When a motorist is injured in an Indiana car accident as the result of someone else’s negligence, state law allows the victim to recover damages against the party at fault through a civil lawsuit. However, plaintiffs should always be aware of potential reductions in their monetary award, including reductions due to comparative negligence. In Indiana, comparative negligence laws will reduce a plaintiff’s recovery if they were at all at fault, and the award may be lessened by the amount the plaintiff was at fault. For instance, if in a car accident the court finds that the plaintiff was 5% at fault and the defendant was 95% at fault, the plaintiff’s $100,000 award would be reduced to $95,000.

Plaintiffs often need a damages award to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other costs that they accrued in the aftermath of an accident. Luckily, Indiana law includes important limits on what can and cannot count as evidence of comparative negligence. An important example is seat belt non-use evidence. When an individual does not wear a seat belt, they may be more likely to get injured if they do get into an automobile accident. However, in Indiana, an appellate court made clear in a 2015 case that evidence of seat belt non-use cannot count as evidence to reduce a plaintiff’s award. According to the court’s written opinion, Indiana plaintiffs injured in car accidents can still receive the full amount of recovery, even if they were not wearing their seat belt at the time of the accident.

Even after the clear court opinion, defendants may still try to use seat belt non-use evidence to convince a jury or a judge to reduce a plaintiff’s award. Plaintiffs can use the 2015 ruling to suppress this evidence by filing something called a motion in limine. If granted, this motion ensures that a jury will not see or hear evidence about a plaintiff’s seat belt non-use, which could prejudice the plaintiff. While the rule is pretty straightforward, it can sometimes be difficult to spot sneaky attempts at introducing evidence or pinning the blame on the plaintiff, so accident victims are advised to be vigilant in their civil suits. Additionally, the assistance of an attorney experienced in spotting these issues can take some of the pressure off of the victim and their family while they recover from their injuries.

When a person is injured and suffers injuries because of another’s negligence, state law allows the injured party to file an Indiana personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. In instances where the injury occurred because of a government employee’s negligence or on government property, injury victims must deal with additional procedural hurdles. The Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA), identifies regulations that apply to individuals who seek compensation from the government. Indiana injury victims must submit a notice of the claim to Indiana city and county governments within 180 days from the date of their injury, and within 270 days if the claim is against the state.

Typically, the ITCA, allows injury victims to sue the government if the claim involves injuries from incidents such as medical malpractice from government health care providers, hazardous conditions at government buildings, motor vehicle accidents with government-owned cars, and other damages because of the government’s negligence.

For example, recently, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion stemming from an accident that occurred at a public swimming pond. In that case, a young girl visited a public swimming pond with her family when she ventured to the deep end and drowned. The public swimming pond was cordoned off by zones and monitored by lifeguards. However, despite these precautions, the young girl’s submersion went unnoticed.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court released an opinion in a case involving the devastating murder of a student after he left school grounds without permission. The case illustrates important concepts of government liability and comparative fault, both of which are frequently at issue in Indiana personal injury lawsuits.

According to the court’s opinion, the young man’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Indiana school district, claiming that the school was responsible because it did not ensure that the young man stayed on school grounds. Reports indicated that the young man was frequently truant, and on the day of the murder, he came to school late and subsequently left through an unsecured exit while school was still in session. It is unclear why the student left school, but there was evidence to suggest that the young man left to engage in unlawful activities. Tragically, he was shot and murdered shortly after he left school.

The family’s lawsuit alleged that the school was responsible for the wrongful death of the young man because they did not adequately supervise the student during school hours. In response, the school district moved to dismiss the claim based on the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) as well as the doctrine of contributory negligence. The appeals court found that there were issues of material fact regarding whether the student was contributorily negligent in his death.

Earlier this month an Indiana dump truck driver caused a massive accident resulting in the deaths of an 80-year-old couple. According to a local news report, the truck driver is facing two counts of reckless homicide in addition to several other charges related to the accident. Evidently, witnesses reported that that they saw the dump truck driving erratically for several miles, ultimately resulting in a rear-end collision. After rear-ending the SUV, the truck crossed into a median and slammed into a minivan, killing the elderly couple inside. The initial accident caused a chain-reaction accident, involving a total of eleven vehicles. In addition to the elderly couple, several other drivers and passengers suffered injuries.

Indiana police officials arrived at the scene shortly after the accident and conducted a field sobriety test on the truck driver. The driver was smiling and laughing throughout the test, which officers determined he failed. The driver admitted that he snorted heroin earlier in the day. Additionally, the truck matched the description of a one that was involved in a hit-and-run accident a few hours earlier. According to court records, the driver previously pled guilty to operating a vehicle under the influence and drug possession in 2015. He violated the terms of his probation in both cases.

Indiana truck drivers with DUI or OWI charges on their licenses may still be able to receive or retain their commercial driver’s licenses. The penalties vary from a one- to three-year suspension to criminal charges in some cases. For many, it is unnerving to know that trucking companies can still hire drivers with such blemished driving histories. And while some drivers will never engage in unsafe or impaired driving again, many will continue to follow old habits.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion stemming from a tragic Indiana motorcycle accident. According to the court’s opinion, a husband and wife were traveling from Indiana to Salt Lake City, Utah when something punctured their motorcycle tire, causing the tire to deflate rapidly. The husband lost control of the motorcycle, and he crashed into a concrete barrier. The impact caused his wife to fly off the motorcycle as the bike dragged her husband on the highway. Although they were both wearing helmets, they each sustained traumatic brain injuries.

