Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Personal Injury Laws in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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What should I know about Indiana’s Dram Shop and Social Host Laws?
Despite strict laws, severe punishments, and extensive ad campaigns, drunk driving continues to be a problem in Indiana, causing crashes that injure and kill innocent people. While the driver should be held responsible and should be made to pay for the damage he has caused, he may not be the only liable party. What about the bar or restaurant that continued to serve someone who was clearly intoxicated? Or the private party host who provided alcohol and allowed guests to leave drunk? Under Indiana law, these parties may also be held accountable for damages caused by the drunk driver.
What Is a Dram Shop Law?
Dating back to the 1700’s, the term “dram shop” refers to an establishment that serves alcohol. Originally, alcohol was served by the dram in bars and taverns. Despite the old-fashioned name, dram shop laws go a long way towards compensating victims of drunk driving crashes and their family members. Not every state has such statutes, but in Indiana, the law extends to anyone who furnishes alcohol to an individual. This could be a bar or restaurant, or it could be a private citizen hosting a party in their home, known legally as a “social host.” However, these parties are only considered liable if both of the following occur:
- The person who furnished the alcohol had actual knowledge that the intoxicated person was intoxicated at the time.
- The intoxication was a "proximate" or foreseeable cause of the injuries.
These provisions become key sticking points in any legal action. A bartender or restaurant server could claim that they did not know the person they were serving was intoxicated. When pursuing compensation under the dram shop law, a lawyer would have to provide evidence that it was obvious that the person was drunk when he or she was being served. Also, it would have to be proven that the driver’s intoxication was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Why Pursue Liability Under the Dram Shop Law
When a person is seriously injured in a car crash, he or she is entitled to damages from the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, the victim will only be compensated to the limits of the policy. If the driver only carries the minimum coverage required by Indiana law, there would only be a total of $25,000 available for compensation. When the at-fault driver is drunk, it is possible that a judge will award punitive damages—an amount in excess of insurance coverage intended to punish the driver for his willful actions. However, if the drunk driver has limited assets, he will not be able to pay the punitive damages to the victim.
Injuries resulting from a drunk driving collision can be severe. Head trauma, spinal cord damage, and multiple fractures can require hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical treatment and months of lost wages. Pursuing the furnisher of alcohol is a way to increase a victim’s settlement so that he or she has a chance at a full physical and financial recovery. A bar or restaurant will have liability insurance for this purpose and most homeowners insurance policies include $100,000 of liability coverage, so these can be good sources of compensation. When someone knowingly serves alcohol to an intoxicated person and does not take action to prevent that person from driving drunk, he or she should be held accountable.
Keller & Keller Knows Indiana Law
If you are injured by a drunk driver in Indiana, the attorneys at Keller & Keller will investigate and pursue every avenue of compensation to ensure your full recovery. We do not take dram shop claims lightly. If we believe that someone acted negligently in serving alcohol and that action resulted in your injuries, we will pursue the server, establishment, private party host, and any other liable party. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your drunk driving injuries. We are here to help!
What are the causes of car fires and burn injuries?
While the most common car crash injuries are whiplash and mild concussions, those involved in high-speed or multi-car collisions can suffer much worse injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, a broken pelvis, and severe burns. Car crashes are not a leading cause of burn injury, but when occupants are trapped in a burning car following a crash, they can suffer third-degree burns and lung damage from smoke inhalation. In this article, we explain the risks of fire in a car accident.
Burn Injury Statistics
According to the American Burn Association, nearly half a million Americans receive emergency treatment for burn injuries each year and over 3,000 people die from fire or smoke inhalation. In 2016, 310 people died in vehicle crash fires, accounting for about 10 percent of all deaths by fire. The large majority of people—73 percent—were injured or killed in house fires in 2016, and only 5 percent were injured or killed in vehicle fires. However, understanding how these fires happen could save your life.
