You've been injured in Indiana and you're thinking about filing a personal injury (PI) claim or lawsuit. But like most people, you don't know much about the laws and rules that are likely to control your case. We'll walk you through the basics.
If you drive or register a car in Indiana, you're required to have auto insurance. Let's find out what coverages Indiana law requires and how to recover for your injuries after a wreck that's someone else's fault.
Like most states, Indiana has adopted what's known as a fault-based motor vehicle insurance system. Drivers must buy at least the state-mandated minimum liability insurance coverage (see below) and are legally responsible for injuries they cause while driving.
Let's say you're hurt by a negligent (careless) Indiana driver. Under Indiana law, you can bring an auto insurance claim or a lawsuit to collect compensation (what the law calls "damages") from that driver. If your claim or suit succeeds, you can collect damages for the full range of your personal injuries, including your medical bills, lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and more.
Like every state, Indiana requires drivers to meet minimum financial responsibility requirements. Here are some of the basic Indiana motor vehicle insurance law requirements.
To drive or register a motor vehicle in Indiana, (Ind. Code § 9-25-4-1(b) (2023)), you must meet these minimum financial responsibility requirements:
If you're an uninsured Indiana driver with a history of driving without insurance and you're injured in a wreck, you might be penalized by Indiana's "no pay, no play" law. Specifically, Ind. Code § 27-7-5.1-5 (2023) says that "an insurer may not pay noneconomic damages on a claim for coverage under a motor vehicle insurance policy…if the claim is for coverage for a loss incurred by an uninsured motorist with a previous violation."
Prohibited noneconomic damages include (among others):
(Ind. Code § 27-7-5.1-3(a) (2023).)
Every state, including Indiana, has deadlines called "statutes of limitations" that limit your time to file a personal injury lawsuit in court. We'll begin with the general rule, then take a look at special limitation periods and exceptions that might apply in specific cases.
As a general rule, you must file a lawsuit for "injury to person or character" within two years from the date you were injured. (Ind. Code § 34-11-2-4(a)(1) (2023).) In addition to suits claiming a physical or emotional personal injury, the words "or character" indicate that this limitation period also applies to defamation lawsuits.
In most cases, the statute of limitations clock starts running on the date you were injured. But what if you don't know right away that you're hurt? Indiana's discovery rule provides that the clock doesn't begin until the date that you discovered or if you were being reasonably diligent, should have discovered, your injury. (See Wehling v. Citizens Nat'l. Bank, 586 N.E.2d 840, 843(1992).)
Suits for medical malpractice must be filed within two years from the date of the malpractice. (Ind. Code § 34-18-7-1(b) (2023).) A minor who's younger than seven has until their eighth birthday to file a malpractice case.
A lawsuit claiming injury caused by a defective product (called a "product liability" case) must be filed within two years from the date of your injury. (Ind. Code § 34-20-3-1(b)(1) (2023).) You might have more time to file your case if you're the initial user or buyer of the product. (See Ind. Code § 34-20-3-1(b)(2) (2023).)
The statute of limitations clock is "tolled" (paused) when:
Before you can sue Indiana or its political subdivisions (for example, a city, county, township, or town), you must first give the government written notice of your claim. As a general rule, if you fail to give the required notice, your lawsuit is barred.
A claim against Indiana is barred "unless notice is filed with the attorney general or the agency involved" within 270 days after you're injured. (Ind. Code § 34-13-3-6(a) (2023).) The notice must include the information required by Ind. Code. § 34-13-3-10 (2023)) and must be delivered in person or by certified or registered mail. (Ind. Code § 34-13-3-12 (2023).)
Before you can sue an Indiana political subdivision, you must give written notice of your claim:
(Ind. Code § 34-13-3-8(a) (2023).)
Your notice should include the information required by Ind. Code. § 34-13-3-10 (2023). You must deliver the notice in person or by certified or registered mail, (Ind. Code § 34-13-3-12 (2023)), within 180 days after the date of your injury.
