Indiana businesses may want to take note and review their customer safety and security policies and procedures given a recent appellate court ruling which affirmed a bar owner’s legal duty to be proactive in protecting patrons after a customer was seriously injured in a brawl.

Civil cases like this fall under the umbrella of premises liability. Assuming a person is not trespassing and has a right or invitation to be there (paying customers especially), those who own/control property generally have a duty to exercise reasonable care to shield against known or foreseeable hazards. Whether a property owner can be held liable in these situations varies greatly depending on a host of factors, chief among them whether there is a prior history of dangerous incidents that effectively places the business on notice that more stringent safety measures are needed. The big questions are usually: what constitutes “reasonable” and “foreseeable”, especially when an incident involves a criminal attack by a third-party.

In a recent decision, the main point of contention before the Indiana Court of Appeals was whether the bar owed any duty at all to a patron, given that the fight that resulted in serious injury occurred in the parking lot after closing.

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.
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All drivers in the State of Indiana are required to purchase some combination of auto insurance as set by state lawmakers, currently a minimum of 25/50/10 ($25,000 per person/$50,000 per crash bodily injury liability and $10,000 for property damage). That 25/50 coverage isn’t for the policy holder. It’s to cover damages caused by the insured’s negligence (because Indiana is an at-fault and not a no-fault state). And although Indiana doesn’t require drivers to buy UIM crash insurance (underinsured motorist coverage) in case an at-fault driver’s policy isn’t sufficient to cover the damages, IN Code 27-7-5-2 does mandate that auto insurers offer every policy standard with it and insured must sign a written waiver to decline. Munster car accident attorneys know the law is also clear that UIM limits are never to exceed the limit of bodily injury liability coverage.

A question recently before the Indiana Court of Appeals was whether a UIM insurer was legally barred for selling a policy with UIM coverage in amounts less than bodily injury liability coverage. Could a policy be invalidated on that basis?

The court answered no in Troy Lee v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Companydisagreeing with the plaintiff truck driver who was injured in an on-the-job crash that the amounts had to be the same. Continue reading

When our Indiana personal injury lawyers first read the headline referencing a “food truck” and an “explosion,” we assumed the latter was a figure of speech intended to punch up a story on the proliferation of the increasingly popular mobile cuisine, which took off around 2007 amid the economic recession. The industry grew 9 percent annually between 2010 and 2015. Unfortunately, the headline was referring to an actual explosion involving a food truck in June 2015 as it was stationed in the parking lot of an auto salvage yard in Indianapolis, where customers – including plaintiff – were being served.

The case history here is extensive, but the crux of the Indiana Court of Appeals’ decision in the defendants’ favor was that plaintiffs failed to prove defendant property owner could have reasonably foreseen the possibility of a food truck blowing up on-site. At first glance, that seems a reasonable position. However, it turns out there have been a number of serious – and even deadly – food truck explosions across the U.S. in recent years.

In June 2014 – a year almost to the day of the Indiana food truck explosion – a propane tank on a food truck in Philadelphia exploded while customers were being served. Local news reports indicated that the force of the blast sent the metal tank 50 feet into a nearby backyard and flames shooting up 200 feet into the air. As a result of that incident, a 42-year-old woman and her 17-year-old daughter who were inside the truck, were killed after suffering major burns across much of their bodies. Three bystanders – including a little girl – also sustained serious burns and others were hit by debris. An investigation later revealed the 70-year-old propane tank was improperly filled, resulting in a gas leak and ultimately the explosion. 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.”

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