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
A pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway. A pedestrian may not cross an intersection diagonally unless authorized by an official traffic control devices.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, or driveway must stop the vehicle immediately before driving onto a sidewalk or into the sidewalk area extending across an alleyway or a private driveway. Vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on an adjacent sidewalk.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and must give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and must exercise proper precaution upon observing any child.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
The driver of a vehicle must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated pedestrian and must give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and must exercise proper precaution.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
- Upon a roadway divided into three (3) marked lanes
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within one hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a telecommunications device, except for the sole purpose of calling 911.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
IC 9-21-8-30 and IC 9-21-8-21
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers and cyclists on the roadway to be crossed.
IC 9-21-8-31, IC 9-21-8-32, and IC 9-21-8-34
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic
Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists are permitted to ride a maximum of two (2) abreast in a single lane if both motorcyclists consent.
Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
All motorcyclists under eighteen (18) years of age must wear helmets and protective eyewear while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
A motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one (1) and not more than two (2) lighted headlights turned on at all times.
A motorcycle manufactured before January 1, 1956, is not required to be equipped with a headlight if the motorcycle is not operated at the times when lighted headlights are required according to IC 9-21-7-2.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any measurable amount of alcohol.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and must upon request, exhibit their driver’s license and information relating to financial responsibility (insurance) to any person injured in the accident, or to the driver, passengers, and/or police officers investigating the accident.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of IC 9-26-1-1.1.
IC 9-26-1-1.1 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and must upon request exhibit their driver’s license and insurance information to any person injured in the accident or to the driver of the car involved in the accident.
In addition, the driver must immediately give notice of the accident to one the local police department, or to the office of the county sheriff or the nearest state police post if the accident occurs outside a municipality.
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver given their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and exhibited, upon request, their driver’s license and insurance information to the driver of the car or the owner of the property involved in the accident.
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property
A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property. Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, information relating to financial responsibility (insurance) and the registration number of the car being driven.
If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must notify either the sheriff’s department of the county where the damaged vehicle or property is located or a member of the state police department. The driver must give the sheriff’s department or the state police department their name, address, information relating to financial responsibility (insurance) and the registration number of the car they were driving.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Departmen
A driver who cannot locate the owner of property damaged in an accident, who has caused damage of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000), or who is involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must immediately give notice of the accident to one the local police department, or to the office of the county sheriff or the nearest state police post if the accident occurs outside a municipality.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
A law enforcement officer must investigate each motor vehicle accident that results in any the injury or death of a person or total property damage of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000). The officer will forward a written report of each accident to the state police department within twenty-four (24) hours after completing the investigation.
Accident Report Forms
The state police department must prepare and, upon request, supply to police departments, coroners, sheriffs, and other appropriate agencies or individuals forms for accident reports. The reports must contain detailed information with reference to a traffic accident the causes, locations, and the conditions of the persons and vehicles involved.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Indiana roadways. This law does not apply to:
- Passengers in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle for hire
- Passengers in the living quarters of a house trailer
- A container in a locked compartment
- A container located behind the last upright seat, in the trunk, or in a place not normally occupied by a person
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
A person who drives with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least eight-hundredths (0.08) gram of alcohol but less than fifteen-hundredths (0.15) gram of alcohol per one hundred (100) milliliters of the person’s blood commits a Class C misdemeanor.
A person who drives with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least fifteen-hundredths (0.15) gram of alcohol per (1) one hundred (100) milliliters of the person’s blood commits a Class A misdemeanor.
A person who drives with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of IC 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person’s body commits a Class C misdemeanor.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might have installed at an ignition interlock device, his or her own expenses. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
IC 9-30-7-2 and IC 9-30-7-5
Indiana Dram Shop Law
Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under Indiana law, the provider of the alcohol is not liable for the damages caused by the actions of the intoxicated person, unless both of the following are true:
- The provider knew the intoxicated person was intoxicated at the time when they provided the alcohol, and
- The intoxication of the person caused the death, damage or injury alleged in the complaint.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Indiana, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from one (1) accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for two (2) or more persons
- $10,000 per occurrence for property damage
Indiana Insurance Information
For insurance information, see the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
A Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance is available from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In Indiana, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: IC 34-51-2-5
Right of Way: IC 9-21-8-30 and IC 9-21-8-21
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: IC 9-21-8-59
Indiana’s No Fault Car Insurance
Indiana prescribes to liability insurance and does not prescribe to no-fault insurance. A driver can file a claim under their own insurance policy, pursue a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy, and/or file a lawsuit against the other driver.
Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance
Statute of Limitations
Indiana has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must begin their legal action within two (2) years after the accident occurs.
Small Claims Courts
In Indiana, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of six thousand dollars ($6,000).
For more information about how to submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Indiana State Judiciary website.
Indiana Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In Indiana, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.
The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
Also, a lawsuit filed against an employee personally must allege that an act or omission of the employee that causes a loss is criminal, clearly outside the scope of the employee’s employment, malicious, willful and wanton, or calculated to benefit the employee personally.
IC 34-13-3-3 and IC 34-13-3-5
If Melissa, an engineer with the Evansville Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Evansville would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Evansville can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
Indiana does not place a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees.
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