Federal Court Interprets Indiana’s Comparative Fault Act in Recent Personal Injury Case

Last month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in an Indiana personal injury accident that required the court to interpret the Indiana Comparative Fault Act. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence presented indicated that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault for his injuries, and thus dismissal of the plaintiff’s case under the Comparative Fault Act was appropriate.

The Indiana Comparative Fault Act is contained in Indiana Code sections 34-51-2-5 and 34-51-2-6, and provides the system that courts use to determine whether an accident victim who shares fault for their own injuries can pursue a claim against other potentially liable parties. Specifically, the Act states that “any contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages … but does not bar recovery” except as provided by section 34-51-2-6.

Section 34-51-2-6 explains that a plaintiff cannot recover for their injuries if their fault is “greater than the fault of all persons whose fault proximately contributed to the claimant’s damages.” While this sounds quite confusing, in practice the Comparative Fault Act precludes a plaintiff’s recovery if they were more than 50% at fault for the accident that caused their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a young man who struck by a train as he and some friends were running from the police. Evidently, the boys had been warned by a police officer that they were trespassing, and fled when an officer approached a second time after initially issuing a warning. As the boys were running, they crossed a set of five railroad tracks.

There was a train on one of the tracks. Most of the plaintiff’s friends saw the train and were able to avoid it. However, the plaintiff kept running with his head down and ran right into the path of the train. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the railroad company.

The railroad company argued that the plaintiff was precluded from pursuing a case against it because the plaintiff was at least 50% a fault. The railroad pointed to video evidence showing the boys running onto the tracks as the warning lights were flashing and bells were sounding.

The court agreed with the railroad company that the plaintiff was at least 50% at fault, and affirmed the dismissal of his claim. The court noted that, although a plaintiff’s own testimony may give rise to a material fact, here, the video evidence “blatantly contradicted” the plaintiff’s testimony that he was unaware a train was approaching.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in an Indiana train accident, or any other kind of Indiana personal injury accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims and their families in personal injury cases across Indiana. We handle Indiana car accidents, slip-and-fall cases, as well as wrongful death cases and more. To speak with an attorney about your case, call 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation today.