The couple received recall notices for their helmets a few months after the accident. The company that distributed the helmets notified consumers that helmets did not conform to the Department of Transportation standards. The company also warned that the helmet might not protect users in the event of a collision. The couple purchased their helmets two years before the recall from two different sellers. In response to the recall notice, the couple filed a products liability lawsuit against several parties, including the manufacturer of the helmets and the companies that sold the helmets. In their suit against the helmet company, the couple alleged that the accident resulted from a design and manufacturing defect. They also alleged that the company did not comply with federal safety standards and participated in negligent recall practices.

To establish liability in Indiana products liability lawsuits, plaintiffs must be able to prove that a party that manufactures, distributes, or sells a product knew or should have known that a product was unreasonably dangerous, either because of a design or manufacturer defect. The Indiana Products Liability Act requires that plaintiffs produce expert testimony in regards to causation. If a plaintiff cannot establish this crucial element of their claim, the court will grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Indiana personal injury lawsuits often involve just two parties, the victim and the individual or entity that caused the victim’s injury. However, some Indiana car accidents include several parties, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Most frequently, this occurs in multi-vehicle crashes. In such cases, it may be challenging to establish the course of events that led up to the victim’s injury.

For example, recently, seven people were injured, and three died in a multi-vehicle accident on an Indiana highway. Tragically, a 29-year-old woman and her toddlers were the individuals that suffered fatal injuries in the crash. According to a local Indiana news report, the deadly accident involved seven vehicles, including a semi-trailer. The domino effect apparently began when the semi-trailer slammed into the cars in front of the truck.

The truck driver told police officials that he was forced to slam on his brakes when a vehicle that was not involved in the accident cut in front of him. The sudden braking caused him to crash into several cars. However, other witnesses claimed that they witnessed the truck driver speeding on the highway. They believe he quickly applied his brakes because he did not notice the stopped traffic in front of him. One of the cars the truck hit was dragged about 300 yards before eventually crashing into two additional vehicles. Although state police arrested the truck driver, the driver still maintains that the accident occurred because he was cut off.

Those who have been injured as a result of another’s negligence may be able to recover various types of damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. In an Indiana personal injury case, there are two types of damages that a plaintiff may recover, compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages are designed to make the plaintiff whole again. These damages often encompass economic losses that the plaintiff has suffered because of their injuries. Plaintiffs may try to recover economic and non-economic losses making a claim for compensatory damages. The most common economic damages are lost wages and medical expenses. Whereas, the most common claim for non-economic damages is for losses related to disfigurement or scarring. Also, Indiana plaintiffs may try to recover damages related to mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and property damage.

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their behavior. Generally, punitive damages are only available in cases in which defendants engaged in fraud, willful negligence, malice, or egregious conduct. Punitive damages are intended to deter the defendant from participating in the same behavior. Indiana plaintiffs injured because of particularly egregious behavior may be entitled to punitive damages.

Earlier this month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a product liability case discussing whether the lower court properly prevented the plaintiff’s expert from testifying. While the case did not arise in Indiana, it raises important issues for Indiana personal injury victims regarding the use and selection of expert witnesses. Additionally, the case provides some guidance for Indiana litigants, in that Indiana is in the Seventh Circuit.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured at work while getting off a “car crushing” machine. Evidently, he slipped on a puddle of hydraulic fluid that had leaked from the machine. The plaintiff could not pursue a personal injury case against his employer due to the availability of workers’ compensation benefits. However, the plaintiff filed a claim against the manufacturer of the machine, as well as the company that leased the machine to the plaintiff’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the machine was defectively designed.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented a professor in mechanical engineering as an expert witness. The expert planned to testify that the machine should have had a ladder, toe boards, and a guardrail installed to make it safe for users. The expert presented a safer proposed design in theory, but did not offer any sketches or elaborate on the concept.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision in an Indiana product liability case discussing whether the manufacturer of a component part can be held liable for its failure to install what the plaintiff alleges is a necessary safety feature. The court concluded that this case was somewhat unique in that the component part at issue had only one final use, and because of that, the question of whether a duty existed should be resolved by a jury.

According to the court’s opinion, a semi-truck was backing up on a job site when it ran over a construction foreman. The foreman died as a result of his injuries. The foreman’s wife (“the plaintiff”) filed a wrongful death case against the defendant, under a theory of product liability.

The defendant manufactured the “glider kit,” which consists of the frame and body of the truck. To turn the glider kit into a completed semi-truck, the purchaser must install an engine, transmission, and exhaust system. The glider kit did not come with any back-up cameras or alarms. However, a purchaser could opt to add those items onto the kit at an additional cost.

Although the Indiana Department of Transportation (DOT) declined to install a traffic signal at an intersection, possibly playing a role in a fatal car accident that later occurred at the site, the state appellate court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the agency.

Ultimately, the court ruled, provisions of the Indiana Tort Claims Act shielded the government from civil liability.

That does not necessarily mean plaintiffs were without any options for recovering damages, but it does mean those damages will not come from the state government. This negligence and wrongful death lawsuit outcome illustrates the difficulties associated with holding government agencies accountable in injury litigation, as they enjoy a number of broad legal protections.

Plaintiffs Assert Negligent Road Design in Fatal Crash

The case was filed following a deadly summer 2014 crash in West Lafayette, at an intersection constructed as part of the state’s Major Moves project, an aggressive, decade-long plan to improve Indiana’s highway infrastructure. When the Indiana DOT (INDOT) began construction, both city and county officials requested a temporary traffic control signal. INDOT, however, declined, finding the intersection didn’t meet traffic volume requirements to justify a signal, but did install a stop sign for east-west drivers. Continue reading