Guide to Making a Personal Injury Claim in Indiana
When a person, business, or other entity injures you, personal injury law gives you the chance to hold the offending party responsible via the ability to recover damages. The most common way to recover damages is through settlement, typically via submitting a claim to the responsible party’s insurance company. These settlements, however, often do not fairly compensate you for your injuries. Therefore, it would be wise to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer as soon as you decide to file a personal injury claim in Indiana. A lawyer with expertise in this area of the law can help you build the best arguments to maximize your compensation, whether that is through settlement or litigation.
To fully understand if you have valid personal injury and how to succeed in your claim— schedule a free consultation with Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our Indianapolis Injury Lawyers have a wealth of experience in this type of law. They have successfully handled all kinds of personal injury cases and may be able to help you recover the money you deserve.
Common Injuries in Personal Injury Claims in Indiana
- Fractures: Fractures are a common personal injury claim in Indiana. The injury can be as simple as a broken bone, or as serious as multiple fractures. One reason fractures are so common in personal injury claims is because they tend to be indisputable, given that an injured person with a fracture often had an x-ray taken by a neutral medical professional. This provides clear documentation of the injury, as well as the extent of the injury, which is helpful when recovering compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of income.
- Neck Injuries: Many personal injury claims involve automobile accidents, so it should be no surprise that neck injuries, like whiplash, are a common injury cited in these claims. Neck injuries of all kinds can be highly debilitating and may lead an injured person to seek compensation for medical bills and/or loss of income.
- Back Injuries: Much like neck injuries, back injuries can have a hugely negative impact on a person’s life. Even more common back injuries, like strains and sprains, could affect one’s ability to go about their daily life. More serious spinal cord or thoracic spine injuries may cause paralysis and/or permanent nerve damage. This could lead families to seek compensation for both current and future medical bills, loss of income, loss of future income, pain and suffering, and even, a loss of consortium.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Whenever someone takes a “bump, blow or jolt to the head,” they are at risk of traumatic brain injury. These types of injuries often occur in motorcycle, car, bike, or pedestrian accidents. They also may occur from accidents where someone is deprived of oxygen, like in a near-drowning accident. Most often, TBI leads to concussion. However, it can also cause various lifelong health problems, including but not limited to memory loss, headaches, reduced language skills, mood swings, and fatigue. Individuals who sustained a traumatic brain injury could seek to recover damages for current and future medical bills, loss of income, loss of future income, pain and suffering, and possibly, loss of consortium.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): When it comes to personal injury, posttraumatic stress disorder is a common psychological injury cited by victims. PTSD may occur in individuals who have gone through or seen a traumatic event, such as a heinous crime, serious accident, or combat. Those who have been diagnosed with PTSD often have nightmares or flashbacks, feelings of rage, sadness, or intense fear. These symptoms often make it difficult for the person to relate to or be around others, hold down a job or engage in a relationship. Therefore, individuals who suffer from PTSD resulting from a personal injury may seek compensation for loss of income, loss of future income, as well as pain and suffering.
How Do You Get Compensation From a Personal Injury Claim in Indiana?
The process for getting compensation for a personal injury varies case-by-case, but most of the time it starts with submitting an insurance claim. If the insurance company does not find your personal injury claim in Indiana valid or fails to offer you a fair settlement, you would then have an Indiana injury lawyer file a personal injury lawsuit. From there, both sides would participate in a discovery phase, and then proceed into settlement talks, and/or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). If neither of those negotiations was successful, the case would go to trial.
Submitting a Personal Injury Claim to an Insurance Company
After an injury, you should contact both a lawyer and your insurance company. You’ll need to submit an insurance claim to both your insurance and the insurance company of those responsible for your injury. It’s best to do that as soon as possible, and ideally with assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer. The insurance companies will then collect some information regarding the incident. However, your lawyer is often the person who will do most of the investigative work. A good personal injury lawyer will gather accident reports, medical records, and statements from all of the parties involved.
