Getting Compensation for Personal Injury in Indiana
When a person, business, or other entity injures you, the law gives you an opportunity to hold the offender responsible and recover damages. In Indiana, compensation for personal injury reimburses the plaintiff for money lost and pays them fairly for your physical injuries. Understanding how an Indiana personal injury lawsuit works—and being successful—requires help from an experienced personal injury lawyer.
At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we understand that your case may be best resolved through settlement or the litigation process. In either case, you are entitled to hold the defendant responsible for the damages caused.
What Compensation for Personal Injury Is Available?
To succeed in a personal injury case, you must first prove the responsible party’s fault. Thereafter, you also need to prove the amount of your damages. Here, Keffer Hirschauer LLP overviews the most common types of damages in personal injury lawsuits, the legal process involved in personal injury cases, limitations on damages, and how courts calculate damages. Understanding these concepts can help you assist your attorney in preparing the strongest case possible so that your compensation for personal injury is what you deserve.
Damages: Types of Compensation for Personal Injury Claims
An Indiana personal injury lawsuit may have value for different types of compensation. Which types apply depends on the type of injury sustained and the plaintiff’s individual circumstances, such as whether the plaintiff is married or employed. Here we summarize basic types of damages a plaintiff may seek to recovery in an Indiana personal injury lawsuit.
When you suffer a physical injury, it can significantly impact your financial status. Economic damages compensate you for money losses arising from your injuries. These monetary damages, often called economic damages, ideally cover all out-of-pocket expenses, including:
- Medical costs
- Future medical care, including physical therapy
- Lost income
- Property damage
Severe injuries often require future medical care and maybe even a care plan that involves full-time care. Economic damages aim to provide enough financial assistance to cover the costs of future medical care, even if it is for the rest of your life.
Indiana personal injury law allows you to recover the income that you have lost from missed work as a result of the accident. However, injuries can also lead to a reduced working capacity or an inability to work at all. Economic damages can also compensate for the loss of income or the difference between a person’s pre-injury income and post-injury income if the injury resulted in a reduced working capacity.
If you or a loved one suffers an injury in an accident, you are entitled to economic damages under Indiana injury compensation laws.
In addition to financial injury, the plaintiff in a personal injury case must continue to deal with the physical aspect of the injury. Non-economic damages compensate you for pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. However, the damages do not stop here, and injured person’s spouse can recover for emotional distress and loss of consortium, too.
Loss of consortium allows the victim’s spouse to recover consortium damages, which are intended to compensate the spouse when the injured party can no longer provide the same level of companionship as before the accident. In an Indiana personal injury lawsuit, these damages generally only arise for serious injuries or wrongful death.
Because non-economic damages are not tied to evidence with bills, they can be difficult to prove and recover. There is no precise way to measure subjective damages like emotional distress, physical pain, and loss of consortium. This challenge makes it important to keep track of all medical records. Even a personal journal detailing your physical injuries and pain can help when evaluating and proving non-economic damages. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side can be critical to recovering non-economic damages.
When a defendant’s intentional actions or gross negligence led to your injuries, you are entitled to punitive damages. These damages are a punishment for the defendant and are designed to serve as a deterrent to future malicious behavior. For help proving the defendant acted willfully in causing you or your loved one harm, contact an attorney who can help obtain the appropriate compensation for personal injury.
The Process for Obtaining Compensation for Personal Injury in Indiana
Most people are unfamiliar with the litigation process and are unsure how to obtain the damages they deserve after an injury. Court is not always necessary if the party that caused your injury admits fault and agrees to pay damages. You may accept any offer of damages before filing or during your personal injury lawsuit. Guidance from an experienced injury attorney can help you determine whether settling a claim is likely to be in your best interests.
When a person is injured and is thinking of making a claim for damages, it is important to understand the steps of a lawsuit and how they can influence an offer of damages. Here, we summarize those steps in general terms.
Pre-Litigation Steps in Personal Injury Cases
After getting medical treatment, your next step is to submit a claim to your insurance and the insurance company of those responsible for your injuries. Each insurance company investigates the incident and injuries, which includes reviewing the cause of your accident and the severity of your injuries. The investigation also involves gathering and review any accident reports, medical records, and statements from the parties involved.
Should the defendant’s insurance company believe you have a valid claim, the insurer may offer you a small amount of money to settle your claim. It is important to know the insurance company will often make an offer far below the fair value of your injuries. They do this hoping you will be happy just to have some money and will agree not to file a lawsuit.
While your case isn’t a lawsuit at this stage, it is smart to have an attorney represent your interests when making an insurance claim. As your legal representative, an attorney can communicate with the insurance companies directly, protect your interests, and help you navigate the investigation. Additionally, the insurance company may take your claim more seriously and provide a better offer with Indianapolis injury attorneys representing you.
