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Indiana’s Personal Injury and Negligence Laws Explained

Updated on
October 6, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will highlight important information regarding personal injury and negligence laws in Indiana and answer the following questions:


  • What is the difference between personal injury and negligence?
  • How is negligence proven in Indiana?
  • How does comparative fault affect my negligence claim?
  • What is the difference between comparative fault and contributory negligence?
  • What damages can be awarded in an Indiana negligence claim?
  • What is the statute of limitations on an Indiana personal injury and negligence claim?


What Is The Difference Between Personal Injury and Negligence?


Personal injury is a legal category under civil law. A personal injury claim aims to compensate victims of accidents, social wrongs, injuries sustained due to altercations; just about anything that involves one or more parties causing injury, damage, pain, or suffering to another party. A majority of personal injury cases are motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and medical malpractice suits. Other types of personal injury claims include dog bites, assault, workplace accidents, product liability, and many more.


The key difference between personal injury and negligence is that personal injury refers to an event that leads to the plaintiff’s pain, while negligence is the cause of personal injury. A simple example is when a customer walks into a store and slips on a section of wet flooring. The personal injury is the slip and fall and resultant pain and suffering, while the negligence is the store’s failure to clean up the water or at least place a wet floor sign warning customers.


How Is Negligence Proven In Indiana?


Negligence occurs when an individual or corporation owes a duty to another person and fails to uphold that duty, thereby becoming responsible for any pain, suffering, and loss resulting from said negligence. For example, an individual who is texting while driving crashes into the car in front of him, causing damage to the vehicle and the person inside.


In Indiana, the plaintiff (the person alleging injury) carries the burden of proving negligence. There are a handful of different elements to a negligence case, which must all be proven true for the plaintiff to win, these include:


  • Duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff;
  • The duty of care was breached by the defendant;
  • Had it not been for the defendant’s breach of his or her duty of care, the plaintiff would not have suffered any harm
  • The breached duty of care was directly responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries;
  • The accident was foreseeable and easily preventable; and
  • Because of the incident, deliberate or otherwise, the plaintiff suffered damages and losses.


What Is The Difference Between Comparative Fault And Contributory Negligence?


Contributory negligence is the idea that if some degree of the accident is the plaintiff’s fault, then the amount of damages awarded will usually be reduced by that percentage. For example, if an accident results in $100,000 in damages, but the plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault, then the maximum amount of damages awarded would likely be $70,000. If the plaintiff is found to be fifty-one percent or higher at fault then no damages can be recovered. In Indiana, personal injury and negligence claims against state government or political institutions and medical malpractice claims require 100% of the fault to be on the defendant, or no damages will be awarded.


Comparative fault is similar to contributory negligence, but it deals with how much fault each party has in a personal injury and negligence case involving multiple parties. The court must determine each parties’ fault and any damages owed or awarded will depend on these valuations.


What Damages Can Be Awarded In An Indiana Negligence Claim?


The damages that can be awarded in an Indiana negligence claim exist in three categories:


  1. Economic: These include actual dollar amounts that can be tracked, such as medical bills, loss of wages, loss of property, and anything else that has a direct financial impact on the plaintiff and their family
  2. Non-economic: These are emotional and mental losses, including pain, suffering, loss of consortium, mental anguish, etc.
  3. Punitive damages: Punitive damages act as a punishment to the defendant beyond the restitution that must be paid to the plaintiff. These are usually in the form of fines, loss of privilege, and even jail time. However, getting punitive damages usually requires that the plaintiff’s party prove the defendant was acting intentionally or with gross negligence.


What Is The Statute Of Limitations On An Indiana Personal Injury And Negligence Claim?


Generally, Indiana gives the plaintiff two years from the date of the injury to file their claim. However, this time frame may shorten depending on who the at-fault party is. For example, personal injury and negligence claims against certain governmental entities require that the claim be filed within 180 days of the injury.


If you have any questions about personal injury and negligence claims, please give our office a call!


Indiana’s Personal Injury and Negligence Laws Explained
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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