Recently, an Indiana high appeals court issued an opinion hinging on the scope of governmental immunity. In this case, an accident victim tried to sue an Indiana state trooper after they were involved in an accident. The state trooper was not on duty when the accident occurred but was driving a state police-issued vehicle, commonly called a “commission.” As such, the state trooper argued that he was not liable under the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA). On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the office was personally responsible as his acts were “clearly outside the scope” of his employment.

Here, the state police issued the trooper his commission, which was subject to police standard operating procedures (SOP). The SOP provided guidelines for operating the vehicle when the vehicle was on or off-duty and during emergency and non-emergency situations. The SOP requires troopers to maintain radio contact even while off-duty, avoid violating traffic laws, unless necessary, and respond to emergency situations. Further, the SOP authorized troopers to use their commission, on a minimal basis, for their transportation.

On the day of the accident, the trooper completed his shift, went home to shower, and left in his commission to go to his son’s baseball game. While he was driving southbound to his son’s game, he attempted to pass the vehicle in front of him by crossing into the northbound lane. As he transitioned to the opposite lane, he saw a motorcycle approaching and quickly moved back into his lane. However, the motorcycle driver did not have enough time to slow down and ended up abruptly locking his brakes, which caused his vehicle to roll over and eject both he and his passenger. In response to the motorcyclist’s personal injury claim, the trooper argued that he was immune under the ITCA, because he was within the scope of his employment.

Individuals who suffer injuries in Indiana trucking accidents often face challenges determining the liable parties. Many people do not know that in addition to the negligent truck driver, there may be other individuals or entities who contributed to the accident and the victim’s injuries. Indiana trucking accident victims should seek damages from all potentially liable parties to ensure that they receive the maximum amount of compensation they deserve.

In commercial trucking accident lawsuits, defendants may include the truck driver, the trucking company, a business that commissioned the delivery, and anyone responsible for the truck’s parts or trailers. Truck drivers may be liable for their negligence in instances where they were speeding, distracted, fatigued, or otherwise operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner. Holding the trucking company and other related entities liable requires a thorough understanding of Indiana vicarious liability laws.

Vicarious liability is a type of secondary liability that imposes responsibility on the truck driver’s employer. The employer, frequently referred to as the principal, is liable for the negligence or actions of their employee, the agent. Trucking employers may be responsible if the employee was working under the employer’s direction, the employer possessed the authority to control the employee’s actions, and the employee’s behaviors occurred during the course and scope of employment.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), researches car and trucking accidents, compiles statistics, publishes findings, and provides the public with traffic safety resources. According to these agencies, the country has seen a steady increase in trucking accidents. These accidents can have severe and longstanding injuries for Indiana motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. Those that have suffered injuries in an Indiana trucking accident should understand the common causes of trucking accidents and who may be liable for their damages.

According to the FMCSA and NHTSA, most serious truck accidents include similar negligent behavior; however, many accidents have more than one contributing factor. The five most common reasons for truck accidents are driver fatigue, drug and alcohol use, driver error, speeding, and distraction.

Fatigue is the most common cause of Indiana trucking accidents because many truckers drive for many hours with limited rest. Truck drivers often suffer from fatigue because of their employer’s demand for, often unreasonable, fast delivery turnarounds in combination with trending consumer expectations. Many drivers turn to stimulants and other substances to meet these expectations and manage stress. However, the consequences of alcohol and drug use can be disastrous to other motorists. Further, many Indiana trucking companies fail to adequately train their drivers and teach them how to inspect and maintain their trucks. Untrained and inexperienced truck drivers operating large vehicles pose serious dangers to the public. Finally, distracted driving is a common cause of Indiana trucking accidents. These drivers often spend many long hours on the road, and they will often engage in risky behavior to take their mind off of driving and quell their boredom. Some drivers will look at their phones to visit social media or text their friends and family. Even some innocuous behaviors, such as reaching for something, can cause serious accidents.

Indiana train accidents are one of the most catastrophic types of accidents, typically resulting in serious bodily injury and property damage. After these accidents, injury victims and their families face the daunting challenge of recovering damages from the liable party. These cases pose challenges because there are typically many victims and several potentially responsible parties. These accidents frequently cause chain-reaction collisions, fatalities, injuries to passengers on board, and even passerby pedestrians.

Other than the number of injury victims and potentially liable parties, train accidents are similar to other personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. A lawsuit begins after an injury victim files a lawsuit with the court that holds jurisdiction over the accident. The defendant or their insurance company typically files a response, which includes any defenses they want to claim. The parties will then engage in pretrial motions, which include determining facts and other preliminary issues. If the case proceeds to trial, the judge or jury will determine liability and damages. Train passenger plaintiffs must understand that specific liability caps may limit their damages, and they should discuss their trial strategy with an Indiana train accident attorney.

Recently, a local Indiana news source reported on a fatal southern Indiana train crash. According to police reports, the collision occurred around 5 p.m. on a Saturday at a train intersection. Accident reconstructionists are still working on determining the exact circumstances surrounding the accident. However, reports indicate that the intersection only has two stop signs but no crossing arms. It is unclear how much time the train had to stop, but typically, trains of the size involved in the accident take a mile to come to a complete stop. Additionally, state police have not reported whether drugs or alcohol were involved, but they will likely request a toxicology report. According to the report, a high-school student who was a passenger in the car died at the scene of the accident. Another passenger in the vehicle was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Car accidents are tragic events, and can have severe, life-altering consequences for those involved, including permanent injury or death. Sometimes accidents occur even though no one was at fault—they are truly just accidents. However, more often than not, Indiana car accidents result from one driver’s negligence.

