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 if I was partially at fault for my car accident?
Many car accidents are not the fault of a single driver. For example, if a driver pulls out in front of an oncoming car, but that oncoming car was exceeding the speed limit, both drivers may share blame for the crash. This is known as comparative negligence. Under Indiana’s modified comparative negligence law, a judge or jury will determine what percentage of the total fault goes to each person involved.
How Share of the Blame Factors Into Compensation
Once the percentage of fault has been determined, compensation amounts will be adjusted. Each at-fault party’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault he or she has been assigned. For example, if you are assigned 20 percent of the fault for the crash, the amount you can receive from the other party’s insurance company will be reduced by 20 percent. However, any party whose fault exceeds 50 percent will not be eligible to recover any compensation from the other parties involved. If one of the drivers involved in the crash is assigned 51 percent or more of the fault, he or she may be held liable for the legal expenses of the other drivers.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you are involved in a car accident and are being assigned even a small portion of the blame, you should consult an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. An attorney will protect your rights to compensation and make sure the fault determination has been fair. Call Keller and Keller as soon as possible after your crash to ensure you get the recovery you are entitled to.
I have insurance, but the driver who hit me didn't. Now what?
Indiana is a “fault” state for car insurance purposes. This means that when you are in a car accident and another driver is determined to be at fault, you can seek compensation from that driver’s insurance company. However, if that driver does not have insurance, your options are more limited. You can file a claim with your own insurer to repair the damage to your car if you have “comprehensive” or “collision” coverage. Most drivers will carry a form of coverage known as "uninsured motorist coverage." And while it's not the law to do so, it is not uncommon to see it in most insurance policies.
How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works
In Indiana, you are not required to carry car insurance, but if you choose not to purchase a policy, you must demonstrate “financial responsibility” by releasing information about your personal assets and income to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. However, most people meet this requirement by simply buying minimum car insurance coverage.
In Indiana, you do not have to carry uninsured motorist coverage, but you must refuse the coverage in writing. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, and it's confirmed that there is no other coverage for the at-fault driver, then we will be asking your insurance company to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, as well as the damage to your car. The first step our office will take in this instance is to verify there are no other applicable coverages for the driver that struck you, and we do this by performing various background checks.
You Have a Right to Compensation
Some people are hesitant to file an uninsured claim for their car accident. However, it's critical that you not feel this way if it's the only coverage available. You pay monthly premiums for this protection, and it's important that you use it. When you work with the car accident attorneys at Keller and Keller, we will exhaust every avenue of compensation to ensure you make a full recovery.
How much does it cost to hire a car accident attorney?
When an Indiana car accident leaves you seriously injured, you have plenty to worry about. You are facing a long recovery, the loss of your vehicle, and are unable to work. Because the accident was not your fault, you may be considering hiring a car accident attorney to represent you in your settlement claim, but you don’t have the money you think you need to secure a lawyer.
When you call Keller & Keller, however, you won’t have to worry about that. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing up front to secure an experienced legal team.
How a Contingency Fee Works
It may sound too good to be true, but we will not ask for any payment to take your car accident case. This way, you can focus on your physical recovery instead of worrying about legal bills on top of everything else. Once we have settled the case to your satisfaction, we will collect our fee from the settlement amount. In a nutshell, a contingency fee agreement works as follows:
- Once we have met with you and reviewed your case, we will discuss the contingency fee arrangement. We will explain what we think your case may be worth and the percentage of the settlement that we will collect as payment.
- We will pay all expenses until the case is settled, including filing fees, medical records fees, expert witness fees, travel costs, and any other expenses.
- Whether the case is settled out of court or goes to trial, we will not be paid until the case concludes and you get your settlement.
Under a contingency fee arrangement, anyone can afford quality legal representation. After all, you were the victim and you should not have to pay out of pocket to ensure that your case is settled fairly and you get the financial settlement you need to replace what you have lost.