Types of Burn Injuries
There are several types of burn injuries and doctors categorize the severity in degrees. Treatment plans will depend on the type of burn and how deep the burn goes. People can be burned by a variety of sources which result in the following types of burns:
- Thermal burns. These burns are caused by a heat source such as fire, steam, hot objects, or hot liquids. In car crashes, thermal burns are usually caused by fire, but motorcycle riders can get a thermal burn by touching a hot exhaust pipe or other component.
- Electrical burns. If a car accident victim comes in contact with electrical sources, he or she might suffer an electrical burn.
- Chemical burns. It is possible that a car crash could result in a chemical leak or spill of some kind, especially if a chemical tanker is involved in the crash. These burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid, or gas form.
- Friction burns. These burns are caused by contact with any hard surface such as roads and is often referred to as “road rash.” They are usually both an abrasion and a heat burn. Motorcycle riders who have road accidents while not wearing protective clothing and occupants of cars who are thrown from the vehicle in a crash may suffer friction burns.
No matter how the burn is caused, it will be categorized for its severity, as follows:
- First-degree burns. This is a minor burn affecting only the outer layer of the skin. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain. It usually heals with first-aid measures within several days to a week.
- Second-degree burns. This type of burn affects both the first and the second layers of skin. Blisters may develop and pain can be severe. Deep second-degree burns can cause scarring.
- Third-degree burns. The most serious burn, this burn reaches into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may be charred black or white. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, causing numbness.
Treatment options include burn creams and ointments, bandaging, and antibiotics for minor burns and skin grafts, plastic surgery, and intubation for severe burns.
Causes of Car Fires
Cars are at risk of catching on fire because they carry dangerous flammable fuel. Fuel tanks are designed to contain the fuel and keep it away from anything that could spark and set it alight. However, in a crash, the fuel tank can rupture and leak. If a heat source is added to the leaked fuel, a fire can erupt. In a violent crash, a fuel tank can even explode, spreading the fire and sending shrapnel flying. Newer electric vehicles are equipped with batteries that can also catch fire when punctured in a collision. There is a risk of a fire in any car crash, so you should always get out of the vehicle and get as far away as possible if you are able to.
Keller & Keller Can Help Your Recovery After a Car Fire
If you suffered burn injuries in a car crash, you will need the help of an experienced Indiana car accident attorney to get the compensation you need and deserve. Serious burn injuries require expensive treatment and you should not have to pay anything out of pocket if the crash was not your fault. Connect with us today to learn more.
What is my car accident claim worth in Indiana?
While this is easily the most common question we get, it is unfortunately one we cannot answer. Each car accident case we see is unique. The needs of the injured victim vary on a case-by-case basis and the amount of insurance coverage available for compensation differs from one driver to the next. For these reasons, we never promise our clients a dollar amount until their case is settled. Instead, we fight on their behalf to recover the maximum possible amount of compensation.
What You Can Be Compensated for
When you are injured in a car crash in Indiana, you can seek compensation for the following damages:
- Medical costs, past and future
- Lost wages, past and future
- Disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, past and future
An experienced Indiana car accident attorney will be able to determine the value of each of these areas to make a fair demand of the liable party or parties.
Factors That Influence a Settlement Amount
As medical bills accumulate and time away from work adds up, you are understandably worried about whether your final settlement will compensate you for all of your losses. Again, there is no way to say for sure, but the following are some of the factors that come into play as your case is resolved:
- Liability of the other driver. If there is no dispute over the other driver’s fault in the crash and there is evidence such as police reports to prove fault, the case should settle fairly quickly. However, if the other driver is denying fault or his insurance company is further investigating the accident, your settlement amount could be affected
- Severity of your injuries. If you have suffered catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage, you should be eligible for the limits of the policies involved. Once the severity of your injuries is known, this should be quickly resolved. However, if the insurance adjuster for the at-fault party disputes the seriousness of your injuries, your case will be delayed.
- Insurance policy limits. If the at-fault driver only carries Indiana’s minimum insurance requirement—or carries no insurance at all—that will limit what you can ultimately recover. Your attorney will uncover all possible sources of compensation, including your own policies.
