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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

Emel Doner’s Personal Injury Case

I was severely injured, while walking on a sidewalk, by a reckless driver. The accident happened out of town, in a major city on the west coast, while we were on vacation. I had broken bones, possible spine injury and severe lacerations. After being treated at a trauma center of a major hospital, I was forced to return home with tremendous amount of pain and discomfort, while cancelling the rest of our vacation which took years of planning. I had to undergo months of treatment and was left with a lot pain and suffered from depression. Meanwhile the medical bills started coming in, and I was in no condition to deal with the out-of-state healthcare providers and out-of-state accident insurance issues.

It was at this point that I contacted Christopher (Chip) Clark at Goodin Abernathy for his legal help and guidance. Right from the beginning, he had been very gracious, sympathetic to my situation and highly professional in his dealings with me and my husband. Chip and his staff worked diligently with the out-of-state and in-state healthcare providers, the responsible party’s insurance company and Medicare to gather and disseminate all pertinent documentation. Within a short period of time, Chip was able to negotiate a settlement with the responsible party’s insurance company. The settlement amount was the maximum possible that we could have received.

I thank Chip for his responsiveness, his competence and the extremely professional manner with which he dealt with me and my husband.

Emel Doner

House Bill 1070 – Distracted Driving

House Bill 1070 – Distracted Driving

We have all seen it, and perhaps even done it ourselves. Driving down the road with a cell phone in our hand. Indiana House Bill 1070 “Distracted Driving,”(read here) passed the House by a vote of 86-10 last week and has been referred to the Indiana Senate. This bill will make it illegal to have a cell phone or other “mobile device” in one’s hand while operating a motor vehicle in Indiana. It modifies the existing law which prohibits texting while driving to include all uses of a mobile device that are not hands free or voice activated. The current law which makes it “unlawful to type, transmit, or read e-mail or text messages on a communication device while driving in Indiana,” has been in effect since July 1, 2011, but has been ineffective in curbing the behavior. This is due primarily, because the existing law as written, is difficult to enforce. This new law could go a long way to prevent distracted driving, and potentially save lives, because it will allow officers to write tickets simply by seeing a person operating a vehicle with a device in their hand, and there will be no requirement that they prove that the operator was actually using the device.

The Indiana Department of Labor defines distracted driving as, “any non-driving activity a motorist engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving. Stressful jobs, busy lifestyles and technology are just a few reasons why individuals may engage in distracted driving activities.” https://www.in.gov/dol/2873.htm

There Are Three Primary Types of Distracted Driving:

  • Cognitive distraction takes your mind off the road.
  • Visual distraction takes your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distraction takes your hands off the wheel.

Texting, or otherwise using a device to search the internet, change a song, look up a contact, or like a Facebook post can be extremely dangerous because it involves all three types of distraction. Your mind is not focused on the road because you are concentrating on your device. Your eyes are also taken away from the road, as are your hands. As we all know, it only takes a second of distraction to cause a crash.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in 2012, 3,328 people died in crashes linked to driver distraction, and more than 421,000 more people suffered a distracted driving-related injury. In fact, 17 percent of all crashes resulting in an injury involved driver distraction. More recent statistics indicate nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured daily in accidents in which at least one driver was distracted.

  • Nearly 4,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.
  • Distracted driving was the reported cause of death of 3,450 people in 2016.
  • An estimated 391,000 drivers were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2017.
  • For comparison, there were 39,773 gun deaths in the United States in 2017.
  • In 2019, distracted driving was a reported factor in 8.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes. https://www.thezebra.com/distracted-driving-statistics/

If you support this Bill we would encourage you to contact your State Senator and request that they vote in favor of HB 1070, click here.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a distracted driver, it is important to know your rights, and to preserve important evidence to support your claim. Call us for a free consultation.

I Was Injured In A Car Accident. Should I Hire An Attorney?

I Was Injured In A Car Accident. Should I Hire An Attorney?