Our Zero-Fee Guarantee
So, what happens if we are unable to make a recovery on your behalf? Our Zero-Fee Guarantee means that you will never be asked for payment from your own pocket. Simply put, if we don’t win, we don’t get paid. This is your guarantee that we will work hard for the best possible financial settlement for you.
Why Do We Do it?
We believe everyone is entitled to quality legal representation, regardless of income or assets. When you have been injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence or carelessness, it shouldn’t cost you to protect your rights to a full recovery. Under a contingency fee arrangement, it is the defendant who ultimately pays your legal fees, as it should be. This arrangement also motivates us to work hard to secure a generous settlement for you.
Be Aware of These Fee Structures
Almost every reputable personal injury law firm will work on a contingency fee basis for cases where a money judgement is expected. However, for other types of cases, attorneys can require different methods of payment. If you are asked to pay for personal injury representation with one of these methods, you may very well be at the wrong law firm:
- Hourly. While common for estate planning and other types of legal representation, you should not agree to an hourly rate for a car accident attorney. A great deal of time and effort can go into supporting an injury claim and the hours can accumulate quickly, as will your costs.
- Flat fee. Attorneys may charge a flat fee for a simple, well-defined legal service, such as the preparation of a will, but a car accident case is rarely simple and cannot usually be quantified by a flat fee.
- Retainer. Often used in criminal cases, a retainer is an amount of money paid to an attorney up front to secure representation. The money is held by the firm and expenses are paid out of it as needed. Even if there is a promise of a refund when a settlement is reached, you should not pay a personal injury attorney a retainer.
You Can Trust Keller & Keller
You will likely be contacted soon after your accident by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You may even be offered a quick settlement. However, this offer is probably much lower than you will be able to get with an experienced car accident attorney on your side. While the quick money may be tempting, remember that you don’t pay us until we win for you. Call our Indiana offices today to speak to an attorney about your case. You won’t regret it.
Should I cooperate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
When you have been in a car accident that involves damage, injuries, and insurance claims, you can count on being contacted by the insurance company for the other driver pretty quickly, especially if the other driver has been assigned a majority of the fault for the crash. It is important to understand that you are under no legal obligation to talk to them and that, in fact, doing so could potentially hurt your claim for damages.
Comparative Fault in Indiana
One thing the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver is likely trying to do by contacting you is to get you to admit some degree of responsibility—or at least some doubt as to the cause—so that blame will be shared. Indiana follows a comparative negligence law for car accidents, which means that fault can either be assigned 100 percent to one driver, or can be shared between the drivers involved. When fault is shared, liability for compensation is also shared by the same percentage amount. For example, if you are assigned 25 percent of the fault, the amount of compensation you can get from the other driver’s insurance company is reduced by 25 percent. The insurance adjuster will want to pass at least part of the blame on to you as it will save his company money—potentially a significant amount of money.
How Indiana Insurance Adjusters Get You to Admit Fault
Even if you are confident that you played no part in the cause of the crash, an experienced adjuster can ask the right questions and twist your words in ways that could cast doubt on who is responsible. When you are contacted by the other insurance company, keep the following tips in mind:
Identify the person who is contacting you. Before answering any questions, get the name, number, and employer of the person calling and ask the name of the person he or she is representing.
Give only limited personal information. You may give the adjuster your name, address, and telephone number and, if he asks, basic employment information, but do not offer additional information and do not give any more personal details.
Do not give any details about your injuries. The adjuster will want to know how serious your injuries are. Do not answer any questions about injuries. You may not yet know how serious your injuries are and you may leave out a detail that he will bring up later to deny your claim.
Do not give any details about the accident. The main reason for the call is to try to pass blame on to you. Do not answer any questions about the accident. Even an innocent comment such as that you were running late or feeling tired could arouse suspicion. Simply refuse to give any information about the accident.
Do not accept a settlement offer. If the adjuster seems friendly and polite and offers you a quick settlement, it is probably because he knows you can get more. Never accept the first offer, no matter what the adjuster tells you.
