Indiana Comparative Fault: How It Impacts Compensation

June 07, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Indiana Comparative Fault: How It Impacts Compensation

When you suffer an injury due to the actions of another person, you may be entitled to recover damages from the person or organization at fault. However, under the Indiana comparative fault law, sometimes called comparative negligence, a plaintiff can lose all or part of the compensation awarded as damages if the plaintiff is determined to have been fully or partially at fault for the incident that caused their injury. Having an experienced Indiana injury attorney is critical to prevent unfair application of this rule.

At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, you’ll find comparative fault attorneys in Indiana who help personal injury clients throughout the state recover damages to help make them whole.

Indiana Comparative Fault in Personal Injury Claims

The majority of personal injury claims are rooted in negligence, so, to understand how courts apply comparative fault in Indiana, you first must understand the legal definition of negligence. Negligence arises in a variety of situations, including common injury-causing events such as:

To show that a person or entity is responsible for your injury because of their negligence, you must establish the following:

  • The person or entity owed you a duty
  • The person or entity breached that duty
  • The breach of the duty caused your injury

Proving these three elements establishes a negligence claim. The next step is to demonstrate the losses you suffered as a result. Comparative negligence allocates responsibility for the injury between the parties involved and is applied to determine how much of your losses the other party or parties should be responsible for paying.

An experienced attorney can help you determine whether your claim is subject to Indiana comparative fault laws and, when appropriate, fight their application. Understanding what damages you may be entitled to and how comparative fault could impact your potential recovery of damages can help you assist your attorney in your case.

What It Means to Owe a Duty

The first element in a negligence case is the most important to establish: duty. If you cannot show that one or more parties owed you a duty, the court will not hold them responsible for your injuries. The law recognizes many situations in which a person or entity owes a duty to act so they do not cause injury to another person. An experienced Indiana injury lawyer can help identify which situation applies in your case.

Car accidents are a common cause of personal injuries. Every driver has a duty to operate their vehicle reasonably and responsibly to avoid causing an accident or injury. Duties to act reasonably also arise in other situations, including:

  • A property owner owes a duty to keep the property clear of dangerous conditions when others are present
  • A vehicle operator owes a duty to operate his vehicle with reasonable care to others on the roadway

An Indianapolis injury lawyer can help you determine whether a duty existed in your personal injury case and identify the responsible party or parties. Should a duty to you exist, the next step is to prove the breach of that duty.

Breach of Duty in Personal Injury Claims

Simply proving a duty existed is not enough to prove that someone is responsible for your injuries. You must also demonstrate that person or entity that owed the duty breached it. Breach of a duty occurs when the responsible party fails to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling the duty. Whether the person or entity acted reasonably depends on the situation and type of duty owed.

For car accidents and other common incidents that cause injury, the standard is whether the defendant acted in a manner similar to how an ordinary person would have acted in similar circumstances. In other cases, such as dog bites or injuries incurred on another’s property, the other person or entity’s behavior is judged similarly based on how a person or entity would have handled a similar situation.

Proving Causation of Injuries

If the responsible person or entity breached a duty, the next step is to prove that the person’s or entity’s action—or lack of action—caused your injury or injuries. There are two tests you must satisfy to establish who caused your injury: cause in fact and proximate cause.

To establish that someone’s action or inaction was the cause in fact of your injury, you must prove that the injuries could not have occurred without the other person’s or entity’s actions.

To establish proximate cause, you must prove the identified person or entity could have foreseen that their actions could cause your injuries. However, they are not responsible for additional injuries outside the scope of their actions. For example, if a tree strikes you on the way to the hospital after a car accident caused by another driver, the other driver would not be responsible for injuries resulting from the treefall.

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s action or inaction, you need an experienced Indianapolis injury lawyer like those at Keffer Hirschauer LLP to gather evidence and persuasively argue that the other party’s conduct was directly responsible for your injuries.

Proving Damages in Personal Injury Cases and the Indiana Comparative Fault Law

The last element of proving a defendant is negligent and liable for your injuries is proving damages. Without any harm to your person or property, you generally cannot recover damages. If, however, you are found to have contributed to the cause of the incident resulting in your injuries or losses, the comparative fault law reduces any damages awarded to you in proportion to the extent of your fault.

