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.
One 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.
The Facts of the Case
Two people drowned after the car in which they were riding flipped end-over-end into a rover at the end of a dead-end road. There was a sign on the road about 600 feet before the river stating “Pavement Ends,” but there was no other signage, nor were there barriers between the end of the roadway and the river.
The surviving family members of the two people who died in the accident filed a wrongful death case against the township and the county where the accident occurred, claiming that they were negligent in failing to place the signage and barriers.
The Court’s Analysis
The court considered the plaintiffs’ claim against the township first, finding that it did not have the legal authority – or obligation – to place signage on the roads in the township. In arriving at this conclusion, the court noted that the statute granting authority to place signs generally placed such authority with the county. However, the statute listed only five counties in which the townships also had the ability to place signage. The court then went on to note that the township where the accident occurred was not listed among those five counties. Thus, the court determined that the township did not owe the victims a duty of care and dismissed the plaintiffs’ case against the township.
The court then moved on to the claim against the county, finding that it was entitled to immunity. The court explained that, although the placement of the signs and barriers may have prevented the accident, and also there were standards indicating that signs should have been placed, the county’s decision not to follow the standards was a discretionary decision that was entitled to immunity. The court explained that standards are more flexible and are not the same as mandates, which must be followed. As a result of the court’s decision, the loved ones of the accident victims will not be permitted to recover for their losses.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling all types of Indiana car accident claims, and they know what it takes to be successful on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation o discuss your case with an Indiana personal injury lawyer today.
Court Rules in Business’ Favor in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit Involving Children at Play, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, April 2, 2018
Court Affirms Dismissal of Premises Liability Case, Finding Hazard Was “Open and Obvious”, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018