Do not allow yourself to be recorded. Recorded statements often come back to haunt car accident victims. In the confusion of the interview, you may misspeak or your understanding of what happened may later change. You do not want a recording to be played back that contradicts what you say later.
Leave it Up to Your Attorney
Following a serious car accident, you will want to make two calls—one to your own insurance company, and the other to an experienced Indiana car accident attorney. When you call Keller & Keller, we will take it from there. You can then refer insurance adjusters to us and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing. We will provide the information they need and will do our best to negotiate a fair settlement.
How does an Indiana car accident case work?
If you are considering filing a car accident lawsuit, you should be aware that the process can take some time. There are many different steps in the process, and you should be prepared at every stage in order for your case to be a success. In fact, many accident victims make mistakes that hurt their chances of receiving a settlement before their claims have even been filed.
In the days following the accident, you can greatly impact your future claim by:
Delaying medical treatment. The first thing that all victims should do after a car accident is to get medical treatment for their injuries. Not only can emergency treatment save your life, it will also demonstrate to a court that you were being responsible. If you wait for days or weeks before seeing a doctor, your insurer or the defendant may claim that your injuries were not that serious.
Refusing legal help. While some personal injury claims can be settled without the help of a lawyer, it is a good idea to get an attorney to look over your case. Victims who have suffered large monetary losses, have permanent disabilities, or were uninsured at the time of a car accident often have the best results by hiring an attorney to represent them. Your attorney should conduct a detailed interview with you to determine how the accident happened, your current medical condition, and the treatment you have received, and will review your medical records and billing history to see who may be liable and what your case is worth.
Assuming your complaint is valid. Not all people who are injured in an accident are eligible for compensation. For instance, Indiana’s comparative fault law prohibits any person from recovering any damages if he or she was more than 50 percent at fault for causing the accident. Victims must also file suit within two years of the accident date, and no compensation will be awarded after this time limit has passed.
Timeline of a Typical Indiana Car Accident Case
Your attorney may recommend that you postpone filing your suit until you are as physically recovered as possible. This is called maximum medical improvement (MMI), and is the point where your injuries are not expected to improve with medical care. At this point, you and your attorney will have a clear picture of what your injury has cost you in the past and allows you to estimate your future losses more accurately.
Once you have reached MMI, your case will likely progress through the following procedures:
Demand letter. Some injury claims can be settled before a lawsuit is ever filed. If your attorney believes that the case can be settled, he or she will send a demand for payment to the person at fault (or, more likely, that person’s insurance company). If the demand is not successful, your attorney will file the suit.
Filing the lawsuit. The filing of the lawsuit is the official beginning of your case. Your attorney will notify the court and your opponent (the defendant) that a personal injury case has been filed and that you are being represented by counsel. The defendant will then have to send an answer to acknowledge the case is proceeding.
Discovery. Discovery is the process of gathering information and investigating each side’s legal claims and defenses. You will likely have to give a deposition, or answer questions posed by the defendant’s attorney under oath. Your attorney should prepare you for the deposition ahead of time and be present at the deposition to object to unfair or irrelevant questions.
Settlement negotiations. Since settlement is less costly than litigation, insurance companies often choose to settle cases before going to trial. Near the end of discovery, attorneys in the case may meet to determine whether they can agree on a settlement. If no agreement can be reached or your attorney believes you will be awarded more by a jury, your case will go to trial.
Trial. A personal injury trial can take months or even a year to resolve, for many reasons. Scheduling conflicts of judges and witnesses may lead to rescheduling, and requests for evidence may cause further delays. Your attorney should keep you informed throughout the process, and do his or her best to expedite proceedings.
No matter if you settle your case or go to trial, our attorneys do not charge any legal fees unless we win your case. Contact us today to speak to a member of our legal team about your options.
Is there a time limit on filing an Indiana car accident case?