The key to settling your car accident case as quickly as possible is working with an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. Start a live chat with us today to find out more about getting you the settlement you deserve.
Do I need uninsured motorist coverage?
If you are seriously injured in a car crash that was someone else’s fault, that person is responsible for paying for your medical bills and other losses. These damages are usually paid by the at-fault party’s auto insurance policy. However, if the driver who caused your accident is uninsured, you are unlikely to be able to recover anything from him or her. This is why it is important that you carry uninsured motorist coverage on your own auto insurance policy.
How Do I Get Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Indiana?
In Indiana, minimal uninsured motorist coverage will be automatically included in your auto insurance policy unless you request in writing that it be removed. Because this coverage is the only way to protect yourself and your family if you are involved in an automobile accident with someone who either has no insurance at all or who has minimal coverage, we recommend that you maintain at least $100,000 worth of uninsured motorist coverage on all of your vehicles. This is above what will be automatically included in your insurance policy. The state’s minimum coverage includes the following:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
- Property damage: $10,000
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury: $50,000
When you carry this coverage, you will collect from your own insurance company if you are in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance.
What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
When the driver who caused your accident has insurance, but not enough coverage to fully compensate you for all of your losses, this same policy will kick in to make up the difference. Again, it is important that you carry enough uninsured motorist coverage to protect you in the event of a serious car accident.
How Keller & Keller Can Help
Whether you are making a claim against an insured driver or your own policy’s uninsured motorist coverage, you may need the help of an experienced Indiana car accident attorney to ensure you get all the compensation you need and deserve. Connect with us through the link on this page to learn more about our firm and how we may be able to help you.
What is the difference between collision and comprehensive coverage in Indiana?
The only type of car insurance you are required to carry in Indiana is liability coverage. This is insurance that pays damages to others when an accident is your fault. Having liability insurance, however, will not help you with the cost of repairing your own car after an accident or damage caused by some other force. For that kind of coverage, you will need to purchase collision and comprehensive insurance.
Collision and Comprehensive Policies Cover Different Kinds of Damage
Collision coverage applies when your car has been damaged in an accident or was damaged in some way without the involvement of another vehicle. For instance, if you back into a pole or hit a tree, your collision coverage would pay for the damage to your vehicle. It does not matter who was at fault in the accident—if you have collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for damages. These policies usually come with a deductible before the coverage pays for such damage. If your car is older or not worth much money, it is usually not worth paying the premiums to carry collision insurance. However, if your car is valuable, collision coverage can be well worth it in the case of a crash.
Comprehensive coverage applies to flood damage, vandalism, or theft of your vehicle by another person. Again, it does not involve an accident with another vehicle unless it occurs during the theft of your car. It also usually comes with a deductible. However, it does not cover any of the contents which may be stolen from your car. As with collision insurance, the value of your car will determine whether a comprehensive policy is worth the money.
It is important to know that if you have borrowed money to buy your car, you will likely be required by the lender to carry both collision and comprehensive insurance on the car until it is paid off. This is so that you will have the money needed to pay off the loan if you total your car.
When You Should Call Keller & Keller
If your car is damaged and you have collision and comprehensive coverage, you should not need a lawyer to help with your claim. However, if the accident was not your fault and you were seriously injured, you will want an experienced car accident attorney on your side. Connect with us through the link on this page to talk to an attorney today.
Is there a difference between uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
All cars registered in the state of Indiana are required to carry a minimum amount of car liability insurance to cover anyone injured by the driver. If you have the misfortune of being in an accident caused by a driver who does not have the required insurance—or does not have enough insurance to pay the total amount of your damages—you will have to rely on your own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage applies to both uninsured drivers and underinsured drivers.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is the part of your policy that pays you for your injuries when someone who has no coverage injures you. It also pays you for your injuries when the at-fault driver has insurance coverage, but the liability limit is not high enough to fully compensate you for all you have suffered. These two situations fall under the same type of policy. In Indiana, your uninsured motorist coverage is automatically included in a minimum-coverage policy, but you may opt out of the coverage by submitting a written request to your insurance company, which we advise against. Along with the $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident UM coverage, you are required to carry the following:
- $25,000 per person for death or bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for death or bodily injury
- $10,000 per accident for damage to other people’s property
Clearly, serious injuries sustained in an accident can easily lead to medical bills in excess of $25,000. When the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is not enough to cover your injuries, your own UM coverage will contribute up to an additional $25,000 towards your economic and non-economic damages.
