Group photo of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP
Badges and Certifications of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP
A Nationally Acclaimed
Law Firm

Devoted to your personal injury or accident case.

Million Dollar
Verdicts & Settlements

For injury victims throughout Indiana and the Midwest.

Our Firm
was founded in 1899

On the highest of ethical, moral, and legal standards.

Last month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in an Indiana personal injury accident that required the court to interpret the Indiana Comparative Fault Act. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence presented indicated that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault for his injuries, and thus dismissal of the plaintiff’s case under the Comparative Fault Act was appropriate.

The Indiana Comparative Fault Act is contained in Indiana Code sections 34-51-2-5 and 34-51-2-6, and provides the system that courts use to determine whether an accident victim who shares fault for their own injuries can pursue a claim against other potentially liable parties. Specifically, the Act states that “any contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages … but does not bar recovery” except as provided by section 34-51-2-6.

Section 34-51-2-6 explains that a plaintiff cannot recover for their injuries if their fault is “greater than the fault of all persons whose fault proximately contributed to the claimant’s damages.” While this sounds quite confusing, in practice the Comparative Fault Act precludes a plaintiff’s recovery if they were more than 50% at fault for the accident that caused their injuries.

Indiana motorists are accustomed to driving in a variety of conditions. March, in particular, has always been an unpredictable month when it comes to weather in Indiana. While some March days can be sunny and beautiful spring-like, others bring nasty winter storms reminiscent of the dead of winter.

Last week, the end of March brought a serious storm that coated the roads in a layer of snow and ice, making travel difficult for motorists. The wet snow turned into a sheet of ice as temperatures dipped below freezing. According to a local news report, authorities responded to 59 Indiana car accidents between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Of those, 18 crashes involved injuries. Thankfully, none were fatal; however, one woman was left in critical condition.

Authorities described the worst accident as a nine-car pile-up near Old Lafayette Square Mall. Evidently, that accident was the result of motorists losing control of their vehicles due to bridges being slicker than expected.

Businesses in Indiana have an obligation to their customers to ensure that the area accessible to customers is kept in a reasonably safe condition. Indiana grocery stores are no exception, and a large number of Indiana slip-and-fall accidents are the result of grocery store management failing to keep the store’s aisles safe for customers.

Of course, a grocery store will not be held responsible for every slip-and-fall accident that occurs in the store. Under Indiana law, a plaintiff must be able to show that the grocery store was negligent before they will be able to recover for their injuries. This includes showing that the store employees knew or should have known about the hazard. A few common types of negligence that may occur in a grocery store are:

  • the improper stacking of goods;
  • the failure to clean up the mess caused by a product that either fell off the shelf or was dropped by another customer; and
  • the failure to ensure areas of high pedestrian traffic are kept dry during wet weather.

A recent state appellate decision discussed whether a plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to find that the defendant grocery store knew or should have known about the hazard that caused her fall.

Continue reading

The most commonly seen types of Indiana premises liability cases are slip-and-fall accidents occurring in the winter months due to accumulated snow or ice on the ground. Snow and ice that accumulates on a landowner’s property create a serious hazard, and Indiana lawmakers recognize as much.

A Business Owner’s Obligation to Clear Snow and Ice

In Indiana, business owners have a general duty to clear their premises of snow and ice. What precisely a landowner’s duty entails is determined on a case-by-case basis. Generally, courts will look to whether the landowner exercised reasonable care in the maintenance of their property.

Under Indiana case law, when courts consider a winter slip-and-fall accident occurring on commercial property, they look to 1.) how long the snow or ice was present on the property, and 2.) the amount of notice the landowner had of the upcoming storm. For example, if a sudden storm deposits a surprising amount of snow, it may be reasonable for a landowner to take slightly longer than one would typically expect to clear their property of the snow. Courts may also consider whether the landowner had prior notice of a problem that had occurred in the past.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case that may impact Indiana personal injury and wrongful death cases involving minor victims. The case required the court to determine if a claim under the FTCA is automatically tolled while the plaintiff is a minor. Ultimately, the court noted that the FTCA contained no explicit provision calling for minority tolling, and thus held that FTCA claims were not subject to minority tolling.

Statutes of Limitations

Generally, all personal injury claims must be brought within a certain period as outlined in the relevant statute of limitations. However, there are some situations in which a statute of limitations is “tolled” or delayed. For example, in some cases, a statute of limitations will be tolled during the period in which the plaintiff is a minor. Another common example of when tolling may occur is when a plaintiff does not discover their injury until a later date

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was nine years old when his father was killed in a car accident. After the accident, the plaintiff’s mother filed an administrative claim with the Federal Highway Administration (FWA) seeking compensation on behalf of her son for the loss of his father. However, it was not until six years later that the plaintiff’s mother filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of her son. Once the plaintiff turned 18, he was substituted for his mother as plaintiff.

