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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

Injured at Work and the Employer Says it is Your Fault?

Injured at Work and the Employer Says it is Your Fault?

Indiana enacted its first Worker’s Compensation Act in 1915 in response to a growing number of workers injured on the job who had no guaranteed means of receiving medical treatment for injuries or wage replacement income during their physical recovery. Prior to enacting its first Worker’s Compensation Act, when an Indiana worker was injured, the worker was permitted to sue their employer in court in an effort to get compensation. However, lawsuits were time consuming, expensive, and frequently left the injured worker in a position where they were unable to obtain medical attention while their lawsuit was working its way through court because time was lost to address arguments from employers that the worker caused the accident or assumed the risk of the accident. The Workers Compensation Act struck a compromise between the competing interests of the worker and the employer and moved to a no-fault based system. In short, and in general, employers were stripped of the ability to claim the worker caused the accident. In exchange for this concession, injured workers were deprived from collecting pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life damages.

In today’s Indiana Worker’s Compensation system, this means when a worker is injured “on the clock” when they slip and fall, or are injured in a car accident, or are injured in a construction accident, the worker’s employer is not permitted to claim the worker should have paid more attention to what they were doing when the event occurred. However, some important employer-based fault arguments are still available to employers. For example, pursuant to I.C. 22-3-2-8, employers may raise affirmative defenses that no money is owed because the injury was 1) due to the employee’s knowingly self-inflicted injury, 2) due to intoxication, 3) due to the commission of an offense (not including traffic violations), 4) due to a knowing failure to use a safety appliance, 5) due to a knowing failure to obey a reasonable written or printed safety rule which has been posted in a conspicuous position in the place of work, or 6) due to a knowing failure to perform any statutory duty.

Disagreements often occur when an employer raises one of these defenses, and if left unresolved, a judge is asked to determine whether the employer’s defense is valid at a hearing. Like many areas in law, an exploration into the facts of an individual matter is usually necessary to assess the validity of these types of defenses. For example, just because a worker is intoxicated or impaired at the moment the worker is injured, it does not necessarily mean the employer does not owe compensation. Indeed, there is a difference between a drunk worker being injured when the worker drives a delivery truck off the road compared to a drunk worker performing his work satisfactorily when a co-worker accidentally drops an item from above that strikes and injures the worker.

Similarly, not every failure to use a safety appliance or knowing failure to obey a posted and written safety rule bars a recovery. When an employer allows the alleged prohibited conduct to occur or also engages in the prohibited conduct, the employer will not be able to shield itself from responsibility. As an illustration in an industrial or machine setting, if an employer posts an open and obvious sign that machinery must be shut down before it is cleaned, but observes employees cleaning the machine while it is not shut down, the employer will not be allowed to rely on a fault-type defense.

If you need help navigating a matter involving an injury at work where questions exist as to whether the employer may raise an argument that the worker is at fault for the accident, Goodin Abernathy, LLP can bring experience, knowledge, and resources to bear on the question. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Amputation Accidents in Indiana

Amputation Injuries at Work

During a legal seminar I attended last week, an Indiana Occupational Safety and Hazards Agency (“IOSHA”) representative presented information covering work place injuries.  The representative explained that since March 2015, new reporting and investigation regulations require IOSHA to investigate amputation injuries across the state.  The presenter was clearly surprised how many work place amputations occur every day.  This safety initiative is designed to investigate problems, enforce safety codes and prevent ongoing hazards for Indiana workers.

Amputations and Worker’s Compensation

The Goodin Abernathy LLP lawyers are not surprised by these findings because we frequently help clients who have suffered amputated fingers, hands and arms.  Many of our clients need help understanding what Indiana worker’s compensation benefits are available for their damages.  These benefits include lost wages from time off work (TTD or PTD), payment of medical bills, physical therapy and psychological counseling, or payments for their impairment due to permanent physical disfigurement (PPI).

The Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board uses a table to calculate the money owed for amputation PPI ratings.  https://www.in.gov/wcb/index.htm What injured workers need to know is that employers and their insurance companies are obligated to address impairment ratings – but many times the workers are not told of these benefits. Also, the calculations and settlement offers insurance companies make do not always match the reasonable or fair value of a PPI rating: especially in amputation cases.

GA’s Indianapolis attorneys understand the medical and therapy plans needed to fully address amputation recoveries.  We are also experienced in evaluating the correct PPI calculations for claiming impairment benefits with all types of amputations.  Indiana has recognized the pervasive problems of amputation injuries.  This article describes the problems and also discusses a case where a worker suffered two amputations, two different times on the same machine! (click here)

If you need help understanding which benefits are available for your recovery from an amputation, call us.  If you need help calculating the extent of your amputation injury and the its recognized impairment value, contact us and put our experience to work.  Goodin Abernathy LLP will uses its experience, resources (including expert medical review) and legal background to represent you.  Don’t get cut short twice with your amputation – call us for legal help.

