How to Settle a Personal Injury Case in Indiana
When another person’s behavior or negligence causes you physical injury, it is your legal right to hold them liable and recover appropriate compensation. The severity of your injury does not impact your right to recover, only the amount you can recover. In some cases, settlement of personal injury claims is the most effective and efficient way to get the compensation you need to move forward. To get started, you need help understanding how to settle a personal injury case and maximize the compensation you recover. The first step is contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer.
At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we have years of experience helping people just like you. When settlement is the right call, we let you know how to maximize your recovery through that process.
How to Settle a Personal Injury Case: What You Need to Prove
To recover damages in a personal injury case, you must establish the defendant’s fault in causing your injuries and prove the damages arising from their misconduct. Once you establish the defendant’s fault and the extent of your losses, you can start working towards a settlement. An experienced Indiana personal injury settlement attorney can help you understand how to settle a personal injury case.
To recover damages for your injuries, you must establish who is at fault for causing them. A defendant is liable if you can show that their intentional or negligent actions caused your injuries and any other losses, such as property damage. Once fault is established, opposing parties may be more likely to negotiate personal injury settlements in Indiana. In some cases, multiple defendants may be accountable for your losses.
Once fault is established, opposing parties may be more likely to negotiate personal injury settlements in Indiana. Successfully settling personal injury cases requires in-depth legal knowledge and skill in the following areas:
- Establishing fault
- Evaluating, preserving, and presenting evidence
- Documenting all damages to maximize compensation
- Properly and timely filing and negotiating claims
By understanding how to settle a personal injury case—the type of conduct needed to establish fault, the evidence used to determine damages for settlement negotiations, and how timing plays a role in settlement—you can best help your personal injury attorney resolve your case favorably.
Establishing Intentional Conduct in Indiana Personal Injury Settlements
You may be entitled to compensation if your injury was caused by intentional conduct, known in the law as a tort. To show that your injury was caused by a tort, you must establish that the person or organization you’ve identified intentionally performed an act that led to your injury. It can be challenging to establish a claim due to intentional conduct because you have to show the actor’s state of mind in engaging in the conduct that led to your injury. Significantly, you must prove only the actor’s intent to engage in the conduct, not their intention to cause an injury. Common intentional torts include:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- False imprisonment
An experienced personal injury lawyer in Indiana can help you identify and gather the evidence needed to establish the defendant’s state of mind when your injury was caused by intentional conduct.
Establishing Negligence in Personal Injury Settlements in Indiana
The other way to establish the defendant’s fault is to show their negligent acts were the cause of your injuries. To prove the individual or organization who caused your injuries was negligent, you must show:
- The actor owed a duty
- The actor failed to fulfill (breached) that duty
- Their breach resulted in your injuries
- You sustained actual damage
All people and businesses or other entities have a general duty to act in a manner that avoids causing injury to others. An individual or organization breaches this duty when it acts unreasonably and those actions cause injury to others. The court judges the reasonableness of a defendant’s actions by looking at how a reasonable person would behave in similar circumstances.
When the actor’s actions are unreasonable, you have established liability and must next show that your injuries arose out of or were caused by that breach. The actor’s conduct must be the actual cause and the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The actual cause is the conduct or action or event that resulted in your injuries. For example, when a truck driver runs a stop sign and hits a car, the truck driver’s actions are the actual cause of the accident and any subsequent injuries. However, those actions might not be the proximate cause. Proximate cause is the legal cause of the injury, and it determines liability. The proximate cause is an action by the defendant which produces a foreseeable reaction that would not otherwise have occurred.
The legal doctrines of causation are very nuanced, and proving them is critical to having a strong position in negotiating a settlement. An experienced Indiana personal injury settlement attorney help proving the defendant is the actual and proximate cause of your injuries.
Finally, you must be able to establish that you suffered actual damages, also called compensatory damages, arising from the other party’s negligence. Damages can include personal injuries and property damage caused by the defendant’s actions.
Having strong evidence of intentional or negligent conduct is critical to recovering compensation. However, without more, you’ve only satisfied one part of how to settle a personal injury case. Without evidence of your injuries and the defendant’s fault, it can be difficult to negotiate personal injury settlements in Indiana and recover the damages you deserve. Your best chance for success requires working with attorneys who know how to prove and settle a personal injury case.
The Evidence Needed to Support Your Personal Injury Claim
The individual or organization that caused your injuries is more likely to work towards a settlement when you have a strong case supported by sufficient evidence. The evidence should establish the defendant’s fault in causing the accident as well as all injuries and losses that resulted from the incident. An Indiana personal injury settlement attorney generally collects, documents, and presents the following types of evidence to support your claim.
The most important step to take immediately following an accident is to receive medical treatment. Receiving quick medical attention is advantageous for fully recovering physically and financially. Moreover, medical records documenting your condition and treatment as close to the time of injury as possible help to prove causation.