Continue reading

Indiana wrongful death claims are meant to compensate the accident victim’s spouse and dependents after their wrongful death. So, what happens if the decedent’s spouse and dependents are no longer alive by the time the case goes to trial? The Indiana Supreme Court took up the issue in a recent case.

The Facts

According to the court’s written opinion, a husband filed a claim after his wife died from complications during surgery and throughout her subsequent dialysis treatments. The husband brought a negligence claim against his wife’s surgeon, the hospital, and the dialysis treatment center, seeking damages for her death under Indiana’s wrongful death statute. The plaintiff sought damages for two general categories: “final-expense damages” and “survivor damages.” Final-expense damages included the medical, funeral, and burial expenses, and survivor damages were claimed for the loss of consortium, including loss of income, loss of employment benefits, and loss of companionship. However, the husband died while the case was still being decided. He did not leave a will and there were no apparent heirs to his estate, so the estate reverted to the state of Indiana.

The defendants argued that because the husband died, there could be no award of survivor damages, because there was no evidence to support a loss of consortium claim. They claimed that because the husband did not have any heirs, any survivor damages would pass to the state, which contradicts the purpose of a compensatory damages award for wrongful death claims.

Continue reading

One of the most common ways that an Indiana car accident victim can prove their case against a defendant is through witness testimony. Frequently, witness testimony in an Indiana car accident case comes in the form of eyewitness testimony, meaning from someone who actually observed the accident. However, some car accident cases present more complex issues that may require an expert witness.

In Indiana, a qualified expert witness is permitted to testify if she possesses “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge” that will help the jury understand the evidence or the issues involved in the case. Unlike other witnesses, expert witnesses are allowed to provide their opinion to the jury. Thus, expert witness testimony can be very powerful.

Expert witnesses are not necessary in every case. However, a recent state appellate decision illustrates that expert witnesses may be required in some situations.

Continue reading

Under Indiana premises liability law, property owners are generally not liable for injuries caused to trespassers. However, through Indiana’s attractive nuisance doctrine, a property owner may be liable when a trespassing child is injured on their land due to a dangerous object that attracted the child onto the landowner’s property. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the attractive nuisance doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts giving rise to the case, the plaintiff and some friends entered a construction site after hours. The teens spent several hours at the site, drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana. Evidently, the construction crew had left several pieces of heavy construction equipment on-site. Several of the pieces of equipment had the keys in the ignition. The plaintiff initially removed one set of keys to prevent his friends from starting the machine and potentially hurting themselves. However, as the group was leaving, the plaintiff climbed inside a machine and began to drive it up a floodwall. The machine flipped over, and the plaintiff was seriously injured.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the construction company, arguing that leaving the construction site unfenced created an attractive nuisance. In a pre-trial motion, the defendant argued that no reasonable juror could find that the plaintiff, a 16-year-old male, did not realize the risk playing with the machine. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Continue reading

One of the more common defenses that Indiana personal injury victims encounter when attempting to recover for their injuries is that of assumption of the risk. Essentially, the assumption of the risk doctrine bars a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries when the plaintiff is fully aware of the risks involved in an activity, but chooses to participate in the activity notwithstanding those risks. In many personal injury cases, such as Indiana car accident cases, assumption of the risk rarely comes up. However, assumption of the risk frequently arises in Indiana sports injury cases.

In Indiana, a plaintiff’s assumption of the risk can be used to assign the plaintiff a percentage of fault for the accident, thus reducing their total recovery amount. Only in rare circumstances will a plaintiff’s assumption of risk result in the plaintiff being prevented from recovering entirely. Recently, a state appellate court released an opinion in a skiing accident case discussing assumption of the risk.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a ski instructor at a ski resort. One day, while the plaintiff was giving a ski lesson to a six-year-old child, the defendant came speeding down the mountain. The plaintiff was in an area marked for “slow skiing.” However, as the defendant approached, he went off a jump to perform a trick, and ended up colliding with the plaintiff upon landing. The plaintiff was seriously injured and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

Continue reading

All Indiana motorists are required to maintain a certain amount of auto insurance to drive legally. Lawmakers’ idea behind creating such a requirement was to ensure that an at-fault motorist had sufficient assets to cover the costs incurred by the victims of their negligence. Thus, even if an at-fault motorist has no assets themselves, their insurance company will defend the case on their behalf and compensate the accident victim up to the policy limit.

In reality, however, dealing with an insurance company after an Indiana car accident can be a major headache. For one, insurance companies are for-profit companies that rely on taking in more money each month in premiums than they pay out in claims. Thus, it is in an insurance company’s interest to pay as little for each claim as possible. Thus, insurance companies routinely deny coverage in hopes that the accident victim is unfamiliar with the process and doesn’t ask any questions. However, insurance companies who deny coverage can be challenged through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit.

A recent case illustrates one plaintiff’s successful attempt to get an insurance company to cover his injuries.

Continue reading