Filing an Indiana Tort Claim Notice
Generally, individual states in the US and their officials enjoy sovereign immunity, meaning that governments and their officers cannot be sued except in certain situations. Fortunately, the State of Indiana provides that consent to be sued when it comes to civil wrongs like torts. Just like you might make a claim against someone who injures or harms you and causes you some sort of injury or other loss, you can file a claim against the State of Indiana, a political subdivision, or governmental official at fault for your injury. Your claim starts by filing an Indiana tort claim notice, a critical and required step to protecting your right to compensation.
To avoid waiving your right to compensation forever, make sure that your Indiana tort claim notice is prepared correctly and filed timely. The surest way to accomplish this is to work with an experienced Indiana civil rights attorney. Indeed, even the state’s tort claim notice form recommends that you enlist the help of your own attorney. Proudly serving Indiana and proudly helping clients get the process started for filing claims against the State, the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP know just what steps to take, and when, to prepare an accurate and timely tort claim notice.
Why File an Indiana Tort Claim Notice?
Those outside of the legal field (and sometimes those within it) often conflate the terms claim and lawsuit. A claim is an allegation of wrongdoing and request for damages as compensation. A lawsuit is a legal proceeding in which a court or jury determines liability and, if finding liability, the amount of damages payable to the victim.
For purposes of the Indiana tort claim process, a tort claim is the claim made by one party against a state or local governmental unit. For instance, an injured person might file a claim alleging that the state was negligent in the upkeep of one of its properties in a way that resulted in injuries and seek compensation for those injuries. Such a claim alleges the state was negligent.
There are four elements required establish a prima facie case of negligence, including proof that:
- The state or local political subdivision owed a legal duty to the victim
- The governmental unit breached that duty
- The victim was injured
- The governmental unit’s breach caused the injury
To assert a claim, you must provide written notice to the responsible political entity, explaining what happened, pointing to the law (such as the law of negligence), and making a demand for a certain amount of damages based on the nature of your injuries.
The state or political subdivision involved might then engage in a period of investigation. At this point, the political subdivision named in your notice may try to negotiate a settlement through its insurer. Settlements are often favored because it determines the damages upfront and helps both parties avoid the cost of litigation. You may not need to go to court if your attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP procures a favorable settlement for you. This can be an ideal way to avoid the expense of protracted lawsuits while still recovering compensation for your injuries.
What happens next depends on the outcome of the claim. If the parties settle the claim, the need to file a civil rights lawsuit is unlikely. If, however, the governmental unit named in an Indiana tort claim notice denies the claim—meaning it denies responsibility for the injury—or it does not reply to the claim, a lawsuit against government unit(s) responsible may be necessary to fight for your right to compensation.
Examples of Claims Requiring an Indiana Tort Claim Notice
The Tort Claims Against Governmental Entities and Public Employees Act (ITCA), Indiana Code §§ 34-13-3-1 et seq., sets out when and how an individual may file a claim against a state or local governmental entity. There are multiple hoops to go through to file a claim, but the process itself is not so strict so as to make claims impossible to initiate.
The purpose of a tort claim notice is to make the governmental entity at fault for your injuries aware of your claim for damages. The tort claim notice must include nature of the injuries and their causes. Following are a few examples of losses or injuries for which tort claim notices must be filed against a state or local entity:
- Loss or injury due to law enforcement action or lack of action
- Loss or injury due to mold infestation in dorms at a public university
- Loss or injury accidents involving a government-owned vehicle
- Loss or injury due to lead exposure from lead in publicly-owned buildings such as elementary schools
- Loss or injury sustained in a county’s parking lot due to the condition or security of the lot
- Loss or injury from a school bus hitting a parked car
- Loss or injury caused by the presence of significant potholes in a paved public street
Once an injured person submits a tort claim, the State or political subdivision named in the claim usually initiates an investigation to determine the entity’s culpability, the viability of settling, and the advantages or disadvantages of negotiating a settlement. Settlement can offer advantages, such as a quicker resolution, a feeling of buy-in by both parties, lower costs and fees, and avoidance of dragging out the details of a dispute in the public eye.
