Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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.

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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.

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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.

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Figuring out who to name as a defendant in an Indiana car accident case is an important step in any personal injury case. For example, employers may be liable for employees’ actions even in cases where the employer was seemingly not involved in the accident, as a recent case illustrates.

In that case, the plaintiff was evidently a passenger in a truck that was in a single-vehicle accident. At the time, the driver was driving back home after attending a family gathering. The plaintiff filed suit against the driver (the plaintiff’s father), the driver’s corporation, and an affiliated corporation that owned the vehicle. The defendant corporations claimed that they could not be held liable because the driver was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant corporations required the driver to be on call at all times—24 hours a day, seven days a week. The driver was required to immediately respond to calls for repairs and maintenance at the defendants’ farms, ranches, and dairies. The defendants had equipment that was operated 24 hours a day, and repairs had to be addressed immediately to avoid disruption of the farm and dairy operations. It was not clear whether the driver was required to use the company vehicle (which contained tools and parts for repairs) at all times so that he could quickly carry out repairs. The driver’s supervisor told him that he was not limited to using the vehicle for business purposes.

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When someone is injured in an Indiana car accident, the accident victim is entitled to pursue a claim for compensation against any of the parties they believe were responsible for causing the crash. In the majority of cases, car accidents occur on public roads. After an accident on a public road, the motorists involved in the collision should call the police. The police will then respond to the scene, investigate the accident, and issue any citations if they are determined to be necessary. The results of an investigation conducted by the police can be very beneficial to an Indiana car accident plaintiff.

In addition to accidents occurring on public roadways, there are a significant number of Indiana car accidents that occur in parking lots, parking garages, or on other privately owned property. Because these accidents are not on public roadways, police officers may not respond unless there are serious injuries. However, it is essential that motorists involved in a car accident on private property obtain all the necessary information from the other drivers involved in the crash, including the driver’s name, address, insurance information, as well as the vehicle information, including the name and address of the owner (if the owner is not the one driving the car).

An accident victim may also be able to pursue a claim against the owner of the property where the accident occurred if the owner’s negligence contributed to the accident. For example, parking garages are poorly designed or improperly marked, creating a misleading situation for motorists. However, an Indiana accident victim must be able to connect the landowner’s negligence to their injuries by establishing a causal relationship between the two. A recent state appellate decision discussed a plaintiff’s car accident claim against a private residential community.

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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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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 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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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff’s claim against the city that employed a police officer who struck her car while responding to an emergency call. The case presents important issues that frequently arise in Indiana personal injury cases that are brought against government employees or entities under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

The Facts of the Case

A police officer was responding to an emergency call at a hotel for a person who was unconscious. The officer decided to cut through a parking lot that was adjacent to the hotel’s parking lot. As the officer was approaching the hotel, he pulled forward into traffic slightly so that he could see the hotel from his location. As he did so, the plaintiff’s vehicle clipped the police vehicle’s front bumper.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the officer as well as the city that employed him. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the officer was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and that the city was vicariously liable for the actions of the officer, which were conducted while in the course of his employment. The plaintiff also claimed the city was negligent in hiring the officer.

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