You May Need an Attorney to Advocate for You With Both Insurance Companies
No insurance company is happy to pay out on policies. If you are seeking compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance company as well as your own UM policy, you will need the help of an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. Connect with us through the link on this page to learn more.
How do I make a claim against an insurance company in Indiana?
Because Indiana is a “fault” state for car insurance purposes, as an accident victim, you have several options for collecting an insurance settlement when you are injured in a crash. If the other driver is found to be at fault, you can file a claim against his insurance company. You may also have to file a claim against your own policy, depending on what kinds of coverage you have. Filing a claim is not difficult, but you should make sure you are filing against the right policies.
Getting the Information You Need
If you will be filing against the other driver’s policy, you will need to get his name and insurance information. An official copy of the police report should have details, including the policy number under which the other driver is insured. To file the claim, you will need to provide the name of their insured, policy number, date of accident and item or accident report number
Contacting the Insurance Company
Virtually all insurance companies have toll free numbers for reporting claims which can be used to report the accident. Once you report the accident, a claim number will be assigned to your case which you can use for future communications or for reference when checking on the status of the claim.
Be careful when discussing the accident with an adjuster for the other driver's insurance company. Avoid giving statements or recorded testimony about how the accident occurred. Those details are usually contained on the accident report which can easily be obtained by the adjuster. If the accident report is accurate, simply refer the adjuster to it.
Adjusters frequently try to elicit a statement from the opposing party in an attempt to minimize your damages or deny your claim. Give only the information that is absolutely necessary and contact an experienced Indianapolis accident attorney if you have any doubts or questions about what information to provide.
Contacting Your Own Insurance Company
It is also important to report the accident to your own insurance company, even if you are not at fault in the accident. You may have a certain coverage that will immediately pay for your property damage and medical expenses without having to wait and learn whether or not the other insurance company is accepting or denying liability. When you file a claim with your own insurance company and they pay you benefits, they will then seek to recover their money from the other insurance company. This is called subrogation.
You May Not Have to Do Anything
In most instances, the other driver's insurance company will attempt to contact you once they learn about the accident. If a police report wasn't filed, then you may need to contact the insurance company based on the information given to you by the other driver, as they may not report the accident themselves. If the adverse insurance company does contact you, make sure you tell them that you want to know the claim number they have set up to process your claim against their driver.
When You Need an Attorney
Sometimes, car accident claims can be handled by those involved with no problem. When there is a dispute over fault or the seriousness of injuries, however, you may need the help of an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. Call Keller & Keller if you have any trouble filing a claim or getting the settlement you need and deserve.
If I don’t have insurance at the time of an accident, can I still make a claim against the other driver?
As a driver in Indiana, you are required by law to carry appropriate auto insurance. If you are caught without insurance, you are subject to fines and a suspension of your license. As of 2015, you may also forfeit your right to collect from an at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Under a statute known as “No Pay, No Play,” Indiana drivers who do not have the required car insurance for their own vehicle may not be able to collect all the damages an insured driver would be able to.
How “No Pay, No Play” Works
In an effort to crack down on uninsured drivers in Indiana, the state legislature passed the “No Pay, No Play” program to withhold certain privileges from uninsured drivers. Under the program, an uninsured driver would be eligible to collect all damages—including non-compensatory damages such as payment for pain and suffering—the first time they are in an accident without insurance. If they are in another accident that was not their fault and are still not insured, however, they will only be eligible for compensatory damages. The legislature also doubled the fines charged for driving without insurance.
