Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that illustrates an important point for Indiana car accident victims. The case involved the plaintiff’s appeal after a jury found that the defendant was liable for the car accident but did not award the plaintiff any compensation for future medical expenses. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of the expert witness presented by the plaintiff was equivocal in stating that the plaintiff’s need for future medical treatment was due to the car accident.

SUV AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that was undisputedly caused by another driver. The at-fault driver did not possess sufficient insurance to cover the plaintiff’s injuries, so the plaintiff filed an underinsured motorist claim under her own insurance policy.

The plaintiff’s insurance company denied the claim, taking the position that the injuries the plaintiff claimed she sustained in the accident were actually pre-existing at the time of the accident and thus were not covered under her policy. In support of her claim, the plaintiff had the orthopedic surgeon who treated and operated on her testify to the care he provided as well as his estimation of what the plaintiff’s future medical needs would be.

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After an Indiana car accident, there is a long way to recovery. First, an accident victim must deal with the physical and emotional toll that the accident takes. Once the body and mind have sufficiently recovered, there are usually still unsettled matters such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the loss of enjoyment of life that accompanies being an accident victim.

StethoscopeIn many cases, insurance companies provide accident victims compensation for their injuries. However, insurance companies are operated on a for-profit model and will too often deny the claims of accident victims or offer significantly less compensation to them than an accident victim needs or deserves. A recent case illustrates one accident victim’s difficulties in dealing with an insurance company after a car accident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver was insured by the defendant insurance company. The insurance company acknowledged that their customer was at fault in causing the accident and provided advance payment of the plaintiff’s medical expenses for a period of about six months.

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Being involved in an Indiana car accident is a traumatic experience. Of course, an accident victim must first deal with the physical injuries and emotional stress in the aftermath of the accident. After the injuries heal, however, there are often unresolved financial issues, including the payment of medical bills, how to pay for future medical care, the money lost from workdays missed, and the pain and suffering endured throughout the process.

ContractAnyone involved in a car accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party, seeking to recover compensation for their injuries. However, in some cases, the at-fault motorist does not have insurance or has low policy limits, such that an accident victim’s injuries are not fully covered. In these situations, an accident victim may file a claim with their own insurance policy, under the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision.

One may think that filing a claim with their own insurance company is a simple process; however, that is not always the case. Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that are always keeping their bottom line in mind. Thus, many insurance companies view incoming claims with an eye toward how the claim can be denied. Indeed, a recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s innocent error caused her to forfeit any underinsured motorist claim under her own policy.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man who was seriously injured while crossing the street after parking in the defendant’s off-site parking lot. The case presents an issue that often comes up in Indiana premises liability cases:  specifically, whether the defendant landowner owed the plaintiff a duty of care under the facts of the case.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a petitioner at the defendant church. On a rainy evening, the plaintiff drove to the church for an evening seminar. Upon arriving at the church, the plaintiff realized that the on-site parking lot was full. A church volunteer directed the plaintiff across the street, to the church’s off-site parking lot. The parking lot was located immediately across a five-lane road.

The plaintiff parked in the off-site parking lot. He exited his car and, rather than walk the 50 to 100 feet to the nearest intersection, attempted to cross right where he had parked. As he was partially across the road, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

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Earlier this month, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case involving a plaintiff’s claim that the employer of a delivery driver was responsible for injuries caused by the delivery driver. The plaintiff made several claims, including one under the doctrine of respondeat superior as well as another claim alleging negligent hiring. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the employer admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the employer only can be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior.

Pizza BoxesThe Facts of the Case

In August 2012, a delivery driver for a pizza restaurant was making a delivery when she rear-ended the plaintiff, who was riding a motorized scooter. The plaintiff was thrown from the scooter onto the road, where he was struck by another motorist. The plaintiff was killed in the accident.

The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death case against all three parties:  the delivery driver, the pizza restaurant, and the driver who struck the plaintiff once she fell from the scooter. This opinion only involves the plaintiff’s claims against the pizza restaurant.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion that will likely be of interest to anyone considering an Indiana product liability lawsuit against a vehicle manufacturer. The case presented the court with the opportunity to answer two questions. First, it addressed whether the lower court was proper in dismissing the plaintiff’s case against the defendant vehicle manufacturer based on a perceived inconsistency in the jury’s verdict. And second, it addressed the issue of, if the plaintiff’s case was sufficient as a matter of law, whether the $1 million damages that the jury awarded him were adequate. Ultimately, the court resolved both questions in favor of the plaintiff.

