Answers to some of the most common questions about accidents and injuries in the Hoosier State
Turning to the Indiana legal system after an accident can be confusing and downright intimidating.
Lawyers complete 3 years of legal training and pass a bar exam before they’re considered knowledgeable enough to practice law. So understandably, most people who aren’t lawyers feel overwhelmed by the idea of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
At Enjuris, we don’t want you to be confused, intimidated, or overwhelmed. With this in mind, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about Indiana personal injury lawsuits.
Q: What is a personal injury lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit you can file if you suffer a physical or mental injury, or property damage as a result of someone else’s negligence or harmful act.
Personal injury lawsuits often involve:
Q: Where are personal injury lawsuits filed in Indiana?
The vast majority of Indiana personal injury lawsuits are filed in the circuit court or superior court located in the county where the accident occurred or where the defendant lives.
There are 2 situations where you might file your personal injury lawsuit in a different court:
- If the total damages you’re seeking DO NOT exceed $6,000 (or $8,000 in Marion County), you have the option to file your lawsuit in small claims court.
- If your lawsuit involves a violation of federal law or if your case has complete diversity (meaning the plaintiff lives in a different state than the defendant and the total damages you’re seeking exceed $75,000), you can file your lawsuit in federal court.
Q: What’s the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Indiana?
Every state has a statute of limitations that sets the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
In Indiana, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is 2 years. This means you have 2 years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit. If you fail to file your lawsuit in time, the defendant can have your case permanently dismissed.
Q: Won’t my insurance company cover my expenses after an accident?
Indiana is an “at-fault” insurance state. This means that the person who’s responsible for an accident uses their insurance to pay the injured person’s expenses. If you make a claim against the at-fault person’s insurance and the insurance company pays you exactly what you want, there’s no reason to file a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go that smoothly.
Here are some common situations in which you might need to consult a personal injury attorney near you:
- The at-fault person’s insurance company refuses to acknowledge their customer’s liability
- The at-fault person’s insurance company offers you less than you deserve
- The at-fault person doesn’t have insurance (or their insurance policy doesn’t cover the accident)
- The at-fault person doesn’t have adequate insurance (your damages exceed their policy limits)
Q: What damages can I recover in a personal injury lawsuit?
You can recover both economic and noneconomic damages in an Indiana personal injury lawsuit:
- Economic damages are the monetary losses that result from your accident (medical expenses, lost income, property damage, etc.).
- Noneconomic damages are the non-monetary losses that result from your accident (pain and suffering and emotional distress).
If the defendant’s actions were intentional or particularly egregious, you may also be able to recover punitive damages.
In the meantime, you can learn more about how much your Indiana personal injury case is worth.
Q: Does Indiana place a cap on damages?
Many states limit the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. This limitation is called a “damage cap.” Indiana isn’t as strict as some states, but there are damage caps you should know about:
- Punitive damages are capped at 3 times the amount of economic, plus noneconomic damages that you’re awarded or $50,000 (whichever is greater).
- In medical malpractice lawsuits, damages are capped at $1.8 million.
- If you’re suing the government, damages are capped at $700,000.
- If an unmarried adult (age 23 or older) with no dependents is killed, then the damages their estate can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit are capped at $300,000.
Q: How do you prove fault?
Most accidents happen because someone is careless. If this carelessness falls below a legally-recognized standard, the person’s behavior is considered “negligent” and they’re liable for any injuries that result from their negligence.
To establish negligence in Indiana, a plaintiff must prove 4 elements:
- Duty. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. A duty of care arises when the law recognizes a relationship between the plaintiff and defendant requiring the defendant to exercise a certain standard of care to avoid harming the plaintiff.
- Breach. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. A breach occurs when the defendant fails to meet the standard of care required.
- Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.
- Damages. The plaintiff must prove that they actually suffered some harm.
Q: What if I’m partially at fault for my injuries?
Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, which means that the plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage of fault. What’s more, if the plaintiff is considered more than 50% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages.
Let’s look at an example:
You sue the pedestrian for $30,000.
A jury might find that the pedestrian was 60% at fault for running into the middle of the road, while also finding you 40% at fault for texting and driving. Under Indiana’s modified comparative fault rule, you would only be able to recover 60% ($18,000) of your total damages from the defendant.
What’s more, if the roles were reversed and you were found to be 60% at fault for the collision, then you would be barred from receiving any damages whatsoever.
Q: How much is an attorney going to cost me?
In Indiana, most personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer takes a certain percentage (usually between 20% and 40%) of whatever damages you recover, and doesn’t get any money if you don’t recover any damages.
Indiana doesn’t limit the percentage that an attorney may receive, but the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct require the fee arrangement and expenses for which the plaintiff will be responsible to be communicated to the plaintiff in writing before or within a reasonable time after commencing the attorney-client relationship.
Q: How do I find an attorney in Indiana?
There are roughly 16,000 active lawyers in Indiana.
How are you supposed to find the right one?
Legal directories, including the Enjuris Legal Directory and the Indiana Bar Association Directory, are great places to start. Once you’ve identified a few qualified attorneys, it’s a good idea to schedule initial consultations so you can meet with the attorneys and find out which attorney is the best fit.
Here are some additional resources that might help guide you through this process: