How the Legal Standard Applied by the Court Can Make a Difference in Indiana Personal Injury Cases

When someone is injured due to the alleged negligence of another party, the injury victim can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be at fault for their injuries. These cases all fall under the umbrella of Indiana personal injury cases. However, there are several different types of personal injury cases, and courts apply slightly different legal standards according to the type of claim that is brought. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the importance of the legal standard that is applied by the court.

The case arose when the plaintiff, who was a guest at the defendant’s property, was injured in a golf cart accident. The defendant was driving the cart at the time of the accident. The plaintiff sued the defendant, claiming that the defendant acted negligently by operating the golf cart in an unsafe manner. The plaintiff’s claim made no mention of a premises liability theory, and did not mention the defendant’s status as the owner of the property where the accident occurred.

The defendant claimed that he did not violate a duty of care that he owed to the plaintiff. The defendant characterized the plaintiff’s claim as one of premises liability, arguing that the plaintiff was a licensee on his property, and thus he only had a duty “to refrain from willfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her.”

The court was presented with a situation where the plaintiff argued that the defendant was liable based on his negligence related to a motor vehicle accident, yet the defendant claimed he was not liable to the plaintiff under a premises liability theory. The trial court determined that the accident implicated a premises liability theory and did not involve the “rules of the road.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that, notwithstanding how a premises liability analysis might be decided, the defendant was liable to her because he negligently operated the golf cart. The court agreed, holding that “premises liability law is not the only legal standard applicable to the facts of this case.” The court reasoned that the defendant’s actions in driving the golf cart were wholly unrelated to the fact that he owned the land where the accident occurred, and the “incidental fact” that the defendant also owned the land was “of no moment.” The court explained that the plaintiff did not make a premises liability claim against the defendant, and it was improper for the lower court to recharacterize the plaintiff’s auto-accident claim as one of premises liability. Thus, the lower court’s decision was reversed, and the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed towards trial.

Do You Need an Indiana Car Accident Attorney?

If you or someone you care about has been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be able to recover financial compensation for the injuries you have endured. At the Indiana car accident law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we aggressively represent accident victims across Indiana. We work diligently to hold at-fault drivers responsible for the injuries they cause, and are not afraid to take insurance companies head-on. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us through our online form. Contacting us is free, and there is no obligation to continue forward with your case unless you desire to do so.