VW VanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a roll-over accident when the van he was operating rear-ended another vehicle on the highway. While the initial collision was minor, the plaintiff was seriously injured when the van rolled, and he hit his head on the roof of the vehicle. After the accident, the plaintiff was permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the vehicle’s manufacturer, making several claims. The plaintiff presented evidence showing that the manufacturer did not conduct any safety testing on the seatbelt mechanism in the van. The plaintiff also had an expert witness testify that, had testing been conducted, the results would have indicated that the seatbelt mechanism was unsafe, and the manufacturer would have likely used a safer mechanism in its place.

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Anyone who has been involved in an Indiana car accident knows that dealing with insurance companies in the wake of the accident can be a real headache. While insurance is mandatory in all states and should act to provide compensation to car accident victims, the reality is that insurance companies are for-profit companies that are financially incentivized to pay out as little as possible for each claim.

Smashed WindshieldIn many cases, insurance companies will approach an accident victim early in the recovery process in hopes of getting to them before they speak to an attorney. An employee of the insurance company may try to act like they know what is best for an accident victim, and they will often explain that the claim is worth a certain amount and offer to settle the claim. However, accident victims should be careful when discussing their claims with anyone from the insurance company because in most cases, the offers made to an unrepresented accident victim are low-ball offers to settle claims that may be worth much more.

In other cases, insurance companies will outright deny an accident victim’s claim. This is especially the case when there are unusual facts surrounding the accident. In such cases, the accident victim may be left with no choice but to file a personal injury lawsuit, seeking to compel the insurance company to cover the claim. That is exactly what happened in a recent car accident case in Rhode Island.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was not in either car at the time of the accident, but was struck by one of the cars involved in the accident while she was standing on the corner. The court had to decide if the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial against both drivers, or only against the driver who ran the red light, causing the accident. In the end, the court held that because conflicting evidence existed about whether both drivers may be at fault, the case should proceed to trial against both defendants.

Pedestrian SignThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked as a crossing guard for a local school. It was the Friday of the first week of school, and she was scheduled to end her shift in a few minutes when she glanced up the street and noticed a car speeding towards her. She noticed the car was crossing into the lane of opposing traffic passing other vehicles. As the car approached the intersection where the plaintiff was standing, it ran a red stoplight.

At the time the first car ran the red light, a pick-up truck entered the intersection with a green light. There was conflicting testimony as to whether the intersection was clear at the time the pick-up truck entered the intersection. The plaintiff said that it was not clear; however, the driver of the pick-up and several eyewitnesses claimed that it was clear. Regardless, once the pick-up entered the intersection, it was struck by the car that had run the red stoplight. The force from the collision sent the pick-up truck right into the plaintiff, who was thrown against a wall nearby. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against both drivers.

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Late this month, an appellate court in Ohio issued an interesting decision involving the limits of a local government’s immunity from personal injury lawsuits involving claims that the government failed to maintain a public road. In the case, Bibler v. Stevenson, the court determined that a local government was not entitled to immunity when it allowed a stop sign to become overgrown with brush, resulting in a motorist running the stop sign and striking the plaintiff.

ForestThe Facts of the Case

Back in 2011, Bibler was driving through an intersection when he was struck by another motorist who had run a stop sign. When asked by police what happened, the other motorist explained that she had not seen the stop sign. The officer then investigated the motorist’s claim and agreed that the stop sign was obstructed by overgrown foliage.

Bibler filed a lawsuit against the other driver as well as the city where the intersection was located. Bibler eventually settled with the other driver out of court, and the case against the city proceeded toward trial. However, the trial judge dismissed the case against the city, explaining that the city was presumptively entitled to government immunity, and Bibler failed to establish an exception. Bibler appealed.

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Earlier last month, an appellate court in Alaska issued a written opinion in a personal injury case affirming a trial court’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s post-trial motion after a jury found in favor of the defendant. In the case, Long v. Arnold, the court held that the trial court’s jury instructions properly summed up the applicable law and that the lower court was correct to deny the plaintiff’s post-trial motion. The case illustrates how important it is for a personal injury attorney to diligently and aggressively argue that fair instructions be provided to the jury before it is sent back to deliberate.

Car in DitchThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case, Long, was driving her car on an Alaska road when the defendant pulled out in front of her, cutting her off. As a result of the defendant’s sudden decision to pull in front of her, Long steered her car off the side of the road and into some roadside bushes. Evidence presented at trial suggested Long was traveling at about 10 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Her car naturally came to a stop without hitting any stationary object.

Initially, Long did not believe that she had suffered any injury as a result of the accident. However, two days later while on a flight, she discovered that her back was bothering her. She then filed a personal injury claim against the driver of the vehicle who had cut her off.

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