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Wrongful Death:  Indiana Law and How it Impacts You

Wrongful Death: Indiana Law and How it Impacts You

The attorneys at Goodin Abernathy LLP handle Wrongful Death claims – fighting to honor the memory of lost loved ones and supporting their dependents as the law allows. Losing a loved one is catastrophic. The physical and emotional void left by a family member’s death feels insurmountable. These emotions don’t even include the financial toll of losing a family’s bread-winner. Money can’t replace someone we love, but as a practical matter, it’s something families need legal help collecting. In Wrongful Death cases, not only do Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys know we are legally obligated to pursue the fullest extent of damages under the law – we want to fight for them because we care about our clients.

Indiana law allows family members and dependents to recover money as legal damages when their loved one is killed by another’s negligence. “Damages” is a legal term referring to the compensation – normally a sum of money – provided to a person who suffers harm or loss due to the negligence of another. Negligence causing one’s death is commonly known as a “wrongful death” claim.

Here are some things to consider when deciding what to do after losing a loved one to Wrongful Death.

Wrongful Death is a Civil Claim not a Criminal Claim

Wrongful Death refers to deaths that result from the negligent act of an entity or another person. A negligent act does not always mean a crime was committed. Your loved one’s death need not be the result of an intentional criminal act for you to make a Wrongful Death claim.  We are experienced handling cases involving both criminal and negligent (civil) claims. Explaining how the criminal and civil laws work is one of the first things we address with grieving families. It’s natural to ask “Why didn’t that driver, who ran the red light, get sent to jail?” Goodin Abernathy’s attorneys evaluate and explain cases clearly. Sometimes cases do not involve criminal acts and we understand families are stunned the at-fault driver is not going to jail. While being honest with our clients, we are also sympathetic to their loss. No question is a dumb one and no feelings are dismissed by us. We take the time to walk our clients through legal explanations because we want them to understand and be comfortable with the process. As regular people, Goodin Abernathy’s attorneys actually care about our clients – then we use our training and experience to provide them with superior legal services.

What Sorts of Deaths Qualify as Wrongful Deaths?

Here are some situations that can lead to a Wrongful Death claim: Auto Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Birth Injuries, Dog Bites, Drunk Drivers, Motorcycle Accidents, Drowning, Electrocution, Construction Accidents, Dangerous Working Conditions, Traumatic Brain Injury and Trucking Accidents.

Was someone driving erratically, causing an accident that killed your loved one? Did your loved one suffer an accident at work resulting in their death? Besides having an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim, you may also have a wrongful death claim. There is a big, important difference between the two. Because we’ve handled these situations, we’ll explain how we prosecute both legal claims for our clients’ maximum benefit.

I’m Grieving and Don’t Have the Time or Energy to Pursue Legal Action

Losing a loved one is exhausting. It feels like there is a never-ending number of things to take care of and the last thing most people want to consider is a drawn-out legal battle. We get it- just remember two things: 1) In Indiana, the personal representative of the deceased has two (2) years to make a claim. (IC 34-23-1-1); and 2) the longer you wait to engage legal help means the more likely important evidence is lost.  You might not feel like you have the time to juggle a lawsuit and find your way after a loss. But trust the idea we want to help, and we will make it as easy as possible to connect and communicate with us. When it comes to the legal issues involved with a claim, it’s our job to do the work so you and your family can move forward at the same time.

What Sort of Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?

Damages may include medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses. Damages include the loss of someone’s love and affection. Another big category of damages includes lost income or lost earnings. Under Indiana’s Wrongful Death Statute “recovery of emotional damages is allowed for spouses and dependent children; a decedent’s minor children may recover for loss of parental training and guidance as well as for the loss of their parent’s care.”  (TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, Inc. v. Moore)  “This loss can be determined, in part, from assistance that decedent would have provided through money, services or other marital benefits, but it also includes loss to children of parental training and guidance and loss of love and affection to surviving spouse.” (Southlake Limousine and Coach, Inc. v. Brock)

Wrongful Death cases are complex. The attorneys at Goodin Abernathy LLP are here to help you navigate these difficult times. Unlike a lot of big name advertising firms, our fees are structured for fairness to our clients. Our fees depend on the level of legal work you claim requires. You should not pay one set fee percentage for your case. We will explain how our fee structure works and comfortably answer your questions. Goodin Abernathy LLP gives you the time for decision making – we do not pressure you into signing our fee agreement the first time we meet. In these situations, you deserve an attorney that will walk beside you through the entire process. Contact us, Goodin Abernathy LLP, and see how we set ourselves apart from other attorneys. We know this is an emotional time. Let us help you recoup a sense of security for your family’s future. Call Goodin Abernathy LLP at 317-843-2606 today to schedule your Free Consultation.

