Defendants in a Munster wrongful death lawsuit are asking the Indiana Supreme Court to weigh in on whether a woman who drowned in the pastors’ pool was an independent contractor or an employee of the pastors or the church. The answer to that question matters because under Indiana’s Workers’ Compensation Law, workers’ compensation death benefits would be considered the exclusive remedy for an employee killed in the course and scope of employment. However, independent contractors in Indiana aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation, and they would thus have the right to file a lawsuit against the company. swimming pool

As our attorneys can explain, there are some key differences between the two types of cases. On the positive side, with workers’ compensation, one does not need to prove the defendant/employer did anything wrong (i.e., was negligent). It’s a no-fault system, and payments should be made as long as the injury or death arose out of and in the course of one’s employment. However, recipients of death benefits cannot pursue certain types of damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, or loss of consortium. Those damages are available in an Indiana wrongful death case.

Here, the plaintiff (the decedent’s mother) is asserting she was an independent contractor, and therefore the exclusive remedy provision of the law doesn’t apply, so she is free to pursue her claim in state court. The church is arguing she was an employee, and the exclusive remedy rule does apply, so the claim must be weighed by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board.

Justices for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion in an Indiana slip-and-fall lawsuit filed after a woman suffered an injurious fall at a pharmaceutical chain store. The court was asked to consider whether the lower court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The court affirmed, finding the plaintiff had failed to establish the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard in question. wet surface

As noted by the 1992 Indiana Court of Appeals ruling in Barsz v. Max Shapiro, Inc., allowing the existence of a hazardous substance on the floor of a business can be a breach of the duty to exercise reasonable care (an essential element in any personal injury lawsuit rooted in the legal theory of negligence). However, before liability can be imposed on the invitor/property owner in such a case, one must first establish the property owner/controller had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. Actual knowledge is established if the defendant was informed or knew about that particular hazard existing at that time and location. Another 1992 premises liability ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court, Wal Mart Stores, Inc. v. Blaylock, held that constructive knowledge can be established if the plaintiff can show the condition existed for such a length of time and under such circumstances that it would have been discovered in time to have prevented the injury if the storekeeper, its agents, or its employees had used ordinary care.

In the most recent case, the federal appeals court explained the facts of the case as follows. It was a cold day when the plaintiff arrived at a pharmacy store in Hebron, where a snowplow was just exiting the parking lot. She spent some time in the store and then was walking to the registers when she slipped and fell. She saw nothing on the floor that would have caused her fall. She simply felt her foot make contact with something wet, she slipped, and all her weight landed on her left knee before she fell backward onto her back. She suffered a broken kneecap and back injuries.  Continue reading

The pre-existing obesity and smoking habits of an Indiana pizzeria employee injured at work didn’t prevent the worker’s ability to receive temporary total disability benefits when the employer failed to produce evidence showing the weight problem or other issues impaired his health or required medical intervention prior to the workplace injury. restaurant This was supported by a 2009 ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals that highlighted a common tactic by employers and workers’ compensation insurers following a workplace accident resulting in injury or illness. It involves turning it all around on the worker, making it seem as if his or her own “poor choices” or habits were in fact the catalyst for the worker’s health problems. It’s an approach designed to eliminate or minimize the insurer’s liability for the worker’s injury – even when there is no question a work accident happened and resulted in injuries.

Injuries are common among restaurant cooks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are approximately 26,500 restaurant cooks in Indiana, with injuries regularly reported, including:

  • Slips, trips, and falls;
  • Burns;
  • Cuts;
  • Exposure to chemicals;
  • Assault (due to basic lack of security);
  • Ergonomic hazards.

But that list isn’t exhaustive. In this Indiana workers’ compensation case, the claimant was employed as a cook at the defendant restaurant when he was accidentally struck in the back by a freezer door. As a result of this incident, he suffered a lower back injury. The injury was immediately reported, and the cook was sent for medical treatment. At the time of this incident, the 25-year-old plaintiff was six feet tall, weighed about 340 pounds, and smoked roughly 30 cigarettes daily.  Continue reading

Most motorcyclists have a checklist they go through every time they head out. Pre-ride inspections usually involve making sure the bike is generally in good working order, the portable GPS is queued up, and they have all of the proper gear, such as helmets and extra gloves. There is often a double-check of road conditions and weather reports. It typically doesn’t involve a check of the lunar calendar. Maybe it should, since it might affect the chance of an Indiana motorcycle accident.full moon

A new study published in the journal The BMJ (a weekly, peer-reviewed medical journal) concluded fatal crashes are more likely under a full moon. Why might this be?

Police, emergency room workers, and others routinely working night shifts often lament the “full moon madness,” insisting it is a real issue, and every time the moon was full, emergency departments and booking stations would be packed. But there hasn’t been a lot of independent data to back that. A 2011 study published in the World Journal of Surgery found that while 40 percent of staff believed lunar phases affect human behavior, most research found no solid correlation. Continue reading

Motorcycle crashes in Indiana and beyond are associated with high levels of injuries and fatalities for both passengers and drivers. There are more than 8 million motorcycles on U.S. roads, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the proportion of fatalities attributed to motorcycles, as opposed to other passenger vehicles, has increased (with motorcycle deaths occurring 28 times more frequently than passenger car occupant deaths).motorcycle

Examining ways to prevent Indiana motorcycle accidents – especially the worst of them – is important not just to the public health, but also to the economy. Recently, physician researchers with Indiana University School of Medicine conducted a study revealing some troubling news with regard to a specific danger for which motorcycle passengers are at great risk:  traumatic brain injuries.