Negligent driving includes failing to follow traffic laws, distracted driving, driving over the speed limit, or driving while intoxicated. When someone is driving negligently and an accident occurs, Indiana state law allows the victim to recover against the at-fault driver through a civil suit. If successful, these suits can hold the negligent driver liable for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, as well as other expenses related to the accident.

For example, take a recent Indiana car accident that happened earlier this month. According to a local news report covering the story, the crash occurred in Cherry Tree, Indiana, late one Monday afternoon. A 32-year-old Cherry Tree woman was driving west in her SUV when she crashed into the driver’s side of a southbound pickup truck, driven by an 18-year-old Cherry Tree man, that had run a stop sign. The crash caused the truck to roll over onto its roof and hit a utility pole. One of the truck’s passengers, a 14-year-old boy, was tragically killed, and pronounced dead at the scene. At this time, details about the injuries of the others involved—including the two drivers and another passenger in the pickup—are unknown.

Each year, new technologies emerge in automobiles that are aimed at making drivers safer and preventing car and truck accidents. For example, cars may come with new high-tech safety features, such as forward collision or blind spot warnings, or automatic emergency braking. One very popular new feature is autopilot technology, which the car manufacturer Tesla is famous for developing. The autopilot feature allows the vehicle to steer, merge, accelerate, and brake automatically. However, drivers are still supposed to be actively supervising their vehicles while in self-driving mode, and they may be held liable through a car accident lawsuit if they are not.

A recent Indiana accident highlights the potentially large role that autopilot can play in civil lawsuits brought against negligent drivers. According to a local news report covering the accident, a Tesla car was traveling along I-70 on a Sunday morning when the driver failed to see a parked firetruck. The Tesla crashed into the rear of the firetruck, which was parked with its emergency lights activated, responding to another crash along the highway. The driver of the Tesla and his wife were seriously injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. The wife was tragically later pronounced dead at the hospital.

The driver of the Tesla told investigators that he regularly uses his vehicle’s autopilot mode but cannot remember whether or not he had it activated at the time of the accident. Investigators are working to find out whether autopilot was activated because that fact can change the liability analysis in this case.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, despite a slight decrease in Indiana traffic deaths from 2017 to 2018, there were still close to 900 traffic-related fatalities in the state. In addition to the high rate of fatalities, there was also a significant number of serious injuries caused by car accidents. Those who have been seriously injured in a car accident should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Experts agree that there are several leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in Indiana. The top three most common causes of accidents are unsafe driver actions, loss of control, and driver distraction. Unsafe driving accidents typically occur because one or more motorists dangerously operated their vehicle. Typical forms of unsafe driving are following too closely, failing to yield, unsafe reversing, improper turning, ignoring traffic signs, and improper passing.

Loss of control is another top cause of car accidents in Indiana. Loss of control can occur when a driver operates their vehicle at high speeds during inclement weather. For example, drivers should reduce their speed during snow and rain to ensure that they can effectively brake to avoid a collision. When drivers fail to modify their speed for traffic and weather conditions, accidents are more likely to occur.

When someone is injured in an Indiana accident, typically the first question asked is, “who’s fault was it?”Although sometimes there is clearly a responsible party, other accidents may be the result of the negligence of multiple people, including the individual who was injured. While, under Indiana law, an injured party is allowed to bring a negligence lawsuit against the person or persons who harmed them, plaintiffs should be aware that the defendants may try to pin some or most of the blame on them under Indiana’s Comparative Fault laws.

Under Indiana Comparative Fault law, if the defendant can convince the court that the plaintiff was partially responsible for some of their own injuries, the plaintiff’s award will be reduced by the amount he or she was at fault. However, if the defendant can convince the court that the plaintiff was 51% responsible or more, the plaintiff’s claim will actually be barred, and they might end up owing the defendant money.

For an example of the role of comparative fault in Indiana personal injury cases, take a recent 7th circuit medical malpractice case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff went to see the defendant, a nurse practitioner, after he failed a pre-employment physical exam due to high blood pressure. The defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with obesity and hypertension. She also gave him medication, but she did not explain to him his condition or the importance of taking the medicine and keeping regular appointments. Over the next five years, the plaintiff visited the defendant several times for care but would routinely go long periods without returning or taking his medicine.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducts research and create publications to provide the public with relevant crash statistics and data to prevent accidents and promote traffic safety. The agencies found that driver-related factors accounted for 87 percent of Indiana motor vehicle accidents and 96 percent of fatal accidents. According to the report, Indiana collisions have risen in the past four years, and fatal accidents have increased by 7.5 percent during that time.

Research indicates that unsafe driver actions are the leading cause of collisions in the state. Unsafe driver actions include behaviors such as following too closely, failure to give the right of way and speeding. After unsafe driver actions, a driver’s loss of control was the next most common cause of Indiana car accidents. Unsafe driving and loss of control often result in a disastrous head-on collisions.

Head-on collisions occur when two cars in opposite lanes crash into each other. These types of crashes are more likely to occur on undivided and rural roads in the state. Other common reasons for head-on collisions are fatigued and distracted driving. Often drowsy drivers will drift into the opposite lane and into oncoming traffic. Head-on collisions are the most dangerous type of accident, and victims may suffer brain and organ damage, broken bones, paralysis, significant emotional trauma, and even death.

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.