 

Photo by Nate Isaac on Unsplash

Wrongful Death Claims In Indiana & Repatriation: Sending a Loved One’s Body to Mexico for Burial

Wrongful Death Claims In Indiana & Repatriation: Sending a Loved One’s Body to Mexico for Burial

We know losing loved ones is sad and very stressful. The COVID Pandemic has been hitting my Hispanic client base hard and causing a lot of heartache. Other cases we see involve “wrongful death” or negligent death claims. Legalmente Hablando Indy focuses on prosecuting these claims. The law allows loved ones to pursue financial damages when their family members die in work accidents or due to the negligence of others. These legal theories are known as an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim or a negligent death / “Wrongful Death” claim. The law controlling each these claims are very different and it is important that families use Goodin Abernathy‘s / Legalmente Hablando Indy’s legal services to prosecute the actions.

When one dies, the damages generally include a lifetime of financial income. This greatly impacts the families that were relying on that support. Legalmente Hablando Indy makes sure the lost income is correctly calculated under the law. Plus, we pursue other damages allowed under the law. Neither the citizenship of the decedent or their remaining families matters – Legalmente Hablando Indy will represent them to the fullest extent of the law.

In the course of handling wrongful death and work accident claims for my Hispanic clients, many families send their loved ones back to Mexico for burial. My law office – Legalmente Hablando Indy – helps those families communicate with consulates and local government. We are experienced working with morticians, the local Consulate and other services to coordinate these transfers. Technically, the action of returning a body or remains of a deceased loved one is called “repatriation”. Government Consulate offices, like the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis, are a starting point. https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/indianapolis/

Families should also be ready to work with the morgue and local government for handling the process. My law office communicates with the county health department and other services to manage transportation to a final resting place. I find most families appreciate the sense of confidence that things are being handled correctly when my firm supplies this support. Here is a guide for information specific to using Mexico’s process. https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/548418/Gu_a_para_el_traslado_de_restos_o_cenizas.pdf You’ll also find general information about the process in this article. https://www.azcentral.com/story/noticias/2020/04/17/como-repatriar-cuerpo-cadaver-estados-unidos-hacia-mexico/5124133002/

Legalmente Hablando Indy and attorney Jim Browne personally handles your case. We speak Spanish and you meet with us personally. Unlike many TV and billboard advertisers, you actually meet with attorney Jim Browne and he handles your case. Recently, we have handled death cases involving work accidents in construction projects, delivery services and an attack at business. Each of the families that hired us benefit from a team of experienced legal professionals that truly care about their cases.

If your friend, loved one or family member is injured or killed, contact attorney Jim Browne and the Legalmente Hablando Indy law team. Listen to how we care and what we will do seeking justice for your loved one. Learn more about us on this website or our Facebook site.

Violating the ADA doesn’t pay—just ask Walmart

by M. Alison Reed, JD

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is “one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream American life – to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.” (www.ada.gov)

Marlo Spaeth is one of these people. Marlo, a seasoned Walmart employee of 16 years, has Down Syndrome. Marlo’s schedule at the retail giant followed the same pattern for years—until Walmart decided to alter it. The change caused hardships for Marlo, who requested that Walmart change her schedule back to its original pattern. Marlo’s mother and sister also spoke to Walmart on her behalf, encouraging the company to grant Marlo’s request alleviating the hardships caused by the schedule change. Walmart refused. Marlo had difficulty adjusting to the new schedule, which lead to increased absenteeism and, eventually, her termination. (EEOC v.Wal-Mart Stores East, E.D. Wis.,No. 1:17-cv-00070 (E.D. Wis. 2021))

The ADA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for a worker’s disability. Marlo Spaeth was asking that her schedule be altered back to her original shift—a change of 60-90 minutes at the beginning and end of her shift. When Marlo was working her original schedule, she received “consistently positive reviews and feedback from her managers.” This led the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to believe Walmart “failed to provide reasonable accommodations” to Marlo, eventually firing her “due to her disability.” (Ryskamp, Dani Alexis, Jury Decides Walmart Must Pay Over $125 Million in Disability Discrimination Case, www.expertinstitute.com, July 29, 2021)

The EEOC sued Walmart on Marlo’s behalf, winning a judgment in excess of $125 million dollars. The judge has altered that amount according to federal statutory maximums, and Marlo Spaeth waits to hear the final amount of her settlement—which should include amounts to cover Marlo’s lost wages, litigation costs, and interest.

