Negligence seriously injures people and disrupts their lives. Distracted drivers, careless property owners, and malpracticing physicians pose risks to everyone. If you are injured, and you sue for damages with help from a personal injury attorney, what will your claim be worth?
What steps do you need to take if you’re injured by someone who’s negligent? Can you receive monetary compensation for your injuries, lost earnings, and other damages? Can you receive “punitive” damages? There’s no one answer. A number of factors must be taken into account.
In Indiana, the injured victims of negligence are entitled to complete compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and related losses. If you are injured by negligence, the right personal injury attorney can discuss your rights and help you with the decision to take legal action.
How is the Value of Personal Injury Claims Determined?
Here’s how an injury claim’s value is determined. With your lawyer’s help, you’ll need to add up your quantifiable monetary losses – medical expenses and lost earnings, for instance – and also determine an amount to compensate you for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Once you and your lawyer decide on an exact dollar amount, you’ll have to prove that the compensation figure you are seeking is just, fair, and reasonable.
Injured victims of negligence should copy and securely store receipts for healthcare expenses, lost income, and property damages (like automobile repairs), but if an accident causes you to become permanently disabled, you’ll require the maximum compensation that’s available.
Claims for personal injuries are often settled out-of-court before any trial can begin, but if the other side denies any liability or doesn’t make an acceptable settlement offer, the case may go to court. When injury claims prevail in court, negligent parties are ordered to compensate victims.
What Types of Compensation Are Available to Negligence Victims?
Under Indiana law, these are the “compensatory” damages injured negligence victims are entitled to and may expect to receive:
1. Medical damages: Out-of-court settlements and jury verdicts usually cover the victim’s medical costs and any projected costs for treatment that may be necessary in the future.
2. Lost earnings: Settlements and verdicts also reimburse injury victims for income lost because of personal injuries and for projected lost earnings in the future.
3. Damage to property: If something of value is destroyed or damaged by the same act of negligence – the victim’s automobile, for instance, or an item of value in that vehicle – the owner is reimbursed for the item’s repair or replacement.
4. Emotional and physical pain, distress, and suffering: The injured victims of negligence are compensated for physical and emotional pain and suffering that occurred during and after the incident that caused their injuries.
5. “Enjoyment of life”: If an injury keeps you from your hobbies, exercise, sports, and similar activities, you may seek compensation for “loss of the enjoyment of life.” If the injuries prevent spousal intimacy, damages may be awarded for the loss of consortium.
Can a Victim of Negligence Also Receive “Punitive” Damages?
“Punitive” damages are assessed against negligent parties to punish negligence and deter future negligence. Generally, in personal injury cases, punitive damages are awarded only for egregious negligence, and victims have the burden of proving that punitive damages are appropriate.
Victims seeking punitive damages must have “clear and convincing” evidence that such damages are appropriate. Indiana law caps punitive damages in personal injury cases to three times the amount of the monetary damages or $50,000, whichever is higher.
If You Are Injured By Negligence, What Steps Should You Take?
If an accident occurs, and you’re injured, no lawyer will be there to advise you. To ensure that you’re in the best position to file and prevail with an injury claim, take the following steps – that is, if you are not incapacitated – when an accident with injuries happens:
1. Summon medical help – or get to an emergency room – immediately.
2. If it’s a traffic crash – or if any law was broken in some other accident scenario – call the police.
3. If the accident happened on private property, notify the property owner at once.
4. Take photos of the accident site, any property damage, and your visible injuries.
5. If there were witnesses, try to obtain their names and contact details. Should you bring an injury claim, your lawyer may need statements or testimony from those witnesses.
How Should Victims of Negligence Deal With Insurance Companies?
If it’s a traffic accident, you’ll also need to notify your auto insurance company, but keep it brief – where and when the collision happened and what vehicles and drivers were involved.
Beyond that, after any accident, don’t make any formal written or recorded statement to an insurance company, don’t sign any legal or insurance documents, and do not accept a quick settlement offer.
Let your attorney do the talking and negotiating on your behalf. Your attorney is a trained and experienced negotiator who will protect your rights and who will almost certainly be able to negotiate for a more generous settlement amount.
When Should You Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Indiana lawmakers, like the lawmakers in every other state, have established a statute of limitations – a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. In this state, an injured victim of negligence has two years from the date of the injury to initiate a personal injury claim.
Exceptions to the two-year deadline are extremely rare, and your lawyer can explain those exceptions if they apply to your case. However, the reality is that you really can’t wait two years and then scramble at the last minute to put together a personal injury case.
Don’t even wait two weeks. As soon as you’ve been examined by a physician and treated for your injury or injuries, arrange a consultation with an Anderson personal injury attorney.
If you wait, evidence deteriorates or disappears, and the memories of witnesses will fade. The sooner you act on a personal injury claim, the more likely it is that your claim will prevail. For more about this topic. read our blog covering how long it may take to be compensated from a personal injury case.
If You’re Injured and Out of Work, Can You Afford an Attorney?
Whether your circumstances are affluent or modest, you have the right to seek justice in Indiana’s civil courts. This state’s personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, so if you take legal action, you will pay no attorney’s fees unless and until you are compensated.
Your first meeting with an Indiana personal injury lawyer is free. Your lawyer will review the facts in your case and determine if you have legal grounds to file an injury claim.
If you both decide to move forward with legal action, your attorney will examine the evidence, question the witnesses, file the legal paperwork, and begin the negotiations for your settlement. Most personal injury cases are settled out-of-court in a few weeks or just several months.
The Law is on Your Side
If no acceptable settlement is offered in the private negotiations, your attorney may recommend taking your case to trial, but that’s rare. Usually, it’s only the most complicated personal injury cases that end up in court, where juries determine liability and compensation amounts.
If you’re injured in Indiana by someone who is negligent, good legal help is available. Obtain that help at once, and understand that in this state, if you are an injured victim of negligence, the law is on your side.