Initiating a Lawsuit and the Early Stages
Should the insurance company fail to make a fair offer, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. Under Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4, you have two years from the date the injury occurred to bring the lawsuit. Filing the lawsuit may show the defendant’s insurance company you are serious about your claim, which may cause the insurer to make an offer that is better than one made in the pre-litigation stage.
Once a lawsuit has been initiated, the two sides begin discovery and exchange all information in their possession regarding the cause of the injury and the injury itself. You must provide the defendant with all medical records regarding your injury or sign a release for your medical care providers to provide such records. Additionally, you may be requested to appear for a deposition, an interview made under oath and recorded, to answer questions regarding your injuries and how those physical and medical issues impact you daily life.
If you have a lawyer at this stage but did not engage a lawyer for pre-litigation negotiations, your personal injury lawyer usually handles all the negotiations and settlement talks. Although handling these matters for you, your attorney must present all offers the defendant makes, and it is your decision alone whether to accept or deny the offer.
Resolving an Indiana Personal Injury Lawsuit
Once the discovery stage is over, the sides should have the information needed to begin in-depth negotiations. Should your case fail to settle, you may proceed to a more formal form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or to trial. Alternative dispute resolution includes mediation and arbitration, both of which use a neutral third party to help the sides reach an agreement. A mediator acts as a go-between for the two parties and works to reach a fair agreement on damages. An arbitrator hears each side’s argument and decides on damages with their decision being final.
If the sides fail to reach an agreement through negotiation or mediation, or if you do not attempt to resolve the matter through ADR, the next step is trial. At trial, both sides present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury, who then decides whether the other individual or organization is responsible for your injuries and, if so, the amount of damages. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer is critical to succeeding in your case at trial.
Limitations on Compensation for Personal Injury
Though the parties may agree on a settlement or damages may be awarded by a judge or jury, Indiana law limits the amount of damages you may recover. As a result, even if you are awarded damages over the limits, you can only recover the amount allowed by the law.
The most common limitation applied in Indiana is comparative fault under Indiana Code § 34-51-2-5, which can place some fault for the accident on the plaintiff. Should you be found to have contributed to the accident, this reduces your recovery in proportion to your fault. However, if your fault is determined to be 51 percent or higher, you are barred from recovering any damages.
Additional damage limitations include:
- Damages recovered from the government cannot exceed $700,000 per person
- Wrongful death of an unmarried adult, age 23 or older, without dependents, allows only up to $300,000 in damages
- Your personal injury lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations has run, which is generally two years
Should you face limitations in recovering compensation for personal injury, maximizing the recovery of the damages allowed under Indiana law is important. An experienced attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP will fight to hold the defendant responsible and to help you maximize compensation for personal injury in your case.
Calculating Compensation for Personal Injury
The exact amount of appropriate damages is difficult to determine in most lawsuits for personal injury. However, there is a common formula used by insurance companies and attorneys to estimate how much the plaintiff’s claim is worth:
- Economic damages times one to five (depending on the injury) plus lost income equals total damages
More severe injuries are more likely to result in multiplying the economic damages by a factor of five with less severe damages factored by one. This formula provides the parties with a starting point for damages. The final damages can go up or down depending on numerous factors including the quality of the evidence, length of recovery, and permanence of the injury.
Taking certain steps can help maximize your damages award. The first step to take is to mitigate your damages, which includes:
- Seeking medical care and continuing treatment until you have recovered or reached maximum recovery for your injury
- Following your doctors’ orders
- Avoiding participation in activities that can potentially aggravate your injury
You can help yourself by accurately reporting all of your symptoms and pain levels to your doctors. If you diminish your injuries to your doctor, this will be reflected in the medical records and can ultimately reduce your recovery.
Additionally, it is important to keep track of all related medical expenses as it is more difficult to prove out-of-pocket expenses for medical care without the proper records. To establish the injuries’ impact on your quality of life, keep track of how your day-to-day life has changed. This information can include:
- Difficulty performing chores or activities
- Increased pain with certain activities
- The impact on your work duties
- Changes in your emotional state since the accident
Where to Find Your Indianapolis Injury Attorneys for Success
Finding a qualified and knowledgeable attorney to help with lawsuits for personal injury is essential for succeeding in your personal injury claim and getting compensation for personal injury. When you work with Keffer Hirschauer LLP, your personal injury attorney has the experience to build the best arguments to maximize your compensation. For a free consultation, contact one of our Indianapolis injury attorneys by calling (317) 455-4043 or complete our online contact form.