FAQ for IOSHA Regarding Amputations

Work Injury Claims Against Employer and Third Parties In Indiana

Work Injury Claims Against Employer and Third Parties In Indiana

An injured worker potentially has two legal claims to recover damages. First, they have an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim against their employer. Second, they may be able to collect from a responsible third-party.

Each state has its own work injury laws. Indiana’s system starts with making a claim through a government agency – the Worker’s Compensation Board. This agency operates very similar to a court. Papers are filed, attorneys are used and hearing members make decisions like judges. This link takes you to the main page for the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board website. https://www.in.gov/wcb/ Go to the bottom of the page and look for a translation button. You can change it from English to Spanish, if necessary.

Another easy way to learn about Indiana’s worker’s compensation laws is to watch my YouTube videos. Search for Legalmente Hablando Indy or Goodin Abernathy LLP on the YouTube website. Here is an introduction video Jim Browne recorded that covers worker’s compensation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHV1TB21TZ4  You will learn that work injury claims allow employees to claim these benefits: medical costs, lost wages and a permanent partial impairment rating. The medical costs include charges for an ambulance, hospital, doctors, nurses, physical therapy, medicine, x-rays or MRI’s.

If a treating doctor orders an employee not to work for medical reasons related to the injury, the employer must pay for lost wages or salary. This is called Total Temporary Disability (“TTD”). The worker is paid 66.66% of her regular pay. But tax is not applied to the money. So if the worker usually earns $100.00 per week, then the employer owes $66.66 for each week the employee is unable to work.
Finally, if the injury is serious, the worker may claim a Permanent Partial Impairment. This idea is to compensate workers for physical and work problems they will suffer in the future. The State of Indiana created a list of dollar values for these injuries that limit a worker’s recovery. I can usually help improve the financial recovery for my clients.

Indiana requires employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance. If a worker is injured on the job, the employer’s insurance will cover these costs. If the employer does not have insurance, the law allows the injured worker to make claims against the contractor who hired the employer for the job. Frequently I help clients step up the ladder and find insurance to collect from.

If a person or company, other than the employer or a co-worker, causes a worker injury, then we can make a “third-party” claim for negligence. Negligence law is different from the worker’s compensation claim. Those cases are opened in a typical court with judges. A big difference between the two cases involves damages for pain and suffering. An injured worker can claim damage for pain and suffering in a negligence claim – but not in an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim.

We are experienced handling various types of third-party negligence claims. Sometimes they are against construction companies where the general contractor has a legal, contractual duty to provide safety for workers on the job. We have handled claims where workers for other companies cause an accident. For instance, an electrician was on a scissor lift. A plumber drove a fork lift over the lift’s electric cord, pulled the it over and caused our client to fall 20 feet. Or, we have clients who were driving a vehicle for their job when another car caused them a wreck.

Remember, insurance companies are in business to make money- not pay it out. They are professional and know the law. That is why you should call me for legal advice. I give free consultations to review these cases with clients. I explain the law for your specific evidence and describe how I charge for my service. You will meet with me in person, speak Spanish and review the case. My staff speaks Spanish and knows about these cases Don’t wait – contact us now!

Construction Accidents

Construction Accidents

CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENTS


If you or someone you know was injured while working at a construction site, there are typically two areas of law that we use to make your claim.

The FIRST is a worker’s compensation claim. This area of law is for employee claims against their own employers. The law requires the employer to offer these basic benefits:

1) Pay all medical treatment- including the ambulance, hospitals, doctors, physical therapy, medicine and x-rays.

2) Lost Income- if you miss more than 7 days of work in a row, the employer must pay you 66% of your average income. This is called TTD or Temporary Total Disability. These payments can extend if you return to restricted or less hours.

3) PPI- Permanent Partial Impairment- When the doctor says you are finished treating, she or he needs to write a report explaining if your injury caused a long term impairment that affects your ability to work.

The SECOND type of legal claim is for NEGLIGENCE against the general construction company. Unfortunately, a lot of times this legal claim is overlooked and the worker misses out on additional recovery.

So don’t let that happen to you. Share your information and we’ll investigate whether we can help you.

For instance, written construction contracts or legal relationships between the construction firms can require the general contractor to protect your safety.

A negligence claim against the general contractor can help you recover more than the limited benefits allowed by a work comp claim. This can be a VERY important part of your financial recovery.

Take a look at more information about these claims on our website OR just call me, Jim Browne at Goodin Abernathy.

For something really easy, just click the “Do I have a case” button and we’ll look at the specifics of your case.

Goodin Abernathy wants to help – and we’ll put our experience to work for you.