Insurance Required in Indiana
Under state law, if you own a car in Indiana, you must carry liability insurance in the following amounts:
- Bodily injury coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Property damage coverage of $10,000
While you are not required to carry uninsured motorist coverage, it will be automatically included in your state-minimum policy. To have it removed, you will have to make a request in writing. However, we highly recommend carrying uninsured motorist coverage as 16 percent of Indiana drivers do not have insurance. If an uninsured driver causes an accident and you are seriously injured, you will need the uninsured motorist policy to help pay your medical expenses and make up for lost wages.
Always Carry Auto Insurance
Not only is not having auto insurance illegal, it is very risky. Even if you are not at fault in an accident that leaves you injured, you may not be able to make a full recovery of damages if you do not have insurance. We recommend purchasing the most coverage you can afford and staying up with payments. Otherwise, a car accident could wipe you out in more ways than one.
Do most automobile accident cases settle before I must file a lawsuit?
In most cases, the answer to this question is yes. In fact, most insurance companies will be anxious to settle quickly and may even offer you what seems like an adequate settlement immediately following the crash. However, we recommend that you never accept a settlement offer that quickly and, if there are any complicating factors, you hire a lawyer and take the time to negotiate a fair settlement. In some cases, this may even mean filing a lawsuit and going to trial.
What Factors Can Complicate a Car Accident Claim?
Not all car accident cases are cut and dried. When fault is in dispute or catastrophic injuries are involved, the case becomes much more complicated. If you as the victim are not being treated fairly, the only way to settle your case may be through a lawsuit and possibly even a trial. Some factors that can complicate your car crash claim include the following:
- Serious injuries. If the plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries, such as brain damage, paralysis, or limb amputation, the ultimate cost of treatment and recovery will not be known for some time. These kinds of injury also require long-term or life-long care. In most situations, these cases should not be settled out of court.
- Fault is in dispute. If fault for the crash was not assigned by the police, or it was determined to be shared fault, a trial may be necessary to resolve the dispute. A judge or jury will assign a percentage of fault to one or both parties, which will affect how compensation is distributed.
- Amount of compensation is in dispute. If the insurance company for the at-fault driver rejects the settlement amount demanded by the plaintiff, it may have to go to a jury to decide. When large dollar amounts are involved, most insurance adjusters will reject the initial demand in an attempt to lower the settlement.
When an Early Settlement May Be to Your Advantage
An early settlement may be acceptable if your injuries are not serious and the at-fault party makes a fair offer. The biggest advantage to this is that you will have money in your pocket quickly. Another advantage is that you will not risk running out of time under Indiana’s statute of limitations. You have two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit in Indiana, which is plenty of time in most cases. However, if you are waiting for a full physical recovery in order to know how much your damages are worth, you could come close to the deadline.
The attorneys at Keller & Keller would be happy to discuss your case and help you determine your best course of action.
Does my uninsured motorist coverage apply even if I am injured in another person's vehicle?
You purchased uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage to provide you with compensation if you were to be involved in an accident with a driver who did not have insurance. This is important coverage to have because—even though drivers in Indiana are required by law to have car insurance—many drivers are not insured. If an uninsured driver is responsible for the crash that left you injured, you would have no choice but to file a claim against your own insurance policy. However, with an uninsured or underinsured motorist policy, you have added protection to cover your medical bills and lost wages.
Your Policy May Do More Than You Thought
While you are probably aware of what a UIM policy will cover if your car is involved in a crash, you may not realize that the policy may also cover you in other situations. Under most policies, your uninsured motorist coverage follows you to every vehicle in which you are an occupant or a driver. Thus, if you are riding with a friend and get involved in an automobile accident with a driver who was at fault, but who does not have either any insurance or enough insurance, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay your damages up to the policy limits.
