The Indiana Tort Claims Act requires those who have suffered an injury and plan to sue a municipality provide notice to that municipality within 180 days of the injury or loss. This is to put the municipality on notice of the charges against it and to allow the municipality an adequate opportunity to investigate the occurrence and develop any possible defenses.
In a recent case in front of the Indiana Supreme Court, the question arose: can a claimant’s notice act to restrict the scope of her future lawsuit? The facts of the case will illuminate any confusion.
The plaintiff was rear-ended by an Indianapolis police officer in July of 2008. The next month, the plaintiff filed a tort claim notice to the City, explaining what had happened, attaching photographs of the accident, etc. In addition, the notice contained the following statement:
Damage: Rear Bumper and side panels damaged, see estimate from Sam Swope. No injuries.
In 2010, the plaintiff filed a claim against the city for “personal injuries, including left hip pain, right leg pain, lower back pain and herniation of her lumbar discs at L4-5.” The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the City appeals. The city sought to dismiss the case, pointing to the plaintiff’s tort claim notice, arguing that she explicitly said there were “no injuries.” The attorneys for the City argued that the City was not actually put on notice that there would be a claim brought for personal injuries due to the plaintiff’s explicit statement.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the City, finding that the tort claim notice filed by the plaintiff did not “substantially comply with the requirements of the Act for purposes of her personal injury claim.” The plaintiff then appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff that the notice was sufficient to put the City on notice that there could be personal injury claims arising from the incident. The Court found that a claim is adequate in this regard so long as it “contains sufficient information which reasonably affords the municipality an opportunity to promptly investigate the claim.”
Under the facts of this case, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the plaintiff’s notice was adequate because the Indiana Tort Claims Act does not reference specifying any particular type of damages; only that a claim may be brought. Thus, the plaintiff’s statement that there were “no injuries” did not prevent her from claiming personal injuries at trial.
The Effect of the Suit on Indiana Plaintiffs
This case is favorable for Indiana personal injury plaintiffs across the state. Had the court ruled the other way, a future plaintiff’s statements made without an attorney present may have acted to greatly restrict the kinds of actions that plaintiff could bring in the future.
Have You Been Involved in an Indiana Accident?
If you have been involved in an Indiana personal injury accident, you should speak to an experienced Indiana accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case. The Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse has the experience and dedication needed to bring any personal injury case. To speak to an attorney and discuss your situation in more detail, call 888-532-7766, or contact the firm online.
Cold Weather and Holiday Libations Can Make for Dangerous Roads, Indiana Accident Attorneys, December 27, 2013.
Two-Car Accident Injures Seven in Newport, Indiana, Indiana Accident Attorneys, January 10, 2014.