Victims of car accidents suffer a significant amount of trauma. Aside from the physical and mental impact left by the crash, they are responsible for dealing with the intricate motions of a post-accident insurance claim.

Given the complexity of this procedure, car accident victims tend to be at a loss regarding the best way to go about filing their claim. Many make the mistake of giving their insurance companies their full trust in fighting for their legal rights. Unfortunately, in cases like these, insurance companies place their own interests above the victim’s.

For that reason, if you’ve sustained personal injury from a car accident in Indiana, working with a skilled attorney is your best bet in getting the compensation you’re entitled to receive.

Statistics on Vehicle Collisions in Indiana

The number of annual car accidents in Indiana is staggering. The Indiana University Public Policy Institute reports a total of 219,112 collisions in 2017. These incidents lead to 911 deaths and 50,042 injuries.

The majority of these collisions were caused by impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving and speeding. With such high odds of getting into a car accident, you owe it to yourself to be well-prepared should the worst-case scenario arise.

How Can an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Following the shock of an accident — especially one that has left you with injuries — you need all the help you can get. By working with the right attorney, you’ll have an ally on your team who will help you defend your right to treatment and compensation.

It’s important to note that your insurance company is not your ally in this case. It’s in their best interests to relay the bare minimum payment in order to cover what they’ve determined to be your losses.

During their investigation following the collision, insurance companies will work to reduce their financial responsibilities as much as possible. Their motives are understandable, since their goals ultimately orient toward making a profit. However, this leaves car accident victims in a vulnerable position — especially if they don’t have anyone to represent them.

When to Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney

It’s important to initiate discussions with your attorney as soon as possible following the incident. In all cases, it’s best to do so before contacting your insurance company, as this will ensure your protection during the initial stages of the investigation.

Insurance companies will prey on any potential for negligence that they find in their investigation. They know that a victim is in an emotionally fragile state immediately following the incident. They also understand that your attention will mostly be spent on recovery and loss prevention.

If you lack the counsel of an attorney, it’s likely that you’ll be unfamiliar with your legal rights under formal recourse. Representing yourself in this case will only increase the risk of having your losses undervalued in court.

On the other hand, having a personal injury attorney as a partner throughout this struggle gives you access to their knowledge and experience. You’ll benefit from their network of physicians and personal loss experts. These sources will help your team arrive at the legitimate value of losses that you’ve sustained.

Personal injury attorneys know the process inside and out, and they work to help you receive what you’re entitled to.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

If you’ve sustained a personal injury from a car accident, the compensation you deserve might extend beyond medical coverage.

Depending on the severity of the incident, you might be entitled to the full recovery of lost wages caused by your injury. You’ll also be able to claim physical and emotional distress as part of your case. If family members are made to suffer by the lack of your companionship during recovery, they might also be deserving of compensation.

In cases where the insurance company seeks to settle out of court, it’s important that you operate with a full understanding of the value that you’re entitled to. In this case, your personal injury attorney will be able to assess the offer and negotiate on your behalf.

Working With a Personal Injury Attorney is Your Safest Bet

It’s possible to represent yourself in a case where you’ve sustained a personal injury from a car accident. However, unless you’re operating with a full understanding of Indiana car accident law — which requires years of study and experience — you risk missing out on significant compensation that you might be entitled to.

That’s why it’s best to hire a personal injury attorney. By doing so, you’ll benefit from their vast knowledge and expertise in navigating through the intricacies of your case.

Working together with an attorney will greatly increase your chance of being compensated for the full extent of your losses.

The Dram Shop Act

The Dram Shop Act

In lieu of the recent case against Tiger Woods, we thought it would be beneficial to explain the Dram Shop Act. Who is responsible when an accident or injury occurs because of someone being intoxicated?

Federal statistics & data show deaths caused by drunk drivers have dropped significantly in last 30 years, however, the phenomenon still occurs far too frequently.

