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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing a defense that is commonly raised in response to an Indiana premises liability case. The case involved a defendant’s allegations that it was unaware of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall and, thus, could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Indiana Premises Liability Law

In Indiana, landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of that duty depends largely on the reason for the plaintiff’s visit. Customers or others who are present on a defendant’s property for business purposes are owed the highest duty. In these cases, the landowner must fix any dangerous condition on their property or warn the visitor about hazards that may not be obvious. However, if the landowner is unaware of the hazard, they may not have a duty at all.

Case Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a patient at a doctor’s office. As the plaintiff walked by a desk, she felt something catch the leg of her pant. The plaintiff fell to the ground, resulting in serious injury. After the fall, as the plaintiff was prone on the ground, she noticed that a wheelchair was leaning up against the desk just a few feet from where she was.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an interesting issue that all Indiana personal injury victims would be wise to consider before filing a case against a defendant. The case addressed when a personal injury defendant may be able to evoke their privilege against self-incrimination when asked to testify in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of two pedestrians who were killed in an accident caused by the defendant. Because the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the crash, he was arrested and charged with several serious charges, including two counts of murder.

Evidently, the defendant ultimately pled guilty to the murder charges and was sentenced to a total term of 32 years in jail. The defendant filed an appeal of his sentence, claiming that it was excessive. The plaintiffs filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit around this same time, and submitted a discovery request to the court, seeking the defendant be deposed.

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Earlier in November, a written opinion was issued about an Indiana product liability case discussing whether a plaintiff’s incorrect use of the product is a complete defense for the manufacturer. The court held that a plaintiff’s misuse of a product can be a total defense if it is proven by the manufacturer.

The Factual Scenario

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a rotary tool powered by air that was manufactured by the defendant. The tool included an instruction manual, outlining the proper use of the tool. Among other matters, the tool’s directions informed users to always wear safety glasses when using the tool; not to only use the cut-off wheel attachment if the safety guard is secured into place; and, only use attachments that are rated for a minimum of 25,000 RPM (revs per minute). The tool did not come with the referenced safety guard and the instruction manual did not inform users where they could obtain one.

Evidently, the plaintiff was helping a friend with a project that required the use of the cut-off attachment. While doing so, the plaintiff wore eyeglasses, which he believed would be adequate protection. In addition, the tool did not have a safety guard installed and the cut-off wheel attachment he was using was rated for only 19,000 RPM. The cut-off wheel attachment subsequently broke and struck the plaintiff in the face, causing serious injuries including the loss of his eye.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the res ipsa loquitor doctrine. Res Ipsa Loquitor is a legal doctrine that applies in some Indiana personal injury cases and allows the fact-finder to make an inference that the defendant was negligent although there is no direct evidence of the defendant’s negligence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was exiting an elevator when the elevator’s doors inexplicably closed on her. The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association where the elevator was located. The plaintiff’s claim was brought under the theory of res ipsa loquitor.

Both the plaintiff and defendant presented expert witness testimony supporting their respective side. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s case, arguing that the res ipsa loquitor doctrine did not apply.

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One of the most important decisions that an Indiana car accident plaintiff must make is which parties to name as defendants. This decision is so important because it can have a significant effect on whether the plaintiff will be able to recover for their injuries and, if so, how much they will be able to recover. One reason for this is because most individuals do not have the necessary assets to cover the costs associated with a serious Indiana car accident. Indeed, even after insurance policies are considered, many Indiana accident victims find themselves with medical expenses that are far greater than the amount they can recover from the at-fault driver.

Any experienced Indiana personal injury attorney will explain that the best way to ensure full and fair compensation for an accident victim’s injuries is to name all potentially liable parties. This may include the owner of a vehicle that the at-fault driver was using or, more commonly, an employer.