There Is No Reason Not to Carry UIM in Indiana
If you own a car in Indiana, you are required to carry a certain amount of liability insurance in case you cause a crash. You may also opt for additional coverage to pay for damage to your own car if you are in an accident. Every auto insurance policy in Indiana will also include uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, but you have the option to reject this coverage. You must do so in writing, stating that you were offered the coverage, but have chosen not to accept it. We do not recommend that you do this. This money is there for you if you are injured by an uninsured driver and could prove to be vital in helping you make a full recovery.
Call Keller & Keller With Your Car Accident Questions
If you have questions about who should pay for your car accident expenses in Indiana, contact one of our convenient Indiana office locations today. We are here to help.
Following a car accident, who pays for my medical bills and car repairs?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. However, if you or your passenger is seriously injured in a car crash, your first concern should be getting medical care, not who is going to pay for it. Once liability is worked out and settlements are negotiated, reimbursements will be issued if necessary. In general, the party responsible for causing the accident is also responsible for paying for it.
When the Other Person Pays
If you share none of the fault in the accident, the other driver will be responsible for paying all of your costs. These costs are paid through the at-fault party's liability insurance and will cover your personal injuries and car repairs. However, the amount you receive will be limited to the amount of insurance he carries. If he has the minimum required by law in Indiana, your maximum payout will be $25,000 per person for bodily injury and $10,000 for property damage. If your costs exceed that, you may have to look to other sources for payment. One source may be the at-fault driver’s umbrella insurance policy, if he has one.
When You Pay
If the other driver is at fault, but does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to compensate you, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will pay your medical costs and may cover property damage as well. You may also look to the following sources:
- Your health insurance
- Your medical payments coverage insurance policy
- Collision insurance on your car
If you were at fault in the accident, your liability insurance will pay for the injuries and property damage of the other driver. If you have collision coverage, that will pay for your vehicle damage. You will have to look to your health insurance for medical care, unless you have medical payments coverage with your insurance company.
How an Attorney Can Help
As you can see, it is important that you carry comprehensive insurance to protect yourself in the event of an accident. Whether the accident is your fault or not, you may end up relying on your own coverage to get you through. And while you may be entitled to compensation, insurance companies almost always fight back. An experienced car accident attorney from Keller and Keller will know where to go for compensation and will negotiate for the best possible award so that you can focus on your recovery. Call us today for a free consultation.
What are the benefits of an Indiana umbrella insurance policy?
We encourage our clients to purchase as much car insurance as they can reasonably afford. In general, the more coverage you have available, the more likely it is that you will receive all of the compensation you need if you are involved in a serious accident. One way to give yourself extra protection is to purchase an umbrella or excess policy.
How Does an Umbrella Policy Work?
While an umbrella policy will cover all of the policies you have with that insurance company—including homeowner’s, renter’s, boat, and auto—we will focus on auto coverage for our purposes. With an umbrella policy, if the expenses related to a car crash exceed coverage, you may pull from the umbrella coverage. This applies particularly in cases of your liability. For example, if you are found to be 100 percent at fault in a car accident and your $25,000 bodily injury coverage is not enough to cover the injured party’s expenses, your umbrella policy will make up the difference. This protects your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit against you for additional damages.
When you purchase an umbrella policy, you will want to make sure it provides uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This way, if the other driver is at fault and doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your expenses, you can draw on your own umbrella policy. Likewise, if the other driver has an umbrella policy, a claim should be made against it for your damages.
An umbrella policy in the amount of $1 million is usually available for a few hundred dollars extra per year, making it well worth the money considering the potential cost of a catastrophic car accident. The policy will also apply to your homeowner’s policy in the event of a natural disaster or fire.
Make Sure You Are Covered!
Car accident claims are almost always paid by insurance companies. Whether it is your policy or another driver’s, the amount you can recover is limited by insurance policy limits. That is why we encourage all drivers to carry maximum coverage amounts. Even with an attorney on your side, you will rarely be able to get more than the value of all applicable insurance policies. If you have questions about umbrella policies or anything else related to car accidents, feel free to call our offices today.
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