In this article, we'll look at a few key Indiana personal injury laws that may come into play during a personal injury lawsuit in state court, or during insurance settlement negotiations.
Each state sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court after an injury. In Indiana this time limit (known as the "statute of limitations") is two years. Usually, this two-year time limit starts running on the date of the accident. If you don't get your lawsuit filed before the two-year time limit passes, you're almost certain to lose your right to have the court hear your case, so it's important to make note of and comply with the law.
For injury claims against a city or county, you have 180 days to file a formal claim. For claims against a state government agency, you have 270 days to file a claim. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Indiana has a "comparative fault" rule for cases in which an injured person is found to be partly at fault for the accident or incident that led to his or her injuries. This rule works to reduce or even eliminate damages, depending on the amount of fault that is assigned to the injured person.
Indiana's comparative fault rule works like this: Suppose you're driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit, when another car turns left right in front of you. Eventually, it's determined that you share 20 percent of the fault for the accident, and the other driver bears 80 percent of the fault.
Under Indiana's comparative fault rule, your damages award will be reduced by 20 percent, or the amount of fault assigned to you. If your total damages in this example were $10,000, you would be able to collect the total minus $2,000, or $8,000. As long as your share of fault is under 50 percent, you will be able to collect damages. But if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, you cannot collect from any other at-fault party.
Indiana is a "fault" or "at-fault" state when it comes to auto accident claims. This means that a person injured in a car accident in Indiana has multiple options. He or she may choose to file a claim with their own insurance company, file a claim directly with another driver's insurance company (known as a "third-party claim"), or go to court to prove fault and seek damages.
When you're negotiating an insurance settlement, the threat of going to court can be a valuable bargaining chip, even if you never actually have to file a lawsuit. Whether to go to court first or contact insurance companies first is one thing to consider when deciding what to do after an Indiana auto accident.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Indiana however, a specific statute (Ind. Code 15-20-1-3) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
If a dog, without provocation, bites a person [who is acting peaceably and on public property, or legally on private property] the owner of the dog is liable for all damages suffered by the person bitten.
Damage caps in personal injury cases limit the amount of compensation an injured person can receive in certain instances. Each state has its own rules for damage caps. Some states have no caps, while others apply them only to certain cases (like medical malpractice) or to certain types of damages (like non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages).
As of 2012, Indiana capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $500,000 and damages paid by the government in any one accident at $5,000,000. However, the Indiana Supreme Court scheduled cases to consider the constitutionality of these caps for late 2012. If the court finds the caps unconstitutional, they may no longer apply, so stay tuned.