The analysis examined three years of data from the National Trauma Bank, with researchers identifying more than 85,000 motorcycle accident trauma patients and separating them into groups of operators and passengers. For both, traumatic brain injuries were the most frequent injury among those who were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. However, motorcycle passengers had “significantly” higher rates of injury and also lower helmet use compliance. The study is reportedly the first of its kind to examine the benefits of helmet use for motorcycle drivers compared to passengers.

An Indiana nursing home neglect lawsuit alleges the facility responsible for a 75-year-old amputee resident’s care failed in its duty, resulting in her death as a result of a fall in the shower. shower

According to CNHI News Indiana, the resident, who had one leg, was taken to the shower by a staff member in March 2017 and left to stand on her single leg with no assistance. Nursing home staffers reportedly found her some time later on the shower floor, her leg twisted and in agony. She was diagnosed with a displaced spiral fracture of the femur, although initially, staffers decided to place her back into bed before calling 911. Her family alleges the staffers told dispatchers they did not witness the fall, but they later filed false documentation indicating they had seen the fall, which occurred because she let go of her wheelchair. She underwent surgery two days later, remained in a debilitated state for months, and then died in June 2017. That incident reportedly marked her 16th fall at the facility since she entered it two years earlier. A wrongful death lawsuit alleges her passing was a direct and proximate result of nursing home staffers’ actions and inaction, and further that state health department citations for violations of federal quality-of-care regulations are evidence of callous disregard for patient rights, safety, welfare, and dignity.

Indiana nursing home falls are a serious problem affecting elderly and disabled residents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1,800 older adults in nursing homes die annually from fall-related injuries. Those who do survive often suffer hip fractures and head injuries that lead to serious and permanent disabilities.

Work injuries in Indiana occur at a rate of 3.5 per 100 full-time workers. The good news is that’s the lowest it’s been in decades, and a decrease of nearly 70 percent since 1992. The bad news is that still amounts to more than 84,000 Hoosier workers suffering an OSHA-recordable injury or illness each year, according to the Indiana Department of Laborconstruction worker

These injuries are often serious, with nearly half resulting in one or more days away from work or requiring a job transfer or restriction. The most dangerous jobs in Indiana, according to these numbers, are in the sectors of:

  • Transportation and warehousing

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed a $9 million verdict – including compensatory and punitive damages – in favor of a motorcycle accident victim who was severely injured after a collision with a pickup truck in Schererville, about 20 to 30 minutes south of Gary, Hammond, and Highland. motorcycle accident

In a unanimous decision, the court decided to affirm the damages award, which was $9.1 million in compensatory damages and $30,000 in punitive damages, for which the defendant pickup truck driver was 100 percent responsible.

The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in giving an erroneous jury instruction, but the appellate court found no evidence the jury instruction incorrectly stated the law, wasn’t supported by the evidence, or was covered in substance by other instructions. The court also could find no evidence the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the jury instruction, meaning the verdict and the damages award were affirmed.

There were 223,733 car accidents in Indiana in all of 2016, according to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, of which 769 were fatal and nearly 53,000 involved serious personal injuries. Northern Indiana auto accident lawyers know the immediate aftermath of a crash can be, if nothing else, a bit chaotic and confusing. Obviously, if you are seriously hurt, your No. 1 priority is seeking prompt medical attention. Even if you don’t feel you have suffered major trauma, bear in mind injuries can be exacerbated when they aren’t treated right away.car accident

Beyond that, there are a number of steps crash victims need to take in order to not only preserve their health but also preserve their rights and possible future civil claim. Indiana is a “fault” state when it comes to crashes, meaning you don’t have to recover personal injury protection benefits or meet a serious injury threshold before you can pursue damages against the at-fault driver. (This differs from the regulations in many no-fault auto accident states.)

Following these steps will help ensure you have evidence to substantiate your grounds for damages.

A man who was rendered quadriplegic in an Indiana drunk driving accident several years ago was awarded $35 million by a jury in Marion County recently, according to The Indiana Lawyer. However, the most he would be able to collect, following a finding of 40 percent comparative fault on his part, is $21 million. This sounds like a lot, but it’s only going to be enough to cover his around-the-clock care provided by his parents, doctors, nurses, and home health providers. Furthermore, he still faces a battle over whether the auto insurer will even be compelled to pay, since the defendant insurer in a separate case argues the coverage did not extend to the plaintiff as a passenger of his own vehicle. beer glass

There is a lot to unpack in this case, so let our injury attorneys start with what reportedly happened on the night in question. The two men were reportedly at a bar in Marion County, with the plaintiff’s truck parked outside. That truck was insured by Progressive. The two men consumed alcohol, and it is undisputed that both were impaired when they chose to leave the bar. A bartender at the establishment called a taxi company to give the pair a ride. However, as that taxi driver pulled into the parking lot, the two men opted to drive themselves home, with the plaintiff handing over the keys to his truck to his friend. (Although Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15.5, the state’s dram shop law, allows for bars and other establishments to be held liable for drunk driving injuries to third parties, the bartender’s effort to have a taxi driver take them home significantly limited the site’s liability, although it was later deemed five percent at fault.)

The driver crashed before the men reached their destination, rendering the passenger/vehicle owner paralyzed from the neck down. Although the defendant driver had initially argued he was not behind the wheel, security footage at a facility near the crash site proved otherwise, since he was seen exiting the driver seat.