In a workplace injury lawsuit relevant to future Indiana work injury claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a company responsible for equipment maintenance could not be held liable for a forklift injury resulting from failure to warn an employer about the risk of not installing an alarm. There was no question the forklift wasn’t designed, manufactured or shipped to the original purchaser with a backup alarm. Further, as of the date of the accident (in mid-2013) there was no regulation that required the equipment to have one. Defendant did service the forklift several times prior to an accident (during which the heavy machinery rolled over a worker’s foot). The most recent had been just a few months prior. The technician couldn’t recall if the forklift had a backup alarm, but if it did, he didn’t make note of it in his report.

After the accident, the injured worker’s employer asked another company to install a backup alarm. That company’s technician affirmed there was no alarm already on it.

Although workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy a worker has for an Indiana work injury (same goes for workers in Illinois, where this accident occurred), what is allowed is third-party liability. As Munster work injury attorneys can explain, this means that if a third-party – someone other than an employer or co-worker – was responsible for causing an injury that occurred in the course and scope of  employment, that party can be held liable for negligence. Workers aren’t compensated twice, but a third-party negligence claim may entitle injured workers to collect more than they would otherwise be able to collect from workers’ compensation (which is generally limited to a portion of lost wages and medical bills).

An Indiana truck insurer will not be liable for a crash caused by the insured’s unforeseeable actions of knowingly driving an overloaded semi-truck without properly functioning brakes. A split Indiana Supreme Court voted 3-2 to allow the Indiana Court of Appeals’ ruling in ONB Insurance Group Inc. et al v. Amy Jones et al to stand.

The truck accident in question killed three people – a husband-and-wife and their granddaughter. Representatives of the estates of each pursued insurance coverage for negligence of the driver/owner of the truck. There were two insurance companies in question: One the company providing coverage and the other an independent insurance broker who seeks insurance quotes from multiple brokers and insurers. The broker was not an original party to the lawsuit.

The insurer filed a third-party claim against the broker, alleging the broker conspired with the trucking company owner to induce its firm to issue a commercial vehicle liability policy. That claim failed as a matter of law when the trial court awarded summary judgment. Claims subsequently filed by plaintiffs against the broker were given permission to proceed by the trial judge. But the appellate court later reversed, concluding the driver’s unlawful acts weren’t foreseeable by the broker (in light of the 2016 Indiana Supreme Court decision in Goodwin et al v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar and Grill, which created a separate test for “duty of care” by defendants compared to “proximate cause” of the injury). That is the decision the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed.

Arguably the biggest Indiana transportation safety story of 2018 was the sudden appearance, abrupt disappearance and then regulated reappearance of dockless electric scooters on city streets in Bloomington and Indianapolis. The summer deluges of shared electric scooters and electric bicycles in fact swept the country – 50 cities coast-to-coast, Boston to Loss Angeles, perpetuated mostly by Lime and Bird (both of which also have dockless bike share companies around the country). Unlike dockless bicycling, however, electric scooters have been associated with numerous crashes and serious injuries in almost every city since they first arrived. As we wrote in our blog a few months ago, emergency room doctors have reported a spate of electric scooter riders suffering broken noses, shoulders, wrists, facial fractures and lacerations, and traumatic brain injuries – the types of injury one more closely associates with a car accident.

Some of the biggest problems involved the fact that no one seemed quite sure where they fit into the grand scheme. E-scooter operators are mostly novices and have been confused as well, riding on sidewalks while others use regular lanes of traffic. Scooters left haphazardly on sidewalks, driveways and curbs have created hazards too.

Although our Northwest Indiana injury lawyers initially believed it would be some time before we saw the dockless e-scooters zooming past our law offices in Gary, Highland, Munster and Hammond, it’s possible suburbs directly connected to larger cities will see them soon, thanks to proximity to larger nearby metropolitan areas. However, riding them on the street may not be legal in your city if there is no ordinance designating rules for riding and no formal agreement with the scooter company owner.

An insurance company providing Indiana medical malpractice coverage to a doctor, nurse, hospital or other health care provider in Indiana owes its clients a duty of care to carefully consider any injury or wrongful death claim and act in good faith to reach a fair resolution. If the insurer has exclusive control in settlement negotiations, then rejects a claimant’s reasonable offer to settle the case within policy limits prior to or even during trial, the insurer can be responsible for a verdict in excess of policy limits.