If the responsible party’s insurance company believes that you have a valid claim, they typically will offer you a small amount of money as a settlement. Most of the time, however, these settlement offers are far below the fair value of your injuries. Their goal is to entice you with a dollar amount that would make you happy in the moment and prevent you from filing a lawsuit.
Although your personal injury claim in Indiana is not a lawsuit yet, it would be wise to have a lawyer at this point. Keffer Hirschauer LLP has a very skilled team of Indiana personal injury lawyers that would be glad to speak with the insurance companies on your behalf. They will protect your interests and help you understand everything that is happening and how to best settle your personal injury case in Indiana.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When an insurance company fails to make a fair offer, your lawyer will file a personal injury lawsuit. Once initiated, both sides of the lawsuit will begin what is called the discovery phase. They will exchange all information in their possession regarding the cause of the injury, and the extent of the injury. Once the discovery phase is complete, the two sides will begin negotiations. In this phase of the process, three things can happen: settlement, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), or the case will go to trial.
What is a Settlement?
Settlement is where the defendant admits to fault and agrees to pay damages. Your lawyer is required to present you with each settlement offer that is made, as it will always be 100% your decision to accept or reject.
What is an Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a scenario that includes both mediation and arbitration via a third-party. In ADR, the neutral part will attempt to help broker an agreement between the disputing parties.
Taking an Indiana Personal Injury Case to Court
If the two sides fail to reach a settlement or choose not to resolve the case in ADR, your personal injury case will then go to trial. Once the case reaches this point, the two sides will present their arguments and provide evidence of the claim in front of a judge and jury.
Most personal injury claims are rooted in negligence, so your personal injury lawyer’s main objective will be to prove negligence on behalf of the other party. Once negligence is clearly demonstrated, your lawyer will move forward and demonstrate the losses (or damage) suffered because of the injury. In the end, the judge and jury will decide whether the defendant is responsible for your personal injuries and if so, the extent of the damages that you are owed.
What is Negligence?
In its most basic sense, negligence is when someone has an obligation to do something, they do not fulfill that obligation, and then you are injured as a result. Every personal injury case is unique, so the appearance of negligence will vary case-by-case. However, you can demonstrate that a person or entity is responsible for your injury due to negligence by establishing three simple facts.
Four Rules to Establish Negligence
- The Person or Entity Owed You a Duty
- The Person or Entity Breached That Duty
- The Breach of Duty Caused Your Injury
- The Actions Caused Damages
How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Establish Negligence?
The first element to establish in a negligence case is that the defendant(s) owed you a duty. The law recognizes many situations in which a person or entity owes a duty to act in a particular manner, so they don’t cause injury to another person. For example, every driver has a duty to operate their vehicle reasonably and responsibly to avoid causing an accident or injury. Your personal injury lawyer can help you better understand if a duty was owed to you when you sustained your injury and help identify the responsible parties.
Once you have established that a duty existed when you sustained your injury, you will then seek to demonstrate a breach of duty. This means that the person or entity that owed the duty failed to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling the duty. The definition of reasonable care will vary case-by-case, as every situation and type of duty is different. For example, in personal injury claims involving car accidents, the standard is: did the defendant act in a manner similar to how an ordinary person would have acted under similar circumstances?
Finally, once you have established that a duty existed and that a person or entity breached that duty, you will look to prove that the person’s or entity’s action (or lack thereof) caused your injury. To establish causation of injury, you must prove actual cause and proximate cause.
How Do You Prove Actual and Proximate Cause?
To prove actual cause, you would use the but-for test. This means that you’ll seek to show that if it weren’t for the responsible party’s actions, the injury would have never occurred. To prove proximate cause, you must demonstrate that the person or entity could have foreseen that their actions could cause your injuries.
