Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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.

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.

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

A woman injured in an alleged Indiana drunk driving accident this month won her appeal seeking pursuit of punitive damages against the defendant. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant. The ruling is a victory for victims of Indiana drunk drivers in once again affirming the well-established view of courts in Indiana (going at least as far back as the Indiana Supreme Court’s 1985 ruling in Williams v. Crist) about the egregious wrong one does in taking the wheel while drunk. In that case nearly 35 years ago, the state high court held unequivocally: A person guilty of impaired driving is automatically guilty of the “willful and wanton misconduct” requirement necessary to to seek punitive damages in an Indiana injury lawsuit.

Why Punitive Damages in Indiana Drunk Driving Claims Matter

If you suffer injury and/or other losses because of somebody else’s negligence, there are two general kinds of damages you can pursue. The first, compensatory damages, applies in every case and the goal is monetary compensation that aims to “make the plaintiff whole.”

Of course, our Munster drunk driving injury lawyers know that there really is nothing – no amount of money – that can achieve that goal. There is absolutely no price tag on catastrophic injuries or death, and those affected would give back every dime if it meant they could regain what they lost. Still, the goal of compensatory damages is all about what a plaintiff has lost and what can be offered to help them heal to the fullest extent possible. The amount is supposed to be calculated in a way that equitably compensates a person, sometimes dollar-for-dollar (i.e., medical bills), but other times for intangible losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Continue reading

The Indiana Court of Appeals this month rejected an argument by an auto insurer that it should not be required to cover bodily injury damages caused by its insured because a policy exclusion barred him from coverage if he drove with a suspended license. As long-time Indiana car accident attorneys in Gary, we know well the ways in which auto insurance companies will seek to deny coverage. Exclusions drafted into auto insurance policies are the basis for many insurance claim denials. However, as our injury lawyers often explain, an insurance company denial is not the last word. With the help of a dedicated personal injury attorney, auto insurance denials can often be successfully challenged.

According to court records in the recent case, the insured/at-fault driver in this matter lost control of his vehicle and slammed into the side of the residence, resulting in both bodily injury and property damage for himself as well as the occupants of the dwelling.

Although the driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, his vehicle was insured by a policy he obtained months earlier. However, an exclusion contained in that policy stated: “We do not provide liability coverage for any ‘insured’ using a vehicle without reasonable belief that ‘insured’ is entitled to do so. This exclusion … does not apply to a family member using your covered auto, which is owned by you.”

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

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