Drugs, Alcohol, Young People, and Driving

by | Oct 11, 2023

This is a challenging subject to write about, and one that we wish would never claim or ruin another young life.  

The following are accounts of some of the related real cases our firm has handled.

No parent wants to get that phone call. The call that breaks their heart forever. The call informs them that their child died or was severely injured in a car accident.

These stories are of actual cases, but names are kept confidential to protect the surviving clients, relatives, and friends. 

Facts are stated with generalities for the same reason.

A Young Driver Dies in Alcohol-Induced Car Crash

It was a warm summer holiday when two young men, one past his 21st birthday and the other short thereof, went to a bar and began drinking strong alcoholic drinks. They drank a few hundred dollars’ worth of these strong drinks.  

In mid-afternoon, they paid their bill with a credit card and left for the parking lot. The underage man’s sports car was parked outside. He drove, and they left the bar’s parking lot and entered heavy local traffic down a main street near a popular mall. 

The driver drove fast, changing lanes and passing cars at high speed. He miscalculated the distance to a lane termination while passing traffic, causing him to hit the inside curb, which, at the speed he was traveling, caused his vehicle to go airborne to the right off the road into a telephone pole.  

Upon impact, his unrestrained passenger was ejected out of the open sunroof and killed instantly. 

Age 21, and life was over.  

If you are a young person reading this, know that your parents would be devastated and never get over such a cruel loss. Don’t drink. If you do drink, get an Uber!

The deceased young man was over 21 years old, not in school, and not married, nor did he have any children. 

Indiana statutory law limits the amount of money the surviving parents can recover to $300,000 for the loss of love and affection. 

Please write to your state senator and congressman to increase this amount.

A Teenager Lost After Driving While Smoking Marijuana

After an evening school event, a car full of students went for a car ride. The driver had been smoking marijuana, as had the passengers, and her car had her and five passengers in it when, at a stop sign, she failed to see crossing traffic, which had the right-of-way.  

She pulled out and got hit at a significant speed in the rear driver’s side door. This resulted in a young lady sitting behind the driver receiving mortal injuries from which she would die hours later in a hospital.  

Another set of helpless parents would watch their daughter die at age 19 in a hospital bed.  Driving while impaired includes driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs. A beautiful 19-year-old lady is gone, leaving devastation behind.

This deceased, too, was over 18, not enrolled in school, unmarried, or the mother of any child, so her parents’ recovery was limited by statute to $300,000 for loss of love and affection.  

I guess no amount of money could ever make up for such a loss, but that amount is too low.

An Army Private Left With a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Two young army privates took a Saturday road trip to a major city on a weekend pass. They met up with other young men at a bar where they drank lots of beer. The driver drank less, and he drove our client back toward their base sometime after midnight.  

Our client slept in the front passenger seat while the driver drove at high speed down a state highway. 

On a curve doing over 70 mph, he swerved and lost control of his vehicle. This caused his SUV’s front tire to “grab” the pavement, sending the vehicle into a roll. 

The vehicle rolled several times, coming to rest in a deep ditch.  

The passenger side rollover airbag failed to deploy, and our client received a serious traumatic brain injury (TBI), among other significant injuries.  

At the accident scene, it was generally assumed that our client would not likely survive.  However, he did survive, albeit with serious functional brain issues initially. 

Over an extended period, he made a remarkable recovery, but he will live the rest of his life with TBI-caused severe behavioral issues. The SUV driver will live the rest of his life regretting that horrible evening.

The driver of our client’s SUV only had $100,000 of liability auto insurance. (The airbag failure is an issue for another day.) In this instance, our client’s parents played a primary role in the caregiving of their son once he was released from medical treatment.

Because this client survived, he had no limit to his damages other than the policy limits of the driver and any funds he could get from the vehicle manufacturer for the airbag failure.

Young Man Hit on Motorcycle By Mother Driving Children

A young man, 25 years old, was riding his motorcycle in downtown streets when a drunk woman driving on the wrong side of the street with her car full of her children hit him head-on, severely fracturing one of his femurs (upper leg bone).  

Our client was taken to the hospital by ambulance and sent to surgery to do an “ORIF” (open reduction internal fixation) surgery to put his femur back together. 

His fracture was so severe that the surgeon had to shorten his bone by cutting two inches from it. This left our client with one leg being two inches shorter than the other. Twenty-five years old and now forever hampered by one leg being shorter than the other.

This tragic result gets worse.  

The drunk lady was uninsured, and our client only had the Indiana minimum personal injury liability coverage on his motorcycle of $25,000 available to him as uninsured motorist coverage.  

The lady was also terminally ill with cancer and is now going to prison as a habitual traffic offender who drove anyway and got caught. 

Of course, our client’s medical bills far exceeded the $25,000 of insurance coverage, so a deal had to be made to reduce the hospital lien significantly. The hospital has a statutory right to recover its fees for medical treatment from the plaintiff’s (our client’s) recovery. Our client was limited to a total net recovery of approximately $7,500. Ouch!

Why Am I Telling You These Heartbreaking Stories?

The purpose of telling these heartbreaking stories is to highlight how substance abuse and driving can result in tragic, life-ending, life-changing consequences that no one ever wishes to happen.  

Parents may wish to share these stories with their driver-aged children to help them see past the poorly perceived risks that driving under the influence may seem to have for them so they can grasp the actual potentially devastating consequences.

These stories are only four of many that we have seen at Garrison Law Firm over the past 40 years.  

This article has less to do with legal education than it does with warning young drivers that their bodies are not toys to be played with. When bodies break, they don’t always heal; they sometimes don’t heal well, and sometimes they die.  

Also, they need to understand that they will not be the only victims. Parents, siblings, friends, and other relatives may suffer depression and severe grief for many years.