Yes. Each state has a time limit to officially start an injury lawsuit in the civil court system, called the statute of limitations. In Indiana, the statute of limitations on car accident or personal injury claims is two years. The two-year limit usually begins on the date of the accident.
There are some exceptions to the two-year rule. For instance, minors who are injured in car accidents cannot file lawsuits on their own behalf, so the statute of limitations will begin on his or her 18th birthday. If your accident case involves an injury claim against a city or county, you have only 180 days to file a formal claim. If your claim names a state government agency, you have 270 days to file your lawsuit with the court.
The statute of limitations can affect your right to seek compensation for:
Injury. The state of Indiana allows remuneration for people who are injured in a car accident. This can include drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, skateboarders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. If a child is injured as a passenger or pedestrian, his or her parents can seek damages on the child’s behalf. Possible damages in these cases can include pain and suffering, costs of permanent disability, loss of companionship, and loss of the ability to earn a living as an adult.
Property damage. Accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to recoup the costs of damage to their personal property. Courts can award compensation for damage to a person’s vehicle, home, yard, contents of the crashed vehicle, or other belongings that were lost in the crash.
Wrongful death. Relatives of a person killed in a crash have two years to file an Indiana wrongful death claim. However, the two-year timespan begins on the day of the accident victim’s death rather than the date of the accident, so relatives may have a longer filing period.
It is always a good idea to begin your car accident case as soon as possible. If the deadline passes, the person named in your lawsuit can have the case dismissed, and you will lose your right to compensation forever. Early filing also gives you a greater chance of winning your case, as evidence may be collected before it is destroyed and witnesses can be tracked down before their memories fade. Contact us today to talk to an attorney about your legal options.
Why should I hire an attorney if I've been involved in an accident involving a semi-truck?
If you are unlucky enough to be injured in a crash with a semi-truck, you will most likely hear from the trucking company’s insurance company and attorneys very quickly. It is important that you know what your rights and entitlements are as the victim. Without your own attorney at your side, the odds are that you will be taken advantage of and will not receive the full settlement to which you are entitled.
Traditionally, semi-truck accidents have been deemed the most complicated and aggressively defended cases because of the parties involved, as well as the commercial policy aspect related to these accidents. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at truck accident investigation and claims. Therefore, having knowledgeable and experienced legal representation is extremely important to ensure the proper parties are involved and sufficient negligence is established. By retaining an attorney early in your semi-truck accident case, you will increase the ability to retain valuable evidence that will prove highly beneficial to your case.
Keller & Keller Will Stand by Your Side
As experienced Indiana truck crash attorneys, we know how to protect your claim from the tactics of big trucking companies. We will gather the evidence you need to prove the trucker was at fault and help you through the process of negotiating a fair settlement for your injuries. Contact us today to talk to an attorney about your case.
Why are expert witnesses important to prove fault in a truck accident case?
An experienced truck accident attorney knows what to look for in the aftermath of a truck crash and may even be able to gather enough evidence to prove truck driver liability. However, an attorney investigation should not take the place of hiring expert witnesses to review the case and testify on behalf of the victim.
Why Use Experts?
Every trucking case should have experts to assist an investigation and to analyze the information for potential testimony on liability. It is also important to employ experts in order to establish that safety inspections and driving logs were properly kept. Truck accident experts will know how to obtain key pieces of evidence, including inspection reports, maintenance records, the truck’s black box, driving logs, cargo manifests, and more. If your attorney does not utilize experts in truck accident cases, you may want to find a new attorney.
Keller & Keller Has the Resources to Properly Investigate Your Case
The law offices of Keller and Keller will work closely with the proper resources to ensure that your accident is investigated fully and in a thorough manner. If you are struggling after a truck crash in Indiana, call our offices at 800-253-5537 today.
What are the most common factors in collisions between commercial trucks and automobiles?