During a negligence lawsuit, one or more defendants will likely attempt to place some or all of the blame for the accident on you. By doing so, the defendant attempts to place comparative fault on the plaintiff and reduce how much they must pay the plaintiff in damages.

So, what is comparative fault, and how does it impact the recovery of damages in personal injury claims? There are several methods of calculating comparative fault, including:

  • Modified comparative fault
  • Pure comparative fault
  • Pure contributory negligence

Modified Comparative Fault

In most cases, Indiana uses the modified comparative fault standard to reduce the plaintiff’s damages in accordance with their role in the accident. Indiana comparative fault law bars recovery if the injured person is 51 percent or more responsible for causing the accident.

However, an injured person who is found to have contributed 50 percent or less to the cause of the accident can still recover damages. Applying comparative fault law, that person’s damages are reduced in proportion to their fault. So, for example, an injured person who is found 20 percent at fault can only recover 80 percent of the total damages awarded.

Indiana comparative fault applies whether there are one or more parties at fault. When there are multiple parties, their combined negligence must be 51 percent or more for the plaintiff to recover damages.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Indiana comparative fault does not apply when the defendant is a government or agency or in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Instead, the Indiana courts apply pure contributory negligence, which is even more prohibitive than the modified comparative fault system.

Under contributory negligence, the injured person cannot recover damages if they contribute to their injury. As such, an injured person who is found even only one percent responsible for their injuries can recover no damages.

At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we help you secure the compensation to which you are entitled. An experienced Indiana comparative fault attorney can help prove your actions did not contribute to the accident and argue that you are entitled to a full award of damages.

Damages Available and Subject to Indiana Comparative Fault Laws

Once you establish your right to compensation, there are several forms of damages you can recover. Indiana allows the injured party to recover economic and non-economic damages for their injuries. Understanding the types of damages available can help you assist your personal injury lawyer in your case.

Economic Damages

When an injury impacts your financial situation, you are entitled to economic damages. These damages include out-of-pocket costs incurred due to an injury caused by the defendant’s actions. These monetary damages include medical expenses such as doctor visits, therapy, hospital stays, or caretakers.

Should the injury cause you to miss work, economic damages can cover lost wages, too. At times, injuries can result in a diminished or complete inability to work in the future. In such cases, economic damages can also include the loss of future earnings from reduced income due to reduced working ability.

Unfortunately, some injuries are bad enough that they require continuing, future medical treatment or a life plan that includes full-time medical care. These future costs are calculated and considered when economic damages are determined.

Non-Economic Damages

When an injury arises, the law also provides damages for the physical pain and loss in quality of life the plaintiff suffers. Loss of quality of life includes the ability to engage in the same daily activities as before the injury. These activities can consist of hobbies and the ability to interact with family, including children and grandchildren.

Wrongful Death Damages

Unfortunately, negligence can result in death, and families are entitled to recover damages for wrongful death. Wrongful death claims provide families the opportunity to recover damages for the following:

  • Economic loss, including the decedent’s income and having to replace the services they provided for the family
  • Sorrow and mental anguish, which may include the society, companionship, comfort, and guidance the decedent provided before their death
  • Expenses for the care and medical treatment of the deceased before death
  • Reasonable funeral expenses

While losing a loved one is extremely challenging, it is important to know if you are entitled to compensation for this loss. As with all the damages available to the plaintiff, wrongful death damages are subject to Indiana comparative fault laws. As such, contact a Keffer Hirschauer LLP personal injury attorney for help understanding the damages you are entitled to and whether they are subject to the Indiana comparative fault law.

Your Comparative Fault Attorneys in Indiana

You deserve compensation for injury caused by someone else’s wrongdoing, but the path to getting such an award is difficult and requires an experienced Indiana injury lawyer at the helm. For help understanding your personal injury claim and how Indiana comparative fault may impacts your case, contact an experienced Indianapolis injury lawyer at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our comparative fault attorneys in Indiana are ready to assist you. For a free consultation, call us at (317) 455-4043 or complete our online contact form.

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