What Does Legally Incompetent Mean?
Under Indiana law, a person who has a “legal disability” includes people who are “less than eighteen (18) years of age, mentally incompetent, or out of the United States.” Indiana Code 1–1–4–5(24) (2002).
The issue of “unsoundness of mind” is ordinarily a question for the trier of fact based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. See, e.g.,Hayes v. Westminster Vill. N., Inc., 953 N.E.2d 114, 117 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).
Obviously, a legal determination of mental incompetency can have significant legal implications. For example, in Hayes, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed whether a triable issue existed as to whether resident was under legal disability at time of alleged harm so as to trigger a savings clause. Hayes v. Westminster Vill. N., Inc., 953 N.E.2d 114 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011). That court addressed Indiana Code 22–3–3–3, which then provided that “the right to compensation under Indiana Code 22–3–2 through Indiana Code 22–3–6 shall be forever barred unless within two (2) years after the occurrence of the accident … a claim for compensation thereunder shall be filed with the worker’s compensation board.” However, “no limitation of time … shall run against any person who is mentally incompetent.” Indiana Code 22–3–3–30. Indiana Code 1–1–4–5(12) provided that “mentally incompetent” means “of unsound mind.” Again, however, competency is a factual determination that needs to be made. That determination can be based largely on the observations and documentation of the individual whose competency is being challenged.
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