Indiana Court Ruling Protects Bicyclists and Pedestrians Injured by Vehicles

On December 10, 2010, the Plaintiff in Marquez v. Kobler, (Indiana Court of Appeals 2013) was on bicycle, crossing an intersection in Indianapolis, when he was hit by an oncoming car that was turning left. An ambulance responded to the accident and the man was hospitalized with injuries. The bicyclist filed an Indiana negligence lawsuit against the driver who hit him. The suit argues that the plaintiff had the right of way at the intersection, and the defendant was negligent when she failed to yield, and should pay damages to the plaintiff as a result. The defendant argued that she was not entirely liable because the bicyclist was himself negligent by entering the intersection in the pathway of her vehicle, regardless of his right of way.The Accident

Mr. Kobler was riding his bicycle to work on the day of the accident when he stopped at the intersection of Sheila Drive and Pendleton Pike (U.S. Highway 36), and the traffic light was red. He intended to cross Pendleton Pike and travel north on Sheila Drive. The defendant, Ms. Marquez, was facing south on Sheila Drive, and intended to make a left turn and travel east on Pendleton Pike. There was a car in front of the defendant’s car in the left turn lane. When the light turned green, the plaintiff immediately started to propel his bicycle into the intersection and cross the street. The car in front of the defendant quickly made a left turn onto Pendleton Pike, crossing in front of the plaintiff as he entered the intersection. The defendant followed the car in front of her, noticing the plaintiff in her path immediately before she collided with him.

The Defendant’s Argument at Trial

The defendant argued that the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for the accident because the car in front of her crossed in the plaintiff’s path, and if he was paying attention he would have known to look for another car that could be turning left before he continued to cross the street. The defendant wanted the jury to hear this evidence, and have the option to find that the plaintiff was comparatively at fault, which could reduce or eliminate the defendant’s liability. Because the plaintiff undisputedly had the right of way under these circumstances, his attorney argued that the defendant was entirely at fault as a matter of law. Considering this, the plaintiff’s attorney moved the court to prevent the jury from finding him partially at fault, and instead to restrict their decision to the amount of damages. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, ruling that there was no issue for the jury to decide with regard to liability, and that the defendant was 100% at fault for the accident. The defendant then appealed the decision to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The Issue on Appeal

The defendant argued on appeal that the plaintiff’s behavior raised an inference that he was not behaving as a reasonably prudent bicyclist on a large road should, and that his failure to notice the defendant or the car in front of her crossing the street should allow the jury to reduce her liability. Indiana’s Comparative Fault Act allows for a percentage of fault to be apportioned to a plaintiff in a negligence suit if he or she negligently or recklessly contributes to their own injury, or unreasonably fails to avoid the injury. The defendant wanted the jury to decide if the plaintiff should have avoided the impact, or was negligent in crossing the street. The plaintiff argued that the fact that the he had the right of way and was lawfully in the intersection is enough that the defendant’s fault is not a question.

The Court’s Ruling

The Appeals Court looked to Indiana law and determined that whether or not the plaintiff could have avoided the collision, “there is no duty on the party with the right of way at the intersection to anticipate and to keep a lookout for another motorist who negligently fails to yield that right of way.” Considering this, the Court sided with the plaintiff and the trial court, agreeing that “there was no evidence constituting, or even suggesting fault on the part of the plaintiff that could have allowed a jury to allocate negligence to him.” This ruling upheld the award that the jury granted to the plaintiff at trial, and prevented the defendant from avoiding responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Importance of Having a Skilled Attorney

The Court’s ruling in this case ensured that the plaintiff was able to recover the damages that he deserved because of the defendant’s negligence. Indiana personal injury lawsuits do not always go so well for plaintiffs. Defendants’ insurance companies usually employ in-house attorneys who specialize in litigating auto accident and personal injury cases.
These lawyers know what to argue to reduce or eliminate their clients’ liability, even when the issue of blame may seem obvious. Often, Indiana accident plaintiffs are surprised and upset when a case that seems open and shut is derailed by a complicated procedural or evidentiary issue that the defendant’s attorneys take advantage of. Retaining an experienced Indiana accident attorney is the best way for a plaintiff to protect their right to recovery.

Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Driver?

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident, it is important to contact a skilled Indiana personal injury lawyer today. The dedicated attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse specialize in Indiana accident cases, and have the experience that is needed to get the results that are best for our clients. Our knowledge and expertise help prevent insurance companies from avoiding liability, and helps to give our clients peace of mind that their accident case is being handled properly. The firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse represents clients in many different kinds of Indiana personal injury cases, including bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Give us a call today at 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation, or contact us online.

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Indiana Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts’ Rulings, Allows Malpractice Suit to Continue, Indiana Accident Attorneys, April 4, 2014.

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