You can't file a legal action against an Indiana public school without first giving written notice to the school of:
If you fail to give the required pre-filing notice, your case "shall be" dismissed. (Ind. Code § 34-13-3.5-7 (2023).)
In a typical personal injury case, you must prove that the defendant's negligence caused the accident and your injuries. Quite often, the defendant will claim that you were at least partly to blame for what happened. This defense is called "comparative negligence," and it's available in Indiana. Here's how it works.
Under Indiana law, your percentage share of the fault for an accident reduces the damages you can collect for your injuries by that amount. (Ind. Code § 34-51-2-5 (2023).) But if you're found to be 51% or more to blame, you can't collect any damages. (Ind. Code § 34-51-2-6 (2023).)
You tripped and fell, badly injuring your knee, while grocery shopping in Indiana. Because you were looking for items on the shelves, you didn't see a broken floor tile, which is what caused you to trip. You sued the grocery store for negligence. The store responded that you were also negligent because you didn't watch where you were going.
After a trial, the jury finds your total damages are $50,000. But the jurors agree that you were partly to blame, assessing 25% of the fault to you. How much in damages can you collect? Because you were 25% at fault, you can collect 75% of your total damages: $50,000 x 75% = $37,500.
How would the case turn out if the jury decided you were 51% (or more) to blame? You'd collect zero damages under Indiana's modified comparative negligence rule.
Your Indiana PI case is a type of civil lawsuit. It will be controlled, in large part, by court rules called the Rules of Trial Procedure. Indiana trial courts also have their own local rules you'll have to follow. These rules can be complicated and difficult to understand. If you need help, contact an experienced Indiana attorney.
You should file your personal injury case in the proper Indiana trial court. Each Indiana county has at least one circuit court, and most also have a superior court. You can file your PI lawsuit in either of these courts.
You also must file your case in the proper location (called "venue"). Indiana has fairly relaxed venue requirements. You can file suit in any county, but the judge assigned to your case can order it transferred to a more appropriate location as described in Ind. R. Trial Proc. 75 (2023).
You begin your Indiana PI lawsuit by:
(Ind. R. Trial Proc. 3 (2023).)
The document that starts your case is called a complaint. The complaint must include a caption with the information required by Ind. R. Trial Proc. 10(A) (2023). In individually numbered paragraphs, it should describe:
In a personal injury complaint, "no dollar amount or figure shall be included in the demand" for relief. (Ind. R. Trial Proc. 8(A)(2) (2023).) In a medical malpractice case, you must ask the court to award "such damages as are reasonable…." (Ind. Code § 34-18-8-3 (2023).)
A summons is a court order commanding the defendant to appear in court and defend the case. You'll need one for each defendant in your lawsuit. You might be able to find a summons form online at your local court webpage. If not, you can get it from the court clerk.
Once you've filed your case, you'll need to serve each defendant with a copy of the summons and complaint. Make sure you complete service in a way that's allowed by the court rules. A defendant who isn't properly served can ask the court to dismiss your case against them.
Indiana is one of many states that puts limits, sometimes called "caps," on some PI damages. Specifically, Indiana has capped:
If you win a medical malpractice claim in Indiana, you can't collect damages of more than $1.8 million. (Ind. Code § 34-18-14-3 (2023).) This cap applies regardless of your injuries and includes all your damages—medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.
In a suit against any Indiana government, state or local, the aggregate liability of all government defendants (including employees) can't be more than:
Punitive damages are capped at the greater of three times your compensatory damages or $50,000. (Ind. Code § 34-51-3-4 (2023).) Because punitive damages are rarely in play in PI cases, this limit isn't likely to impact the value of many claims.
Bringing a personal injury claim or lawsuit can be a challenge. We've covered the basic Indiana laws and court rules that are involved, but really just scratched the surface. If you have a PI claim or want to file a lawsuit, your best bet will be to hire a lawyer who's familiar with Indiana's statutes, rules, courts, and how to file a case and prepare it for trial.
Here's how to find an Indiana PI lawyer who's right for you and your case.