Commercial semi-trucks are a common sight on Indiana roads. Nationally, the trucking industry moves 58 percent of all goods shipped throughout the country, making them the largest carrier of goods. While numerous trucks indicate a strong economy, unfortunately, these trucks can also present dangers to drivers of passenger vehicles.
Risks Inherent in Semi-Trucks
In general, semi-truck accidents are caused by a combination of a truck's characteristics, performance capabilities, and others’ limited understanding of those characteristics. What this means is that trucks are much harder to control and maneuver than smaller vehicles and, when those smaller vehicles don’t defer to the truck’s limitations, accidents can happen. Specifically, trucks are less able than cars to do the following:
- Accelerate. Trucks are heavy and, while they can get to normal highway speeds and beyond eventually, it takes a lot longer to do so than cars. As a result, they can be slow to merge on the highway, creating a hazard to cars approaching in the right lane or merging onto the highway behind them.
- Brake. Their size and weight also make trucks hard to stop, so if a car brakes suddenly in front of a semi, the truck will most likely not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the car. Also, truck brakes often overheat and fail, creating a dangerous situation for everyone on the highway.
- Be seen. When trucks travel at night, it can be difficult for other drivers to see the entire length of the rig—especially when the truck has side reflectors or lights that are out—and cars can make a lane change or merge onto the highway right into a semi-trailer.
It falls on the driver of the truck to operate his rig at safe speeds and at increased following distances, but when passenger car drivers are aware of a truck’s limitations, they can protect themselves and their passengers from a devastating crash.
Who can be sued in a truck accident case?
Crashes with commercial semi-trucks can be devastating, causing massive highway pileups and catastrophic injuries. When you find yourself the victim of a truck crash, you may be forced to sue the responsible party to cover your medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damages. It’s important to look at more than just the driver for liability, however.
Who May Be Held Accountable
There are many possible defendants in a trucking accident. An experienced truck accident attorney will look at all of the following as possible defendants in your truck accident case:
- The driver for negligent or careless driving
- The owner of the tractor for mechanical issues
- The owner of the trailer for poor loading or improper couplings
- The company identified on the trailer, even if other than the owner, for maintenance problems or irresponsible hiring practices
- The persons or company who placed the contents in the trailer for improper loading
- The owner of the contents of the trailer if the nature of the load contributed in some way to the crash
- Government entities for road conditions, construction zones, or poor signage
The list of parties who could possibly owe the victim damages is long and complicated. The attorneys at Keller & Keller will know who to look at when you are involved in a crash with a commercial truck. Call us today to learn more.
Why is a traffic accident involving a commercial truck more likely to cause injury than one involving passenger cars?
A typical fully-loaded large commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds or more, while an average passenger automobile weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Due to this size disparity, and the basic laws of physics, any collision between a commercial truck and another vehicle is likely to result in serious, even fatal injuries.
Injuries That Result From Crashes With Commercial Trucks
When a passenger car collides with a semi-truck, the injuries sustained by the occupants of the car are often permanent and life-threatening. In most cases, the driver of the truck is not even injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 4,000 fatalities resulting from truck crashes in 2014, 73 percent were occupants of other vehicles and 17 percent were occupants of large trucks. Clearly, the risk is much greater to the occupants of cars. Other potentially serious injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
Keller & Keller Can Help
If you suffered serious injuries in a collision with a commercial truck, contact our experienced truck accident attorneys in Indiana. Call (800) 253-5337.
What is a "commercial truck?"
A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples of a commercial truck include eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks. If you are involved in a crash with a truck, it is important to know whether it is considered a commercial vehicle, as that will complicate any legal action. Crashes with commercial vehicles often involve federal regulations, trucking companies, drivers, cargo loaders, and more.
Definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) as a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle has any of the following:
- A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
- A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds
- Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
- Is of any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations
Keller & Keller Understand Indiana Commercial Truck Accident Claims
If you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck in Indiana, call any one of our offices throughout Indiana. We understand the complications involved in a commercial truck accident and we will walk you through your case step by step.
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