Work Injury Benefits in Indiana

According to recent statistics, 4 in every 100 people suffer from workplace accidents or fatalities in Indiana. Most of these accidents and fatalities are preventable and could’ve been avoided if the employers or business owners were careful with jobsite safety and security. Businesses are required by law to comply with OSHA standards on their jobsites but it’s difficult to keep track of all sites, so some slip through the radar. The authorities recognize this gap and insist that all businesses have work comp insurance.

The Worker’s Compensation Act

If you’re injured on the job or if your loved one has died as a result of a workplace accident, you are entitled to compensation and work injury benefits from the company. The right is covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act, which mandates that all employers have insurance to cover their liability in such cases. Some employers can get special permission to pay claims from their own funds, but most will use insurance. Such cases are presented to the Worker’s Compensation Board. They decide on the compensation amount and whether there’s liability on the employer’s apart. Employers can face a lot of consequences and penalties if they don’t carry work comp insurance or provide work injury benefits to their employees. These consequences include:

  • An order to cease doing business. The employer will have to arrange for comprehensive work comp insurance if they want to work in Indiana once again.
  • The court will ask the employer to provide proof of financial ability to ensure they can pay any claims, deposit a security, or take an indemnity, or bond to secure compensation for all injuries or fatalities caused during the period without insurance coverage
  • The employer is also considered to have committed a Class A infraction. They can be persecuted by the injured party if they can’t provide adequate compensation when needed.

As you can see, there are some protections in place to protect the interests of the employees and workers.

The Work Injury Benefits

The act covers personal injury or death claims that arise out of and during the course of employment. The compensation provides a limited number of benefits to the injured party and these include:

  • Medical treatment
  • Compensation for lost wages
  • Compensation for any disabilities due complete loss or loss in function of a part of your body

These are the only compensations the act provides for – temporary injuries and minor disabilities. However, permanent injuries and total disabilities are a different matter because they can impact your ability to earn more income in the future. If your ability to earn a living and lead a productive life is compromised, the compensation amount and ruling will reflect that.

The employer is liable if the accident occurs as a consequence of the job and is due to errors or negligence by the employer to provide safety gear and systems. Here’s a list of injuries that might be covered by the work injury benefits law:

  • Intentional Injuries – These injuries, when caused directly by the employer and owner of business, aren’t covered by work comp. You can file a civil suit to gain compensation. However, deliberate harm caused by managers, foremen, or supervisors are covered by worker’s compensation.
  • Repetitive Trauma – Any trauma or bodily harm caused as the consequence of doing the job is compensable. For example, you can get compensation if you develop carpel tunnel syndrome as a consequence of the job.
  • Parking Lot – Injuries and accidents caused by poorly maintained parking lots are also covered by workers compensation.
  • Heart Attack – This is covered if the injured party can prove that their job or workspace environment triggered the heart attack.
  • Injuries Caused in Ingress and Egress Routes – If you get injured when you enter or exit the employer’s property, you are eligible for compensation because you were on your way to work when the accident happened.
  • Heat and Sun Related Injuries – This is common in outdoor jobs like construction, door-to-door sales, etc. If you have heat stroke, sunstroke, or heat prostration and can provide it could’ve been avoidable, you will earn compensation.
  • Psychological Trauma – Psychological trauma caused by the job or at the workplace is also considered compensable. This can be due to stress, poor workplace environment, bullying and threatening at the workplace, etc.

What Steps Should You Take When You Experience Workplace Injuries?

Your actions immediately after the injury can compromise your case if you’re not careful. Here’s what you need to do immediately after you’re injured:

  • Get medical assistance without delay. This should be your first step because delays can worsen the injuries.
  • Contact your employer and inform them of the injury as soon as you can. The more you delay, the more you compromise your case.
  • File an injury or accident report when you’re able.
  • Call a work injury benefits lawyer immediately.
  • Don’t sign any legal document your employer provides without consulting with your lawyer.

Why Do You Need a Lawyer?

A lawyer will protect your interests and make sure you’re not pressured into compromising on the compensation. Here’s what a lawyer will do to help you:

  • They’ll consider all the information you provide carefully and offer unbiased advice on compensation, liability, and your chances of winning a case against the employer if it goes to court.
  • They’ll collect evidence, witness statements, and other such information to make sure the case is rock solid.
  • Lawyers will also help if you there’s a fatality involved. They’ll ensure dependents of the victim are adequately compensated.
  • Lawyers will shield you from the insurance company’s or your employer’s legal team. They can use pressure tactics in order to reduce the compensation amount.

Most work injury-related cases are settled outside court after thorough negotiations between both parties. They agree to a specific amount that covers expenses and compensates for the suffering caused by the incident. Some cases go to court because the parties can’t settle for a reasonable amount.

If you have questions, contact our office for a free consultation.