In personal injury lawsuits or claims, negligence plays a critical role. When the defendant is guilty of wrongdoing or negligence that results in injuries to another party, the negligent person might be legally responsible. Indiana negligence laws may hold a defendant or their insurance company liable for financial compensation if the injured party files a lawsuit or personal injury claim.
What Is Negligence in Personal Injury Claims?
Negligence usually comes down to carelessness, or the defendant acted in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t have in the same circumstances. For example, if the defendant chose to drink and drive and caused an accident that injured someone, they’re the negligent driver who didn’t uphold their duty of care to other motorists. Additionally, negligence is often the root cause in various accidents, which include but are not limited to bicycle, bus, car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. Accidents involving pedestrians, dog attacks, slip and falls, and swimming pool injuries or deaths can also be considered accidents caused by negligence.
It’s important to note that Indiana uses modified comparative negligence or the “51% rule” to determine negligence. The four basic systems the state uses to determine fault are:
- Pure Contributory Negligence – This system prevents the plaintiff from getting damages if the court found them as much as 1% at fault for their losses or injuries.
- Pure Comparative Fault – Everyone involved in an accident pays for the damage they caused. Even if the injured person was partly responsible, they can still receive compensation, but the court will award them less than if they weren’t responsible at all.
- Modified Comparative Fault – The Indiana Comparative Negligence Statute works on the modified comparative fault system. The court divides the damages between the defendant and plaintiff based on their percentage of fault for the accident. If either party is 51% or more at fault, they’re unable to receive any damages.
- Slight or Gross Negligence Comparative Fault – The system considers how responsible each person was for an accident. If the injured person was only slightly responsible and the other person was grossly irresponsible, the injured person can receive compensation. But if the injured person was grossly responsible, they won’t be awarded in court.
What Is the Comparative Negligence Law in Indiana?
Indiana applies the comparative negligence law in personal injury cases. So, if someone sustains injuries and several parties are to blame, the court will hold each party responsible for their share of the fault.
According to the Indiana Comparative Fault Act, outlined in I.C. § 34-51-2, the injured party can recover damages in their case only if the court finds them to be less than 51% at fault. However, the damage amount the court will award the injured party decreases by their percentage of fault.
For example, if the court finds the injured party to be 20% at fault for the accident and the defendant 80% at fault, the injured party can recover damages. However, the court will reduce their compensation by 20%.
Contributory Negligence vs Comparative Negligence
Contributory and comparative negligence are both legal rules the courts use to determine fault in personal injury cases.
Contributory negligence will completely ban the injured party from recovering any damages if the court finds they contributed in any way to their accident. For example, if a pedestrian gets struck by a car but they were jaywalking, the court may find that the pedestrian contributed to their accident, so they wouldn’t be entitled to damages.
On the other hand, comparative negligence allows the injured party to recover damages even if the court finds them partially at fault. The court will reduce the damages by the injured party’s percentage of fault. So, if the plaintiff is 30% at fault while the defendant is 70% at fault, the court can award the plaintiff 70% of the damages.
Most states use the comparative negligence law in a pure or modified form. However, Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia use the contributory negligence law.
Examples of Modified Comparative Fault (51% Rule) in Indiana
Anyone who sustained injuries in an accident in Indiana should understand how the comparative fault system works. This system lets the injured parties recover damages even if they were partially at fault, but it’ll impact the damage amount the court awards them. Below, we’ll outline a few examples of how the 51% rule or modified comparative fault works in Indiana.
A car accident happens at a busy intersection when one driver doesn’t see the red light, runs it, and strikes another driver who was speeding at the time of the accident. The court finds the driver who ran the red light to be 70% at fault, while the other driver is 30% at fault for speeding. If the injured driver files a lawsuit and seeks $100,000 in damages, the maximum amount they can recover is $70,000, or 70% of the $100,000 since the court found them to be 30% at fault.
Slip and Fall
A customer goes shopping at a local grocery store and slips and falls because the floor is wet. The court decides that the customer wasn’t paying attention to their surroundings and was texting on their phone when they slipped. So, the court decides the injured party is 25% at fault. The grocery store is 75% at fault since they didn’t have the appropriate signs warning of a wet floor, nor did they clean the spill up. If the customer files a lawsuit and seeks $10,000 in damages, they can recover 75% of this amount, or $7,500.
In both instances, comparative fault directly impacts the potential settlement amounts. The injured party can still claim damages, but the court will reduce the amount by the fault percentage the judge assigns them. The more at fault one party is, the less the court will allow them to recover damages. This is why it’s essential to enlist a personal injury attorney because they can help prove the other party’s fault while minimizing the plaintiff’s percentage and maximizing the settlement amount.
Personal Injury Lawyer in Fishers, Indiana
If you have been injured in an accident and need legal representation to protect your rights under Indiana’s comparative fault system, consider working with SLG Accident Attorneys.
Our firm’s team, led by experienced attorney Hasan A. Shah, has a proven track record of successfully representing clients in personal injury cases. From negotiating fair settlements to litigating in court, SLG Accident Attorneys is committed to helping you recover the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.