Can I Sue a Family Member for a Car Accident in Indiana?

Attorney Matt Boulton recently spoke with a young woman who was a passenger in a car that rear-ended another vehicle at a stoplight. The collision left her with back pain that forced her to miss work. Now, she was asking if she could seek compensation as an injured passenger.

Based on the facts thus far, the woman has every right to seek compensation from the liable driver’s insurance. That is until she later identified the driver as her mother. One of the Hoosier state’s lesser-known accident laws would actually prevent the woman from seeking compensation from her mother’s insurance company.

Known as the Indiana Guest Statute, unless a car accident is the result of willful or wanton misconduct, certain family members are exempt from liability in personal injury cases that arise from an auto accident.

Indiana’s Guest Statute Explained

According to Indiana’s Guest Statute, a driver is not liable for their passenger’s monetary damages if the passenger is transporting one of the following:

  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Child or Stepchild
  • Sibling
  • Hitchhiker

However, the Guest Statute also includes two exceptions of which Indiana accident victims should be aware:

1.) If the family member is found liable for gross negligence, also referred to as willful or wanton misconduct, the Guest Statute will not prevent you from filing a claim.

2.) If, as a passenger, you paid for the transportation, the Guest Statute will not prevent you from filing a claim.

Another scenario that may arise: being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a family member and involved in an accident that is the fault of another driver who was either uninsured or underinsured.

In this instance, because your family member was not at fault for the accident, you would be allowed to pursue compensation from your family member’s policy through an uninsured or underinsured claim.

How to Recover Damages if a Family Member is Driving

If the car accident is determined to be 100% the fault of a family member included in Indiana’s Guest Statute, and there is no evidence of willful or wanton misconduct, or other exceptions, you will not be permitted to file a personal injury claim.

However, because Indiana is a fault state, there is still the possibility that you may have a potential claim, but it will depend on the percentage of liability assigned to your family member.

Indiana’s fault laws divide the percentage of liability up between each vehicle involved in the accident. As long as a person is not found to be liable for a majority of the accident (more than 50%), then they have the legal right to seek compensation.

For example, if you were in a car accident while riding as your sister’s passenger, and the police report assigned 30% of the fault to your sister and 70% of the fault to the other driver, you would then be able to file a personal injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company.

Is Property Damage Included in the Guest Statute?

While a rarer scenario, it is possible for a passenger to potentially recover the costs associated with any of their personal property that was damaged in a car accident caused by their family member. In this instance, the passenger will need to provide proof that their personal property was insured.

Additionally, if a family member was driving your vehicle and found to be at fault for the accident, you may wish to speak to an attorney to determine whether or not your insurance company will reimburse you for the damages to the vehicle.

Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorney

If you were involved in a car accident that was the fault of a family member, do not assume the Guest Statute automatically excludes you from seeking compensation. As we explained above, there are a number of scenarios in which you may still be able to file a personal injury or property damage claim, despite the fact that a family member was driving.

To fully understand your rights, you should contact an Indianapolis personal injury attorney that can provide you with a free case evaluation.

Indiana attorney Matt Boulton has more than 20 years of experience helping injured Hoosiers navigate our state’s accident laws. He can help advise you as to whether or not the details of your accident will prevent or allow you to seek compensation under Indiana’s Guest Statute.

To speak with Matt contact our firm directly or write to us using the confidential contact form. We look forward to hearing your story.

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