The Personal Injury Process in Indiana
The Personal Injury Process in Indiana
No one expects to be involved in a serious, life-changing accident. However, the fact remains that thousands of people each year suffer major injuries as a result of another’s negligence. And while many people are familiar with the concept of what a personal injury case is, most have at least a few unanswered questions that may prevent them from pursuing a claim. At the Tabor Law Firm, our dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined experience handling all types of injury and wrongful death claims. We’ve put together an overview of the personal injury process in Indiana for accident victims and their family members who are interested in learning more. Additionally, our lawyers are immediately available to answer any other questions you may have about your rights, what you could potentially recover, and how to go about successfully bringing a case against those responsible for your injuries.
What is a Personal Injury Case?
The first thing to understand about Indiana personal injury cases is that these claims are designed to compensate accident victims for the economic and non-economic damages they experienced as a result of an accident caused by another’s negligence. After an accident, police officers or some other investigative agency may respond to the scene. However, these agencies are typically reviewing the facts to determine if anyone committed a crime or, in the case of workplace accidents, a violation of a rule or regulation. However, the outcome of a law enforcement investigation is not very relevant to accident victims because, even if the state brings criminal charges, the purpose of these cases is to punish the wrongdoer—not to compensate the victim.
Personal injury cases are different. The sole purpose of an injury lawsuit is to provide accident victims with meaningful compensation for what they’ve been through. And, because criminal cases and civil cases are held to different standards, for accident victims, it doesn’t matter if the at-fault party is found not guilty—or even if they are not even criminally charged—they can still bring a case.
What Are the Types of Personal Injury Cases in Indiana?
Anyone who was injured as a result of another’s negligence can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. There are dozens of different types of personal injury claims, the most common of which include:
- Aviation Accidents
- Bicycle Injuries
- Brain Injuries
- Bus Accidents
- Car Accidents
- Catastrophic Injuries
- Child Injuries
- Construction Site Injuries
- Dog Bites
- Electrocutions And Burns
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Negligent Security
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Premises Liability
- Semi-Truck Accidents
- Slip And Fall Accidents
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Train Accidents
- Work Injuries
For example, according to the most recent data from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, there were more than 46,300 people who suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident, and another 800 who were killed in an accident. Of these fatalities, 109 were the result of drunk driving, which makes up about 13% of all traffic fatalities. And approximately half of all Indiana car accidents involve speeding, which also resulted in 188 motorist fatalities.
As a general rule, most of these cases all fall under the umbrella of “negligence.” In this context, negligence is a legal term with a very specific definition.
What Must Accident Victims Prove to Win a Personal Injury Case?
With a few exceptions, most types of Indiana personal injury cases require that an accident victim prove that the at-fault party was negligent. In Indiana, the traditional negligence analysis has four elements:
- Duty – The accident victim must establish that the other party owed them a duty of care.
- Breach – The accident victim must prove that the other party violated or breached the duty of care that was owed to them. This requires presenting evidence that the other party failed to meet the standard of care required in that specific situation.
- Causation – The accident victim must show that their injuries were caused by the other party’s breach of the duty owed to the victim.
- Damages – The accident victim must present evidence showing that they suffered economic and/or non-economic damages as a result of the other party’s negligent conduct.
As noted above, however, there are a few types of personal injury cases that don’t necessarily involve negligence. For example, most product liability cases are brought under the theory of strict liability. This theory provides that manufacturers of products are liable for any injuries caused by their dangerous or defective products.
Can Accident Victims Still Bring a Case if They Were Partially Responsible for Their Injuries?
Yes, under Indiana’s modified comparative fault system, accident victims can still file a personal injury claim against an at-fault driver if they were partially responsible for their own injuries. However, if an accident victim is more than 51 percent at fault, they will be precluded from recovery at all. Additionally, the court will reduce a victim’s damages award by their own percentage of fault.
How do Personal Injury Cases Work?
