A personal injury claim or lawsuit is an adversarial process in which one party claims that another person or entity was responsible for causing injury. The injury must be the result of negligent, reckless or intentional misconduct. People or entities are negligent if they owe a duty to the injured party to exercise reasonable care and they fail to do so.
Injury or tort law consists of a number of causes of action. They include negligence, product liability, premises liability or slip and fall, dog bite or animal attacks, class actions, medical or professional malpractice, and motor vehicle accidents.
Indiana’s Comparative and Contributory Fault Laws
Indiana has two fault laws that apply to injury claims. One is modified comparative fault, which applies to most personal injury cases. The other is contributory fault that only applies to medical malpractice and claims against an Indiana government entity. The state’s comparative fault law provides that your own fault in causing the accident may not be more than 50% or you recover no compensation. Otherwise, your damages decrease by your percentage of fault.
If your claim is against a health care provider, the State of Indiana, or any of its political subdivisions, you may only collect compensation under the Indiana Tort Claims Act if you are not determined to have any degree of contributory fault.
What You Should Expect
Many personal injury claims are settled by attorneys representing the injured party or by the injured claimant who handles the case without the help of a lawyer. This may occur before your lawsuit is filed with the court. If your case cannot be settled either because of proof or liability disputes, or because the offer of settlement is inadequate, you must file a lawsuit to continue with your claim. A summons and complaint is filed in the county where the accident or event occurred or where the defendant lives. The defendant party or parties must file and serve an answer to the complaint within 20 days of being served. After an answer is on file with the court, the discovery process begins.
What is the Discovery Process?
After your claim is filed, you and the defendant may serve on each other a series of discovery requests. They may include interrogatories and requests for documents. These are formal questions and records requests that seek information about you or the defendant:
- Employment history
- Medical history
- Details about the accident or occurrence
- All damages alleged and supporting documents
- Insurance information
- Alleged defenses
You and the defendant are entitled to depose each other in the presence of a court reporter. Depositions require that the party being questioned must respond under oath. Questions are posed by your attorney or the defendant’s attorney. Both are present and they may object to the form or content of certain questions.
Discovery may also include an examination by a physician chosen by the defendant’s attorney. These examinations may confirm or disprove injuries you claim were caused in the accident.
Settling Your Case Through Mediation
The court may order mediation so you and the defendant may discuss the case before an impartial party who helps facilitate an acceptable resolution. In small injury cases, some Indiana counties require that the parties proceed to non-binding arbitration, an informal process where an appointed attorney considers the medical records, evidence, and arguments, then issues a verdict. The parties may choose binding arbitration to speed up the litigation and save trial costs.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Each state has its own unique laws and rules on how personal injury lawsuits are presented, filed and handled. Consult with an Indiana personal injury lawyer regarding your legal rights and your options in pursuing an injury claim.