Have you or someone you know lost a job or not been considered for a position due to a disability? Have you recently been diagnosed with a disability and believe you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD/SSDI) or Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI)? Do you have a child with a disability or special needs? The lawyers at Goodin Abernathy can help.

Applying for disability can be frustrating. The process takes a long time and oftentimes first time applicants are denied. Do you need someone to help walk you through the appeals process? Represent you in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge? You don’t have to attempt this difficult process alone. Call Goodin Abernathy today for a Free Consultation.

Contracts and Leases: Have an Attorney Review Before You Sign It & Pay Too Much

Contracts and Leases: Have an Attorney Review Before You Sign It & Pay Too Much

Many clients visit or call asking me to evaluate problematic business contracts or rental agreements. Often my they are surprised about what the contract terms actually mean. Worse, there are times we discover the contract or other party’s promises are fraudulent.

Please learn this lesson from my experience with so many clients: Don’t be cheap at the beginning of a deal – Visit me, Lic. Jim Browne, to review the business contract, home purchase or lease before you sign it.

At Goodin AbernathyLegalmente Hablendo Indy, many of our Hispanic clients admit they wanted to avoid using an attorney to save money. I understand that idea – it’s reasonable to think that way. But ALL those same clients acknowledge that if they spent a little money for a legal review before entering their agreement, it would have saved them a lot of frustration, time and money.

Rent-to-Own Agreements

Many Latinos enter Rent-to-Own contracts with the idea they are slowly buying their house. The concept, as they understand, uses their rent money to pay off the house. Before signing one of these agreements, make sure the seller also legally owns the house. Do they have the legal authority to sell you the property? Last year I saw an example involving total fraud. The seller did not own the property and collected my client’s $6,000.00 down payment. When they tried to move in, the locks were changed so they contacted the seller. He lived out of state and they did not have his address. He wanted more money for them to move in. Surprisingly, the young couple paid more money. Then, the seller asked for even more money and that is what finally made them think it was a scam. You should meet the seller in person and have their address. If they do not live in the same town or state where you are buying the property, take further steps to verify the ownership. You can check the county government’s records to match the seller’s name with the property’s title. Check if there are other mortgages, liens or taxes owed on the property. If there are, you need to make sure the seller is paying those obligations. If not, the seller will have your money and the lender will keep your house. You can find more information about rent to own fraud here: What you need to know about rent-to-own deals. Then see me for a specific review of your situation.

Business Lease Agreements

Individuals and small companies usually rent office space. One type of rental agreement, or lease, includes the terms for a “Triple Net” obligation. This means the renter makes a monthly payment. Then, at the end of the year, the landlord charges the renter additional money for other costs like property taxes, insurance, mowing, maintenance repairs, snow removal and other costs. This usually amounts to three or four times the cost of the monthly rent. If my clients don’t pay, the landlord changes the locks and denies them access to their equipment or business supplies.

Kitchen Table Contracts

Frequently, individual sellers and buyers sign a short contract over the kitchen table. My buyers think the contract is sufficient to protect their financial investments. Usually the agreement fails to address equipment inventory, describe the payment plan or handle many other practical terms they should have requested for a reliable purchase. Rarely do kitchen table contracts succeed.

Loans to Friends and Family

Monthly we get calls where a client asks if he can legally collect the money he lent a friend or family member. The first question is – Did you put the loan in writing? If not, the borrower may try claiming it was a gift. Besides friends and family, I see this a lot with individuals trying to buy or start restaurants. They will invest money to become owners but not have a written agreement. Usually they lose their money and are left empty handed. Get a written loan agreement signed. It should have terms like the length of the loan, repayment plan, interest, penalties, default provisions and litigation costs.