In Indiana, when a drunk driver injures or kills a person, the bar or person that served the driver might share responsibility for the event. Under what is known as the Dram Shop Act, giving alcohol to a visibly drunk person can cause civil liability.

Now, the bar or person must possess or control the beverage and actually serve the alcohol. In addition, the person serving the alcohol must possess actual knowledge that the recipient was drunk at the time the beverage was provided. So, many times it is important to determine how much alcohol the person drank, over a certain time period as well as whether the person showed signs of intoxication like slurred speech or strange behavior.

If you have questions, an attorney can help sort through the issues to determine if these factors in the Dram Shop Act apply.

Please feel free to contact Goodin Abernathy.

Your Social Media v. Your Personal Injury Case

Your Social Media v. Your Personal Injury Case

Imagine. You have just been seriously injured and you’ve come home from the hospital, what is one of the first things you’re going to want to do? If you are like me, one of your first instincts will be to go on social media and let all your friends and family know that you are alright. I mean it would be the quickest and most efficient form of communication, why not take advantage of it? All you want to say is something similar to, “Hey everyone, I was in a car accident recently. It was a bit scary, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m – OK!”

Well if you’re planning on putting together a personal injury case to help compensate you for the damages to yourself and your vehicle, you may want to think twice before making that Facebook update, tweet, or Instagram post.

For example, if you plan on arguing that your life has been negatively impacted by the negligence of the other driver, that simple “I’m OK” post could hurt your case. To avoid having your case diminished by social media, here are some social media tips that will help you avoid a situation like that:

AVOID TALKING ABOUT YOUR INJURY

Just don’t post anything! Even if you don’t think you’ll pursue litigation, you never know if your circumstances will change as time progresses. Maybe you feel fine now, or even just a bit sore. But down the road, you find out that the car accident really did a number on your back, hips, and/or neck. You may even find out you need a surgery because of the accident. Pursuing litigation for those damages could help alleviate the financial burden of your medical bills, but those social media posts could prevent you from getting compensated fully.

AVOID TALKING ABOUT MEDICAL ISSUES

You are likely not a doctor.  Let the medical professionals determine what your condition is.  Tweeting out or posting what you think is wrong with you may be contrary to the medical facts.  Let a jury hear from the experts and leave the diagnoses to the professionals.

AVOID TALKING BAD ABOUT THE PERSON OR COMPANY THAT HURT YOU

Yes, you were hurt, and it’s only natural you want to express your frustration to others. But try doing so in one-on-one conversations. Making an angry post about the person or company that hurt you could be seen as evidence that you are just trying to be vengeful towards them and may be asking for more than you need.

Easy Tricks to Protect Your Social Media Accounts

While you’re in the middle of a personal injury case, here are some tips you may want to consider:

  • Turn off the location settings. Sometimes when you post something, it will automatically ping where you are and when you posted it.
  • Turn off the ability for people to tag you in posts and photos.
  • Make sure all your social media accounts are set to private.
  • Tell friends and family to avoid talking about your case on social media.
  • If you do accidentally make a post, don’t delete anything! You have a duty to not destroy any evidence – even bad evidence – that is out there.  If the opposing side finds out that you tried to delete that photo or post, they could argue that you were trying to destroy evidence to hide the truth.
  • Overall, the Golden Rule is: don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the attorney for the insurance company talking about in an open courtroom full of strangers.

If you found these social media tips helpful, please give this post a share! For more legal-related tips, opinions, and articles follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

At Goodin Abernathy, LLP, we realize the law can be confusing and difficult to navigate. We have been serving Indiana since 1984, with a strong and reliable focus on Personal Injury, Worker’s Compensation and Employment Law. Our team of Indianapolis attorneys is dedicated to providing premiere civil trial services for individuals and small businesses.

If you need assistance with any of these matters, call us for a FREE consultation.

Goodin Abernathy also offers all of these services, in Spanish, to the Indiana Latino community. Haga clic aquí para obtener más información sobre los servicios que brindamos a la comunidad latina de Indiana – Legalmente Hablando Indy.