If you or a family member have recently been in a car accident in the Indianapolis area, you may feel overwhelmed and confused about your rights. Reimbursement for medical care, property damage, and other claims can be tricky.
The more serious your injuries or losses, the more essential it is to have an Indianapolis car accident lawyer to represent you. This gives you the greatest chance of a positive outcome, whether it’s negotiating with insurance companies, working out a settlement, or going to court to get what you’re due.
How Often Do Auto Accidents Occur in Marion County?
Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are a common occurrence in Marion County. The traffic around Indianapolis is a significant contributor. According to the Indiana government, although total traffic accidents for Marion County were down in 2020 — likely due to the pandemic — fatalities rose from 109 to 148 in just a year. The seriousness of some crashes was probably one factor, as was a significant reduction in the overall use of restraints (from 91.2 percent in 2019 to 84 percent in 2020).
Based on the data cited above, other elements that contributed to accidents and deaths include:
- Driving under the influence
- Bad weather
- Being a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcycle operator
Because of the surge in car crash fatalities, the city of Indianapolis set up a commission to review them and explore preventive solutions for the future.
Common Injuries Sustained in Automobile Accidents
Automobile crashes can result in devastating injuries, costing victims in the US billions in medical care and lost work income. Certain types of accidents tend to produce the same injuries because of the mechanisms involved.
Whiplash is one of the most common motor vehicle injuries. This usually happens when someone is hit from behind, jolting them forward and then back again. Not only can your head hit the dashboard or headrest with whiplash, but your brain is also jarred within your skull. Although most people who experience whiplash recover after a few weeks, some struggle longer with headaches, neck pain, stiffness, dizziness, numbness and tingling, fatigue, blurred vision, memory issues, and difficulty sleeping.
While sprains, strains, bruises, and scrapes are some of the milder injuries following car accidents, there are other more severe consequences that first responders and ER professionals see quite frequently. For example, T-bone accidents — where a vehicle is hit from the side — often produce serious injuries, including internal bleeding, broken bones that require surgery, and spinal injuries, including paralysis. One reason T-bone crashes result in such catastrophic injuries is that car doors aren’t as protective as the front and rear of the vehicle.
Vehicle rollovers also cause some of the most critical injuries, as do head-on collisions, which typically produce the highest number of fatalities. Even if someone does not die in a head-on crash, they may experience:
- The most acute types of bone fractures.
- Facial scarring and disfigurement, including from burns.
- Neck and back injuries.
- Concussions and traumatic brain injury.
- Deep lacerations from windshield glass.
- Dental injuries and tooth loss.
- Soft tissue injuries resulting in long-term loss of mobility.
- Blood loss requiring transfusion.
- Puncture wounds, including to the lungs.
- Eye injuries leading to vision impairments and blindness.
Car crashes are traumatic for those involved. Victims may also suffer from personality changes, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health problems later.
The need for long-term care, especially physical therapy, is common following a car accident. Physical therapy can help with:
- Improving range of motion.
- Rebuilding strength.
- Reducing migraines and chronic pain.
- Decreasing dizziness and vertigo.
- Lowering the risk of degenerative disc disease.
- Speeding overall recovery.
How Does the Claims Process Work in Indiana?
When you become involved in a car accident in Indianapolis, you must report it quickly to your insurance company. We always advise our clients to say as little as possible to any insurance agents, even their own, after a car accident. Shock or a head injury can cause you to blurt out that you think you were at fault, even if you weren’t or were only partially at fault. You should leave the investigation to law enforcement. And if you decide to work with an Indianapolis car accident lawyer, let them act as an intermediary with any insurance companies.
Depending on who is determined to be at fault in the accident after investigation, your insurance company may pay for a claim for your medical care and vehicle damage, or the other party’s insurance may pay.
Usually, if you are at fault, your insurance pays; if another motorist is at fault, their insurance pays. This is because Indiana is an “at-fault” or “tort” state when it comes to car accidents.
You do have the right to file a claim with your own insurance company, even if someone else was at fault. However, most folks only do this if the other motorist is uninsured or underinsured. Filing a claim against your insurance policy can result in your rates going up. If someone else was at fault in an accident, they should bear that burden, not you.
It can become more complicated, though. Indiana has what’s called a “comparative fault” law. This means that if two or more parties are deemed at fault in a car accident, insurance reimbursement may be reduced by a certain percentage.
Two kinds of insurance typically come into play following a car accident. First, there’s liability insurance. The state mandates this as a requirement to register your vehicle and operate it legally in Indiana. It pays for others’ medical care and property damage if you are at fault in an accident or if an uninsured party hits you. The minimum liability insurance you are required to carry is:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury for multiple people per accident
- $10,000 for property damage per accident
- $50,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage
Be aware that this is the minimum liability insurance you must have. Some people choose to have more liability coverage because the cost of medical care and repairing or replacing vehicles is so high nowadays. They may also have more liability coverage if they have teen drivers at home, if they have a high net worth, or if they drive more than the average person. You may have chosen more liability protection yourself with your own policy.