Subcontractor Agreements

My clients who are subcontractors start jobs expecting to get paid. Sometimes, they do not ask for written terms and hope to get paid. During the job, they pay for materials and equipment, travel and the cost of their own workers. Then when the job is finished, the contractor that hired them claims the property owner or general contractor did not pay – and often that’s a lie. These contractors frequently disrespect my Hispanic clients, threatening litigation or immigration problems. I also see this a lot with apartment complexes. They hire my clients to paint, clean or remodel many, many units. The apartment managers change and the new managers avoid paying the money owed. Or, the apartment managers claim the work was poorly done.

You work hard for your money and envision improving a future for you and your family. Protect yourself against the risk of loss.

Contact me before entering important agreements. Our legal Spanish speaking legal team at Legalmente Hablando Indy is ready to collect basic information from you over the phone.

Paying for a legal review BEFORE you enter a contract protects you against much larger heartache and financial loss later. Our legal review will be simple and communicated in terms you understand. We will help you think through the contract language that protects your business. Then, if you need me, I’ll help you negotiate the contract for a better result.

Contact Attorney, Jim Browne, by phone at (317) 843-2606 or submit an e-mail inquiry through our website.

Let’s get ready to ride!–Bicycle Laws and Safety in Indiana

Let’s get ready to ride!–Bicycle Laws and Safety in Indiana

by M. Alison Reed, JD

As temperatures and gas prices climb, many Indiana residents are taking to the road on their bicycles. Comprised of trails, parks, and the open road, the League of American Bicyclists considers Indiana the 24th most bicycle-friendly state. While bicycling can be great exercise and an enjoyable activity for people of all ages, accidents do happen.  Luckily, Indiana law protects bicyclists the same way they protect drivers of motor vehicles. (IC 9-21-11-2)  To help you avoid a bicycle accident, here is a list of Indiana Bicycle Regulations that you should know before hitting the road:

Follow the Rules:  Bicyclists are required to follow all traffic laws applicable to motor vehicles.  Failure to comply can even result in a traffic citation. (IC 9-21-11-2)

Where do I put my stuff?:  If your bike has a cargo hold, like a basket or saddle bag, you may transport items inside.  You cannot, however, carry any package or item on your bike that requires you to take both hands off the handlebars. (IC 9-21-11-7)

One seat, One Rider:  Your bike can only transport the number of people for which it was designed.  One seat equals one rider—no passengers on the handlebars. (IC 9-21-11-4)

White Light, Red Light: It’s important to see and be seen.  From one half hour after sunset until one half hour before sunrise, the front of your bike must be affixed with a light that allows the road to be visible for 500 feet in front of you.  This light must be white.  During that same timeframe, the rear of your bike must have a reflector or light visible from a distance of 500 feet.  This light/reflector must be red. (IC 9-21-11-9)

Can you hear me now?:  This one may surprise you.  Bicyclists are required to have a bell or audible device attached to their bike and the sound has to be able to be heard from 100 feet away.  But, keep in mind, the device cannot be a whistle or siren. (IC 9-21-11-8)

Your Duty to Care:  Motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists alike owe what’s called a duty of care to both pedestrians and other motorists/bicyclists. What this means is motor vehicle drivers are required to watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists, and exercise care to avoid collisions.  Bicyclists are required to do the same for motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians.  (IC 9-21-8-37)

Now that we know the rules, let’s check out what the Indiana State Police say about staying safe (https://www.in.gov/isp/2969.htm):

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet every time you ride
  • Check your bicycle for safety. Use the ABC quick check:
    • Air – check your tire’s air pressure,
    • Brakes – check brakes to make sure they work,
    • Chain – make sure it is tight and oiled
  • Learn and follow the rules of the road; among the most important is always ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Be seen by other road users. Wear bright clothing during the day and wear reflective materials on your body or equipment at night.
  • Stay alert

Bicycling is a summertime rite of passage, but it can be dangerous.  No matter how closely we follow the rules and adhere to safety precautions, bicycle accidents do happen—and the resulting injuries can be catastrophic and expensive.  If the actions of a negligent motorist or a defect with your bike have resulted in an injury for you or a loved one, you have rights.  Contact Goodin Abernathy, LLP to explore your options.