As experienced Highland medical malpractice attorneys can explain, Indiana law has been written and interpreted this way to compel insurers to treat medical malpractice claimants fairly. Think about it: If the worst that could happen at trial for a medical malpractice insurer is that they’d have to pay the policy limits, what incentive would there be for them to settle for that amount – even if a person’s losses were obviously far in excess of that, before the case goes to trial? It would cost them the same either way.

Per the 1972 Indiana Court of Appeals decision in Bennett v. Slater, an insurer is liable to its insured for a judgment exceeding policy limits when the insurer had exclusive control of defending/settlement and doesn’t settle within the policy limits because of bad faith or negligence.

A verdict of more than $1 million in favor of an Indiana car accident victim was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found reasonable basis for this compensation, even though the rear-end collision was low-speed and caused only minor damage to the vehicle. Highland car accident attorneys point to the outcome of this case as an example of the fact that an Indiana auto accident need not be severe or result in horrific crash scene photos in order to result in serious injuries. So long as your injury lawyer can prove the damages you suffered were result of the collision, compensation should be made available from the at-fault driver.

Possible losses may include past and future medical bills, past and future wage losses and lost earning capacity, emotional anguish, loss of life enjoyment and loss of consortium. To pursue a comprehensive damage claim is not excessive; those are real losses, and you should not be the one to bear them without compensation if they were the result of someone else’s negligence.

According to court records in Tunstall v. Manning, the 31-year-old plaintiff was stopped at a stop sign preparing to turn right out of her apartment complex in Indianapolis when the defendant approached from behind, failing to realize plaintiff was still at the intersection. Defendant hit her brakes and swerved just before colliding with plaintiff, striking the rear left corner bumper, and pushing plaintiff’s vehicle onto the road. Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic. After moving her vehicle out of traffic, plaintiff called 911 and then her mother. While at the scene, plaintiff experienced a headache and neck pain. She refused an ambulance but had a friend take her to the emergency room for treatment of whiplash. Continue reading

A severe brain injury stemming from a car accident in Hammond, Indiana two years ago is the basis of a personal injury lawsuit filed against the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and its deputy after the law enforcement officer allegedly ran a red light and t-boned another driver. NWItimes.com reports the officer told the investigating agency, a local police department, that he’d been “in the process of” turning on his sirens and emergency lights in order to initiate a stop on a suspected drunk driver at the intersection of Gostlin Street and Columbia Avenue in the Irving neighborhood when the collision occurred.

As our Hammond car accident lawyers understand it, the plaintiff alleges that the officer disregarded the red traffic signal, traveled at high speeds and did not act with reasonable care by failing to turn on his siren or emergency lights to alert other motorists. The officer did not maintain a proper lookout or press the brakes before proceeding through the intersection, the plaintiff alleges. The cruiser struck plaintiff’s pickup truck, which then overturned several times.

The plaintiff suffered numerous injuries, including a traumatic brain injury that is irreversible and which impairs his physical activity, and causes him pain and mental suffering and loss of life enjoyment. Adding to defendant’s alleged culpability, the plaintiff points to the department having a higher-than-average number of collisions involving deputies in pursuit, and the department’s continued lack of training and supervision despite this knowledge. The plaintiff’s injury lawyer also raised the issue of the sheriff’s office demanding to take over investigation of the crash from the Hammond Police Department, despite (at the least) a clear appearance of bias. Police officers did indicate the cause of the crash was apparently the deputy’s failure to yield and traveling at unsafe speeds, though the officer was not cited.  Continue reading

Indiana work injuries have been on the decline in recent decades, with roughly 60 percent fewer non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported statewide since 1992. Still, a recent annual report by the Indiana Department of Labor reveals there were still 84,300 reported work injuries in Indiana, with nearly half requiring one or more days away from work or days with job transfer or restriction.

If you are an employee injured at work, your exclusive remedy against your employer is usually workers’ compensation, outlined in IC  22-3-2 through IC 22-2-6, which gives you just 30 days to submit notice to your employer and 2 years in which to formally file a claim for benefits. This assumes, of course, that you are actually an employee and not an independent contractor (a designation on which your employer doesn’t have the last say and which is often legally disputed). It also assumes your injury occurred in the course of and arose out of the scope of your employment. Workers’ compensation is meant to cover all related and reasonable medical expenses, a portion of lost wages, funeral expenses and other benefits, depending on the circumstances. However, securing full benefits to which you are entitled is often a challenge. In some cases, workers may have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit for third-party liability if someone other than an employer or coworker was at-fault. An experienced work injury lawyer in Gary can best help protect your rights following a serious on-the-job injury.