Your Indiana civil rights attorney at Keffer Hirschauer LLP has experience in evaluating the available evidence, assessing value, and negotiating. It is nice to have attorneys on your side from the beginning so that, as offers to settle are received, your attorneys are ready and able to respond.
Specific Indiana Tort Claim Notice Requirements
The Notice of Tort Claim for Property Damage and/or Personal Injury (State Form 54668 R / 7-7) is the standardized form you must complete and timely deliver to the governmental unit you allege is responsible for your injuries or loss. There are resources online to guide you in the steps required to file a claim against the State; however, the process is not very forgiving. There are strict deadlines and specific requirements that must be met before the state of political subdivision named will consider your claim.
There are a few other basic requirements for a claim against a state or local governmental entity:
- Each person who suffered a loss must fill out a separate notice form
- Each claimant must sign and date the notice form
- The form must be delivered in person or sent by certified or registered mail to the appropriate entity—for the state, that would be the Indiana Attorney General’s office, addressed to the attention of the Tort Claim Investigations, and for political subdivisions, notice is given to the governing body plus the Indiana Political Subdivision Risk Management Fund
The tort claim notice form asks for specific information such as:
- Your personal information, including details such as your driver’s license number
- When the loss occurred, including the time of day
- Which state agency or commission was involved in the loss
- Details of the alleged negligence
- An “explanation of what happened”
The State of Indiana is represented in these matters by attorneys in the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, but these attorneys are not allowed to help you with the process of filling out the tort claim notice form. Working with an Indiana civil rights attorney is especially helpful when completing the “explanation” section of the form. An attorney experienced in tort claims work is accustomed to legal writing and describing with particularity the events and circumstances underlying the claim. Things that you might think are not that important could be incredibly significant to include in a claim notice form
Indiana Tort Claim Notice Timelines
The tort claim notice form includes specific instructions for filing the notice of your claim. Chief amount these is the deadline for delivering your tort claim notice. Specifically, you must file the accurately completed form within 270 days of the loss for a claim against the State of Indiana. For a claim against a local political subdivision, a similar tort claim notice must be filed within 180 days.
Tort claims generally follow a set timeline. For claims against the State of Indiana, the State sends an approval of a claim, in writing, within 90 days of the tort claim notice. Any claims not approved within 90 days are considered denied.
Failure to file a timely notice of tort claim will bar your claim. Working with a tort claim notice attorney can prevent you from missing that deadline. Your attorney will help you identify which deadline applies in your case. For instance, a state university might be considered a political subdivision rather than an agent of the state and would, therefore, be subject to the 180-day notice rather than the 270 days.
The Indiana Tort Claim Notice Substantial Compliance
While the ITCA establishes requirements for an Indiana tort claim notice, Indiana courts have held that substantially complying with these requirements, in certain circumstances, is sufficient even if your notice doesn’t exactly meet the statutory requirements. In other words, a plaintiff who substantially complies with the purpose of the notice might still pursue a claim against a governmental unit. The substantial compliance doctrine reflects the desire that claims make it through even if they did not strictly comply with notice requirements, so long as notice was actually achieved.
Representing You When it Matters the Most: The Beginning
When you have suffered loss because of the negligence, misconduct, or illegal actions of the State of Indiana, Keffer Hirschauer LLP is ready to help you fully and promptly fill out a tort claim notice Indiana to get the process started and to get you closer to compensation. The clock starts running immediately after your loss, and filing an accurate claim takes some dedication and time to do it correctly. Leave this in the hands of experienced attorneys who know the process well.
Whether your case is one that might lead to a settlement that requires some negotiating or one that might lead to the filing of a lawsuit, your attorneys are well equipped to handle whichever direction your case heads.
For help in taking those steps to recovering what you deserve after suffering a loss, contact one of the experienced Indiana civil rights attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP by calling (317) 857-1060 today or filling out our online contact form.