While personal injury cases are all unique, depending on the type of accident, the extent of a victim’s injuries, and how the at-fault party responds to the victim’s request for damages, they typically follow a similar path.
- 1.) An Accident Occurs
A personal injury case starts with an accident. It may be a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall, a dog bite, or anything in between.
- 2.) The Victim Reports the Accident and Receives Medical Care
After the accident, and well before lawyers ever get involved in a case, the next step is for the victim to report the accident, usually by calling 911. Reporting an accident is of critical importance because it creates a record of the incident, making it harder for anyone to deny that an accident occurred in the future. After a victim reports an accident, emergency medical responders may be sent out to the scene. While most accident victims tend to try and avoid an ambulance ride, taking responders up on their offer can actually help a victim’s case because it illustrates the seriousness of the accident. However, accident victims who did not go to the hospital immediately after the incident should get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Again, this is both to ensure that they receive an accurate diagnosis of any injuries and also to create a verifiable record of their injuries.
- 3.) The Victim Meets with a Lawyer to Discuss Their Case
Once an accident victim is on the road to recovery, they will often consult with an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney for guidance on how to proceed with their case. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to all accident victims, during which they will explain the process in greater detail, provide the victim with an honest assessment of their claim, and discuss what they can do to help connect them with compensation for their injuries.
- 4.) The Lawyer Begins the Negotiation Process
The vast majority of all Indiana personal injury cases—upwards of 90 percent—are resolved through the negotiation process. Thus, this is a critical stage in any personal injury case. Negotiations can begin in a number of ways but usually start with what’s called a demand letter. A demand letter is a document drafted by an attorney outlining what happened to the victim, why the other party was at fault, and what the victim is demanding in terms of compensation.
Demand letters—and most negotiations—occur between a personal injury lawyer and the at-fault party’s insurance company. This is because, while the at-fault party was the one who caused the accident, their insurance company is the one who is ultimately responsible for paying out any damages awarded to the victim. The involvement of an insurance company is good in some ways because it ensures that there are adequate resources to fairly compensate accident victims for what they’ve been through. However, at the same time, insurance companies employ teams of lawyers whose job is to reduce the amount of money the insurance company needs to pay out.
- 5.) Settlement (if There is an Agreement)
A lawyer must convey any settlement offer made by the insurance company to their client. The lawyer will discuss the offer with their client, providing the client with their honest opinion on whether the offer is fair. Ultimately, it is up to the accident victim to accept or reject the offer, but most victims find the advice of their attorney very helpful in this process. In many cases, an attorney may recommend returning to the insurance company with a counteroffer, marking another stage of negotiations. If, at the end of the negotiations, the parties agree, the case will settle. When a case settles, the victim agrees not to pursue the claim in exchange for the settlement amount. This marks the end of the case.
- 6.) The Case Goes to Trial (if There is No Agreement)
In the event that the insurance company is unwilling to make a fair settlement offer or doesn’t make one at all, the victim’s personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit in court. The purpose of this lawsuit is to compel the insurance company to pay the victim the damages they are entitled to. Typically, cases that go to trial take significantly longer to resolve than those that settle. However, successful victims, on average, receive greater damages awards if they take a case to trial. This is part of the trade-off when considering an insurance company’s settlement offer.
Do You Have Additional Questions About the Personal Injury Process in Indiana?
If you or a loved one was recently injured in an accident and want to learn more about your options, reach out to the dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the Tabor Law Firm. Since 1970, the Tabor Law Firm has been aggressively and strategically advocating on behalf of accident victims in all types of personal injury cases, recovering millions of dollars on behalf of our clients and their families. We understand the stress that an accident can have on your life and will do everything possible to make the recovery process as easy on you as possible while maximizing your recovery amount. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give the Tabor Law Firm a call at 317-236-9000. You can also connect with our Indianapolis personal injury lawyers through our secure online contact form.
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