The Indiana Department of Labor reports the most hazardous industries in the state for work injuries include agriculture and forestry, healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, waste management, transportation and warehousing, arts/recreation/entertainment, accommodation and food service.  Continue reading

A jury verdict of $21 million that was awarded to an Indiana drunk driving injury plaintiff, who is quadriplegic as a result of the collision, has been affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which refused defendants’ request for a new trial. It is one of the largest personal injury damage awards in history. The original award, $35 million, was reduced upon a finding of comparative fault by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff and defendant worked together at a local restaurant chain and frequently drank together, which is what they did after work one night in February 2016. The two became so impaired that an employee asked plaintiff to leave, and the two exited together. The employee called a taxi for the pair. But as the taxi pulled in, the pair exited the parking lot, defendant at the wheel of his pickup truck, plaintiff in the passenger seat. Minutes later, defendant crashed into a tree, the impact breaking plaintiff’s neck, rendering him quadriplegic, with no sensation or control from the neck down. Defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.208 an hour after the crash.

Drunk driving injury lawsuits bring to the forefront a sobering reality with which our Munster injury attorneys are all too familiar. Here in Lake County, Indiana, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute reports there were 345 alcohol-impaired collisions in 2016, roughly 2 percent of the total but accounting for a disproportionate percentage of fatal crashes (10 percent) and injurious crashes (4 percent) . Statewide, the Indiana University Public Policy Institute reveals 83 crash deaths in 2016 involved a driver who was illegally impaired by alcohol (down from 177 in 2012). Alcohol was more likely a factor in single-vehicle crashes than multiple-vehicle collisions, and impairment rates were highest among drivers of pickup trucks. Continue reading

Indiana work injury claims are typically resolved through an employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. It’s only with disputed work injury claims that the potential need for litigation arises. There is an Informal Dispute Resolution process, and those not resolved through that can only move forward if an injured worker files an SF29109 form, at which time the case is assigned to a hearing member for the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Board. If either side disagrees with that decision, an appeal can be made to the full workers’ compensation board panel, then to the Indiana Court of Appeals and lastly to the Indiana Supreme Court. With an experienced Highland work injury lawyer focusing on your case, it may not be necessary to press it that far, but you need to know your attorney will fight for your best interests and refuse to settle if you aren’t getting fair treatment.

It is worth noting too that while workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy available for an injured employee against the employer, separate third-party claims can be asserted against non-employer defendants alleged to have been negligent in causing the accident/injury.

Still, not all workers are treated exactly the same under federal or state law. Indiana railroad workers are among them. When one of Indiana’s hundreds of railroad employees suffers a work-related injury, they must recover for injuries under the Federal Employer Liabilities Act, or FELA, as outlined in 45 U.S.C. 51, liability of common carriers by railroad for injuries to employees from negligence. Continue reading

Millions of people are injured in U.S. car accidents annually. Roughly 30,000 die. Road rage injuries and deaths can be included in those figures, but not always. If a person is rear-ended by an aggressive driver following too closely, failing to yield or traveling too fast for road conditions (as spelled out in Title 9 of Indiana Code on motor vehicles), such instances would be included in crash statistics. However, incidents involving person-on-person violence stemming from road rage likely would not. For Highland personal injury attorneys, that difference is also instructive when determining a road rage victim’s legal options. That’s because while accidents are covered by Indiana auto insurers, intentional acts of violence generally are not, and are usually expressly excluded in the policy language.

That does not mean violent road rage incidents are not actionable and compensable, but your injury lawyer will have to carefully examine the facts of the case to identify defendants, determine theories of liability and find out whether there is a means to actually collect on whatever damages may be won.

Indiana Worst for Road Rage Fatal Injuries

Indiana was recently ranked the worst state for road rage by the Auto Insurance Center, which determined 10 percent of fatal crashes in Indiana between 2005 and 2015 involved road rage and aggressive driving. Troopers say drivers who commit road rage are either ignorant of the law or do not care. Even those in marked patrol cars say they have been targeted by road rage.  Continue reading