There is also collision insurance if you elect to pay for this coverage for your vehicle. The state does not require it, but most auto lenders demand it if you finance a vehicle. You would use this insurance to pay for repairing your car if you are at fault in an accident because your liability coverage only pays for other people’s damage, not your own.
Understanding Indiana Laws and How Settlements Work for Car Crashes
Let’s say you were in a car accident where another driver was determined to be at fault by officers from the Indianapolis police department called to the scene. You talk to your insurance carrier, who advises you to file a claim with the other party because they were responsible for the accident, according to the police report. After filing your claim with the other motorist’s insurance, they return with a settlement offer for you. Or it’s even possible that they deny your claim altogether.
Insurance companies are notorious for trying to pay as little as possible in car accident claims to increase their profits. This is especially true if you are trying to recover money from someone else’s insurance when they are at fault. You have several options if you believe you have been wrongfully denied a reasonable settlement.
You can file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance. But this can be time-consuming, particularly if the department has a backlog of complaints.
It’s a key reason why many people turn to an Indianapolis car accident attorney to help them get the money they need for recovery, vehicle repair or replacement, and lost wages.
An attorney can help you file a civil suit and go to court to fight for a better settlement. You have two years to do this (less if you’re suing a government entity for something like poor road conditions), so it’s important to make decisions before that window closes.
How Often Do Car Accident Cases Go to Court?
We don’t really know how many car accident cases wind up in court because many reach outside settlements, and their details are undisclosed. You may have a dramatic image of an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer in your mind from television or the movies, but it’s better in most cases if the parties settle before the case goes to court. That’s because car accident cases can take quite a long time before the plaintiff (you, the victim that’s suing) sees any actual results.
There are a lot of stages the case has to go through first, even after back-and-forth discussion with the insurance company, including:
- Filing the case
- Serving the defendant (the party at fault)
- Allowing the defendant to respond to the complaint
- Discovery of case-related facts
- Potential offering(s) of a settlement on the defendant’s part
- Continuation of the trial
- Issuing of a judgment once the case is done
The judgment can be complex if more than reimbursement for medical expenses and property damage is being pursued. Your Indianapolis auto accident attorney may also recommend suing for the psychological and emotional damage inflicted by the trauma of the accident, especially if you have ongoing mental health or cognitive issues because of it.
Of course, your car accident attorney in Indianapolis will do their best to uphold your rights and get you the best judgment possible. However, winning a car accident case, even with the best legal team, is not a guaranteed slam dunk.
Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, is a fantastic place to live, with a vibrant urban community and many attractions nearby. But that city environment and easy escape to the countryside come with a price for drivers.
The anatomy of the roadways around Indianapolis is a bit like a star, with the capital at the center and highways radiating outward in all directions. That puts a lot of pressure on the roads closest to the city, where traffic tends to congregate, like the metro loop 465, also known as the Indianapolis Beltway.
While Indianapolis is ranked highly nationally for its infrastructure, there are still many issues with the roads that contribute to accidents. These include poor pavement conditions, potholes, winter weather, and constant road construction that squeezes a high volume of traffic into an even smaller area than the already overwhelmed roads.
Add a larger-than-average percentage of truck traffic on roads like Interstates 69, 70, and 74, plus commuter traffic on US highways 31 and 36 and state routes 39 and 44, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for car crashes. The budget just doesn’t exist at the moment to eliminate all these traffic and roadway problems.
However, the city is trying to investigate the causes of the worst car accidents — the ones involving driver, cyclist, or pedestrian fatalities. As we mentioned above, they’ve set up the Fatal Crash Review Commission to look further than police reports and reduce crashes. Some of the factors the commission is examining are:
- Flawed vehicle design
- Dangerous infrastructure
- Human error
- Regulatory gaps
- Poor public health measures
It may not solve all the problems, but at least it’s a step in the right direction and takes a more holistic approach to reducing fatal car crashes.
Our Indianapolis Lawyers Are Here for You
The Fatal Crash Review Commission is an excellent idea for the future, but that doesn’t help if you or a loved one have already been a victim in a serious car accident. SLG Accident Attorneys are here to help you get the justice you deserve, whether that’s a more reasonable settlement or a judgment in court. We specialize in car accident cases in Indianapolis and have the resources to back you up, so you can get your life back as quickly as possible after a crash.
Not sure if you have a case? SLG Accident Attorneys offers a free consultation. Call us at 317-762-4186 to tell us more about your accident, or reach out online to schedule a meeting to evaluate your options.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR CAR CRASH VICTIMS