Proving Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Proving damages in a personal injury case can be either quite simple and clear or muddled and abstract. Losses and damage may be in the form of lost income, property damage, medical costs, or future medical costs. It can also include nonmaterial losses or damage, such as pain and suffering or damage to your quality of life. Furthermore, an injured person’s spouse is eligible to recover compensation for emotional distress and loss of consortium.
Proving Physical Injury in a Personal Injury Case
In the case of medical damage, you’ll need to provide medical documentation that clearly supports your personal injury claim in Indiana. This will include medical records for injury-related treatment, prognosis documentation, any medical or therapy bills incurred from the accident, as well as projected costs of future care.
Proving Loss of Income in a Personal Injury Case
For loss of income, you may need to demonstrate that you were not able to work because of medical disability stemming from the accident and therefore incurred economic loss. This will require proof of disability from your doctor, as well as proof of compensation before and after the accident. This may come in the form of the previous tax year’s W2 form, pay stubs, or wage verification from your employer.
Proving Loss of Future Income in a Personal Injury Case
Proving loss of future income is much more difficult, but not impossible. Typically, this is done by proving what you were most likely to earn in the future by using your past income as a benchmark. Your personal injury lawyer may also pull in testimony from co-workers or employers, as well as expert testimony from an economist or an expert in your professional field. The goal of these testimonies would be to demonstrate your work ethic, performance, and professional goals, as well as salary trends and what you may have made in the future if you were to stay on your current trajectory.
Proving Pain or Suffering in a Personal Injury Case
Proving pain or suffering, or loss of quality of life, in a personal injury case is not as simple as providing an x-ray or medical bill. It’s an injury that may appear to be much more abstract, and therefore more challenging to demonstrate with concrete evidence. An experienced personal injury lawyer would seek to illustrate how the plaintiff’s life has been dramatically altered due to the event that caused the injury. This may be achieved by providing testimony from family or friends, or mental health professionals who can attest to the plaintiff’s mental state.
Proving Loss of Consortium
Indiana law allows spouses to obtain compensation when a spouse has been injured in a crash. This is called a “loss of consortium,” claim. This type of personal injury claim compensates for the loss of love, care, affection, support, and intimacy, including sexual intimacy. These losses can be challenging to prove and quantify; therefore, these claims are usually brought only when a spouse has suffered a significant injury. To demonstrate a loss of consortium, your lawyer may take testimony from both you and your spouse to show that the emotional and intimate dynamics of the relationship were negatively impacted by the injury. They may also call for testimony of family and friends who can testify to the fact that your relationship has changed for the worse since the accident or injury.
Compensation and Comparative Fault in Indiana
If you are making a personal injury claim in Indiana, it’s important for you to know that Indiana has a comparative fault law, which is sometimes referred to as comparative negligence. Under the Indiana comparative fault law, if you (the plaintiff) have incurred damages from an incident, and are 51% or more at fault, you will not qualify to recover any damages.
When taking a personal injury case to court in Indiana, the defendant(s) will likely attempt to place some or all of the blame for the incident on you. By attempting to place comparative fault on you, they may be able to reduce the amount of money they will have to pay to you in the form of damages.
Example Scenario of Comparative Fault: Jackson made a right turn on red, and hit Mark who was sprinting across the street, despite the crosswalk sign indicating that it wasn’t safe. Mark suffered several fractures and decided to sue Jackson for negligence. In Indiana, a comparative fault state, Jackson could be found 65% at fault, since he failed to make a safe right turn on red. Mark, however, could be found 35% at fault given that he was jaywalking. If the cost of Mark’s damages were $45,000, he would only receive $29,250 since he was 35% at fault for his own injuries.
Need Help with a Personal Injury Claim in Indiana?
If you have been injured in an accident and are ready to submit an insurance claim, or already have filed an insurance claim, it is important that you take action and hire an Indianapolis Injury lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our personal injury team is well-trained and highly skilled. We have successfully proven some of the most challenging, serious personal injury cases, and are ready to begin building the best arguments to maximize your compensation.