Your medical records can help you prove you have actual damages resulting from the defendant’s actions. The absence of similar injuries before the accident can show that the accident is the original cause of your injuries and that the individual or organization who caused it is completely liable for the damages arising from your injuries.
You should collect your medical records from the beginning of treatment. This will save your attorney time spent requesting medical records and waiting for the medical offices to send them, giving your attorney a jumpstart in investigating your claim.
When the police investigate an accident, they fill out an accident report. If you are not too injured, it is important to give your full statement while still at the accident scene. Often, statements given closer to the time of the accident are accorded more weight and thought to be generally more accurate than those given after time has passed.
Additionally, police reports are a good source of information for tracking down witnesses of the accident. The police take statements from witnesses and put their contact information in the police report. Therefore, you and your attorney can follow up with these witnesses for a more in-depth interview.
Photographs and Videos
Photographs and video are the primary forms of evidence outside of witness testimony to prove the defendant’s negligence and, in some cases, can be the most important tool in how to settle a personal injury case. It is helpful to have photographs and videos of the following:
- The vehicles involved in the accident
- The area where the accident occurred
- A property defect that caused your injury
- Your injuries and any property damages
In a car accident case, for example, photographs can easily identify whose fault the accident is. No detail is too small as even the location of the damage on the parties’ vehicles can indicate who is at fault, and photographs of the accident area can give context to how the accident happened. Your attorney can even work with an expert in accident reconstruction to establish the most likely cause of the accident if needed.
If your injury occurs because of a dangerous defect on another’s property, it is important to document the defect shortly after the accident. Some property owners will move quickly to repair or hide the defect, so getting back to the property to take photographs or videos of the defect is crucial to establishing your claim.
How to Settle a Personal Injury Case: The Damages a Plaintiff Can Expect
While you may understand generally how to settle a personal injury case, estimating the damages you can recover takes the practiced eye of a personal injury lawyer. The damages depend on the cause of the injury because different types of compensation are available depending upon whether the defendant acted intentionally or negligently. In both cases, you can recover economic damages and non-economic damages. If the defendant acted intentionally and certain standards are met, you may be able to recover punitive damages as well.
Economic damages compensate the plaintiff for all financial losses arising due to the accident. The plaintiff may receive financial compensation for medical costs, including bills for hospital care and stays, therapy costs, and expected future care. The plaintiff may also recover other out-of-pocket expenses, including damages for property repairs or replacement.
In addition to out-of-pocket expenses, the plaintiff may also recover wages lost from missing work due to their injury. If the plaintiff cannot work in the future, he or she may also be entitled to compensation for future lost wages. Finally, if the plaintiff’s injury diminishes their work capacity, damages may be available to compensate for the difference between income before and after the accident.
The plaintiff may also recover damages for physical injuries to compensate for pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life. Changes to the plaintiff’s quality of life are determined by evaluating the person’s ability to engage in activities of daily life before versus after the accident. Activities of daily life include:
- Chores around the house
- Socializing with friends and family
The more severe the injuries are in a case, the more likely it is that the defendant will be willing to settle the claim. Therefore, once you can establish the severity of your injuries, you and your attorney should discuss how to settle a personal injury case and determine if it is the best option for you.
Punitive damages are available in Indiana when the defendant acts intentionally or with gross negligence. Punitive damages punish the defendant for their actions rather than compensating the plaintiff for losses like economic and non-economic damages. However, Indiana does limit how much the plaintiff may recover in punitive damages.
Indiana does not allow the plaintiff to recover more than $50,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is higher. Additionally, there are no punitive damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit.
How the Timing of a Claim Impacts Personal Injury Settlements in Indiana
As with many types of legal claims, timing is an essential part of how to settle a personal injury case. You must properly file a personal injury claim on time to recover damages for your injuries. Under Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4, Indiana gives plaintiffs two years from the date of the injury or accident to file a personal injury claim. Most Indiana personal injury settlements are dependent on the plaintiff filing on time.
Failing to bring legal action on time gives the court the right to dismiss the case. The plaintiff may not recover damages after the court dismisses their case.
Filing a personal injury complaint not only preserves your right to compensation, it also can be a persuasive tool in settlement negotiations. Contact an Indiana personal injury settlement attorney to properly file your lawsuit and remain eligible to recover damages.
Where to Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer in Indiana for Your Case
Understanding how to settle a personal injury case may seem somewhat straightforward, but you need to have strong negotiating strategies gained as a personal injury lawyer to maximize the compensation you receive. When you call Keffer Hirschauer LLP, the management of your case is in the capable hands of an Indiana personal injury settlement attorney with the experience to fight for you. For help negotiating Indiana personal injury settlements or taking your case to court, call us today at (317) 455-4043 or complete our online contact form.