In many Indiana car accidents, the employer of an at-fault driver can also be named as a defendant under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. The term respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer,” and stands for the principle that an employer can be held liable for an employee’s negligent actions, so long as the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the alleged negligent action. Thus, the doctrine is particularly important in Indiana truck accident cases.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating an important concept that frequently arises in Indiana car accident cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the plaintiff’s wrongful death case could survive the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Specifically, the issue presented to the court was whether the defendants controlled the area where the accident occurred.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a DUI accident while attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival. The SXSW festival takes place each year in Austin, Texas, and includes numerous venues which are spread across the city. As a result, the concert organizers applied for a special use permit allowing the closure of certain roads during the festival. The area where the accident later occurred was included in the areas that the concert organizers requested be closed.

Evidently, the use permit was granted, and as a condition, the city required that “all traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.” Organizers placed barriers around the closed portion of the street, and a uniformed police officer was placed near the intersection to keep watch.

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Dogs are among the most common pets in the United States because they can provide owners with both companionship and security. However, each year there are hundreds of Indiana dog bite cases. Under Indiana law, these cases, for the most part, are governed by the common law theory of negligence.

Dog Bite Liability Generally

As a general matter, there are several different types of liability when it comes to dog bite cases. Many states employ a strict liability standard. Under a strict liability analysis, an animal’s owner is liable for the injuries caused by their dog regardless of the owner’s negligence or knowledge of the dog’s history of aggression or past level of violence.

Other states apply the common law theory of negligence to dog bite cases. The legal term “negligence” is very broad, and as a result places a significant amount of discretion in the hands of judges and juries. To succeed in a negligence action, a plaintiff’s claim must establish that the defendant dog owner violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff and that this violation was the cause of their injuries.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving a car accident that was allegedly caused by a police officer’s negligence. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the city that employed the officer was entitled to governmental immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the officer failed to drive with “due regard for the safety of others,” immunity did not apply.

The case presents an important issue for Indiana car accident victims who have been injured in an accident involving a government official or employee because similar government immunity laws apply in Indiana.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured when the defendant police officer made a left turn against a red traffic signal while responding to an emergency. The plaintiff testified that the police vehicle’s emergency lights were on, but that the sirens were not engaged. The accident investigator’s report indicated that the plaintiff was no speeding at the time of the collision, and it would have been impossible for her to see the police vehicle approaching due to the slope of the intersection roads.

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When someone is involved in an Indiana car accident that was caused by another driver, there is a good chance that the at-fault driver will not have adequate insurance coverage to fully compensate the accident victim for their injuries. This is also the case in Indiana hit-and-run accidents where the at-fault driver evades law enforcement and is never located.

In these cases, if the accident victim has an insurance policy with underinsured motorist (UIM) protection, they can file a claim with their own policy seeking additional compensation. However, in Indiana, the minimum requirement for UIM insurance is just $25,000 per person. Thus, in some serious Indiana car accidents, the accident victim’s total damages will exceed both the at-fault driver’s insurance limits as well as their own UIM insurance limits.

When these policies are maxed out, many accident victims may believe that they are out of options. However, that may not be the case. Under Indiana law, the default is that all insurance policies will “stack,” meaning that a policy can be used along with another policy that offers coverage to the driver. Thus, an Indiana accident victim who has multiple insurance policies can combine, or “stack,” all coverage amounts until they are fully compensated. Thus, it is very important for an accident victim to know each of the policies that they are covered under, including other family members’ policies and employers’ policies.

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When a victim of a car accident files an Indiana personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe was responsible for causing their injuries, the case proceeds through a number of stages before it goes to trial. Through each stage, the parties learn a little more about the strength of their case, the opposing party’s likely arguments, and the amount of damages that may be recovered by the plaintiff if she is successful.

At any time up to and during a trial, the parties can agree to settle the case. At its core, a settlement agreement is a contract between the parties. The details contained in an Indiana settlement agreement vary widely, but in general the defendant would agree to compensate the plaintiff an agreed amount of money and, in turn, the plaintiff would release the defendant from liability related to the accident.

Of course, Indiana settlement agreements must be carefully drafted. In the event that an agreement leaves questions unanswered or uses overly broad language, certain issues can arise. In a recent personal injury case, the plaintiff’s attempt to settle a case with several liable parties almost resulted in excusing other parties that the plaintiff did not intend to excuse from the case.

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