Articles Posted in Car Accidents

As a general matter, the state and local governments enjoy immunity from personal injury lawsuits. However, each state has a tort claims act that statutorily waives immunity in some situations. Each state’s tort claims act is a little different, with most states outlining the situations in which immunity is waived. Indiana’s Tort Claims Act, however, is different in that it is framed in terms of which actions are immune from liability.

Dead End SignOne area in which governments are entitled to immunity from Indiana personal injury lawsuits is in the design of roadways. Under Indiana Code section 34-13-3-3, government entities are immune from lawsuits based on the design of roadways when the claim arises 20 years or more after the roadway had been constructed or substantially redesigned. The statute does not apply to the government’s ongoing requirement to maintain roadways in a safe condition.

A recent case illustrates how courts view cases brought under the various tort claims acts.

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The legal theory of negligent entrustment allows for an Indiana car accident victim to seek compensation from the owner of a vehicle who negligently allowed another person to use the vehicle that was involved in the accident. Since a negligent entrustment claim allows for an accident victim to hold a third party (the vehicle’s owner) liable for the negligent actions of a party (the driver), it is a form of vicarious liability.

Sunny HighwayCommonly, negligent entrustment claims are brought against those who lend their cars to young or intoxicated drivers. Each state has its own laws when it comes to establishing a negligent entrustment claim, but a universal requirement is that the plaintiff be able to establish that the owner of the vehicle had some reason to believe that the person they allowed to use their car posed a danger to other motorists.

A federal appellate court recently issued a written opinion in a negligent entrustment case illustrating how courts analyze these claims.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case affirming the denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial based on the alleged failure of the jury to consider what the plaintiff claimed to be uncontroverted evidence. The court, however, interpreted the evidence differently, finding that the evidence presented at trial was in conflict. That being the case, the court held that the jury was free to come to the conclusion that it did. Therefore, the trial court was proper in denying the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial.

Crashed CarThe case is relevant to Indiana car accident plaintiffs because it illustrates the analysis courts apply when determining whether a new trial is necessary. Additionally, a similar standard is applied by courts when determining whether a plaintiff’s case is sufficient to be submitted to a jury for trial in the first place.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car accident. Both parties believed that the accident was caused by the other’s negligence. However, only the plaintiff filed a lawsuit. The plaintiff testified at trial, claiming that the defendant changed lanes without signaling, resulting in the collision.

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Being involved in an Indiana car accident is a traumatic experience, and the road to recovery can be a long one. Initially, accident victims must deal with the physical and emotional injuries sustained in the crash. This can take months, if not longer. However, at some point, an Indiana car accident victim must also face the financial impact of the accident. Most often, this means filing a claim with an insurance company.

Cracked WindshieldWhile the purpose of car insurance is to make sure that accident victims are compensated for their injuries, insurance companies are for-profit enterprises that rely on taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. This incentivizes insurance companies to deny coverage when possible, and to offer low settlement offers in hopes of resolving a claim in as inexpensive a manner as possible.

A recent case illustrates the difficulties one accident victim had when trying to file a claim with her father’s insurance company.

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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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