In Indiana, we have developed unfair laws that protect the government and the organizations that are run by the government. All claims against the government fall under Indiana’s horrible Torts Claims Act. A tort is a legal harm, like and injury or wrongful death caused by the negligence of another. The Tort Claims covers claims against government entities and employees. It would be an understatement to say that the Act is full of pitfalls for the layperson and the inexperienced lawyer. Of course, all of those pitfalls exist to ensure that the government can kill and maim with no accountability whatsoever. In my blog today I list just some of the problems with Indiana’s Tort Claim laws.
Indiana has passed laws that create a myriad of so-called immunities which will bar a claim against a government entity or employee. There are really too many to list here. Some of them are fair, most of them are just ridiculous. But, let me summarize by saying that Indiana has carved out numerous circumstances where they can act negligently and carelessly, kill and maim, and have absolutely no accountability.
The first pitfalls are deadlines for filing a tort claim notice. If you mess this up, you may lose your chance to file a claim. They don’t call it a deadline for nothing. If you miss the deadline, your case is dead.
The Indiana Tort Claims Act has very important deadlines and requirements not present in regular injury claims. For most injury claims in Indiana, the statute of limitations is 2 years. Under the Tort Claims Act, there exists a requirement that a Notice of Tort Claim be filed in a time period that can be as short as 180 days after the incident.
Under the Tort Claims Act, a Tort Claims Notice (Notice) must be sent to the governmental entity responsible for the negligent act leading to the injury. This often requires sending the notice to a myriad of persons and entities. This Notice must be sent to the relevant entities stating the existence of the claim, the date of alleged act of negligence, the nature of the negligence, and the entity or individual responsible for the negligence. This Notice requirement is very strict and failure to properly send the Notice will bar the claim completely. In other words, the government wins, you lose.
These deadlines can come up pretty quickly. The 180 day deadline is very short and it is not uncommon for injured people to miss this deadline as they try to get medical treatment and get their lives back in order. That is why it is critical to get an attorney as soon as possible.
Strict Rules on Fault
When it comes to protecting the government from it’s citizens, Indiana relies on a legal doctrine that is older than the Civil War. In most cases when both the accident victim and the defendant contributed to a loss by failing to exercise the required degree of care, fault is relatively apportioned by the accident victim and the defendant(s). In other words, fault is sliced up like a pie and apportioned to whoever was involved in the incident. Then the damages awarded to the accident victim are decreased in direct proportion to her own negligence. For example, if the jury found that the accident victim’s damages were worth $1,000,000 but felt that the plaintiff was 10% at fault for the incident, the jury award would be effectively $900,000. Also, if the person bringing the lawsuit (the plaintiff) is more than 50% at fault, they recover nothing (even if the defendant is 49.9% at fault.)
But the government gives itself extra protection. Your state legislators have decided that the contributory negligence standard will be used when the government has caused an injury. This doctrine is, put simply, harsh and unfair. Because of it’s harshness, it creates real challenges for Indiana personal injury lawyers seeking justice for their clients. Under this law, the injured person’s failure to exercise due care which contributes even in the slightest way to his or her injuries is an absolute bar to recovery. In other words, the government wins, injured people lose. Under the example above, even if the jury believes the plaintiff was only 1% at fault for her injuries, she would be completely barred from recovering.
Yet More Proof that Your Legislator Thinks You Are Stupid
I know this sounds harsh, but the laws they pass are more harsh to the citizens of this great state. Why am I saying this? Well, because by capping damages in personal injury cases the State of Indiana and it’s legislators are saying that they don’t trust citizens to make fair decisions when they sit on juries. This is true even though Indiana juries are renown for deciding in favoring of defendants when rendering verdicts. Despite all the evidence that juries CAN be trusted, Indiana still puts ridiculous and artificial caps on jury awards.
So no matter what the actual size of the case, cases against governmental entities are capped at $700,000. If a jury decides that medical bills and other damages in an injury case are going to cost millions of dollars over a lifetime, it does not matter. The jury’s decision will be reduced to $700,000. In an era where medical bills in catastrophic injury cases can go into the millions of dollars, it is crazy that that State of Indiana chooses to ignore this fact. What does it mean for the families of people injured by the government? Financial ruin.
The State of Indiana should pass laws that show that they trust Indiana citizens to make the right decision when they sit on the jury. Juries are smart and our jury system is the arguably the most important part of our American democracy. Artificial limits on jury awards ignore the fact that the Indiana Constitution and the United States Constitution says that juries of citizens were supposed to be the final arbiter in civil cases.
The laws concerning Tort Claims against the government are incredibly complicated. For that reason, don’t rely on anything other than the advice of an experienced injury attorney if you have been injured due to the negligence of the government or a government employee. You really need to act quickly and get personal advice from an Indiana trial lawyer right away!
P.S. Even this blog is not a substitute for the advice of an experienced trial attorney. Cases are fact sensitive and the clock is always ticking. An experienced attorney needs to talk to you and gather evidence before giving advice to you about your case! Make an appointment to speak to an experienced attorney today, even if you don’t call our office!!!!!!!!