Your Indianapolis Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Your kids are acting a little crazy, as usual, as you cruise down a local market's produce aisle. "Stop running," you repeat, "stand still," but the little buggers have too much energy to be contained. You've just found the perfect locally grown tomato when a familiar shriek sends shivers down your spine. Apparently the grocers neglected to mop up massive puddle that little Danny slipped on and cracked his head. Now you need to know whether you'll be able to recover the hospital bill from the market. Personal injury lawsuits are more complicated that you'd think, so FindLaw has created this guide to your Indianapolis personal injury lawsuit.
Which Claim to Pursue?
Negligence is the most common lawsuit following an injury. The law of negligence governs accidentally inflicted injuries such as car crashes, premise liability and slip-and-falls like poor Danny suffered. To succeed in this type of lawsuit you must demonstrate that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and that this failure caused the injury.
Related to negligence, medical malpractice lawsuits apply when the injury was accidentally inflicted by a medical professional, for example through misdiagnosis, unreasonable delay in treatment or leaving a foreign object inside your body during surgery.
If the defendant hurt you on purpose, the law of intentional torts permits you to sue under assault or battery theory.
Alternatively, you can sue the business that created the injury-causing product in a products liability lawsuit. In these cases, you must point out a design or manufacturing defect that caused your injury in a surprising way.
The deceased cannot file a claim, but their potential claims live on for close family members as a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for the unfair costs borne by the deceased individual's family members, such as lost wages, lost companionship and funeral expenses.
In many cases the plaintiff somehow contributed to their own injury, for example little Danny running around like a madman inside Marsh. These cases are governed by Indiana's comparative fault law (section 34-51-2-5). Under the comparative negligence doctrine, fault is assigned to each party as a percentile, and the plaintiff's ultimate recovery is diminished by the percent he or she is responsible for. For example, if you racked up $1,000 in medical bills as a result of an injury which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900, from the other party.
However, Indiana has adopted a modified comparative fault standard: plaintiffs can collect compensation as long as they are 50% or less at fault for the injury. In other words, if you are more than 50% at fault, you cannot bring a claim in Indiana.
You must file your personal injury lawsuit within two years from the date of the injury (section 34-11-2-4 in the link). So-called statute of limitation eliminates a plaintiff's right to recovery once too much time has passed, to prevent ancient lawsuits after memories have dimmed and evidence disappeared. This time limit also applies to medical malpractice, wrongful death and product liability lawsuits.
File Your Lawsuit
Your personal injury lawsuit begins when you file a complaint at the local courthouse. A complaint briefly describes the injury causing incident, names the parties involved and requests compensation.
The Marion County Circuit Court and Superior Court share general jurisdiction over all civil lawsuits, and both are located at 200 E. Washington St. However, small claims court offers informal procedure and quick resolution for small cases. Significantly, Marion County is the only county in Indiana where the upper limit on small claims cases is $6,000 instead of $3,000. There are small claims courts located in all nine townships around Indianapolis, just click on the map in the link above to find the closest one.
Alternatively, instead of battling the slick corporate lawyers alone you may consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys almost always work on a contingency fee basis, which means they are paid a percentile of your settlement. Yes, that means they don't get paid until you win.
The monetary sum of harm you have suffered are called "damages." Damages are traditionally split into economic and non-economic categories. Economic damages are typically straightforward because they directly relate to monetary expenditures and losses, such as:
- medical expenses;
- lost future income;
- loss of property
- costs to repair or replace property, and;
- loss of employment opportunities.
Non-economic damages are sometimes referred to as "pain and suffering" damages because they serve to compensate you for the physical pain and mental anguish that resulted from the injury. Courts will consider pain, or course, but also loss of enjoyment of life, fear and anxiety, sleeplessness, scarring and disfigurement.
Indiana's Compensation Act for Patients places an upper limit on the amount of damages a patient can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. This law is rare among med mal damage caps because instead of limiting the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded, the law places a cap on the total amount of damages, economic plus non-economic. Indiana med mal plaintiffs' recovery is limited to $1.25 million total, and only $250,000 against any single healthcare provider.
If you were injured at your place of work you probably don't need to file a lawsuit at all. Almost all Indiana businesses are required to carry workers' compensation insurance that will pay the medical bills for workplace injuries or illnesses, and 2/3 of your income for missed work days.
The first step to recovery is reporting the injury to your employer. You must report the accident within 30 days or else you risk forfeiting your benefits. Your employer should automatically report your claim to the Workers' Compensation Board of Indiana, though you have two years to dispute the claim.
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