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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.

GA Welcomes Attorney, Garrett Lewis (Video)

Transcript:

Jim Browne:  Hey, welcome to Goodin Abernathy. I’m attorney Jim Browne. We have a new member to our group, Garrett Lewis. He is a young attorney, and I thought we would spend a little time with him so you get to know who he is and what he can do for you.  Come on in, Garrett.

Garrett Lewis: Alright, glad to be here Jim.

Jim Browne:  Where are you from, Garrett?

Garrett Lewis:  So, I’m actually from the South Bend area. I practiced there for a couple years before moving down here.

Jim Browne: What time of law did you focus on?

Garrett Lewis: We did Real Estate; we did Torts, which is contracts, defamation, things like that; and intellectual property, which is sort of copyrights, trademarks and patents.

Jim Browne: Do you have a typical client that you helped with the intellectual property?

Garrett Lewis: Yea, we dealt with small businesses. We had a few global businesses that we worked with and a lot of individual clients  with patents and trademarks.

Jim Browne: What about people with inventions?

Garrett Lewis: All, all the time.

Jim Browne: Awesome.

Garrett Lewis: Yea, some that we knew weren’t going to anywhere right out of the gate and some that where very successful.

Jim Browne: That’s great. Where you go to school?

Garrett Lewis: So I went to Purdue and I studied business first, “Boiler up!”  And then after that, I went straight from Purdue to Valparaiso for law school.

Jim Browne: I’m happy you joined us, remind me when did you start here?

Garrett Lewis: I started in April of this year.

Jim Browne: Right in the middle of the Covid.

Garrett Lewis: Right in the middle of it, right.

Jim Browne: And what areas of law are you focusing on right now?

Garrett Lewis: So right now, we still do Real Estate work but also do Personal Injury, Workers Comp and sort of ADA and EEOC Discrimination.

Jim Browne: Well, what’s that? I mean is that employment law type of work?

Garrett Lewis: Yea predominantly. Yep.

Jim Browne: And you are helping clients – individuals with their questions about discrimination? Tell us about that for a second.

Garrett Lewis: Yeah, so it sort of depends – when it comes to the ADA – businesses, for example, have legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations and….

Jim Browne: so, there are seven core areas – age, race, religion, sexual discrimination, physical disabilities – those are things that you’re focusing on?

Garrett Lewis: Correct

Jim Browne: Great. You’ve already had a jury trial in that area… and what court was it in?

Garrett Lewis: So that was actually in the southern district in the…

Jim Browne: A federal court?

Garrett Lewis: A federal court, yea.

Jim Browne: And that trial, what was it about?

Garrett Lewis: So, that case was about a woman who was working at a grocery store for about 12 years and because of her chronic conditions and disabilities, she needed to be able to use a chair, as necessary.

Jim Browne: And the new employer said “No, you can’t use the chair.”

Garrett Lewis: That’s exactly right.

Jim Browne: So, it’s something probably a pretty easy fix.

Garrett Lewis: It was a very easy fix.

Jim Browne: You had a nice result with that jury trial?

Garrett Lewis: We did.

Jim Browne: You where able to learn some things.

Garrett Lewis: Yes.

Jim Browne: Give me one thing that stood out to you about that process.

Garrett Lewis: Well, first thing is you know maybe as a last resort everybody paid attention on the jury, which was nice – and whereas outside of the court room, Covid has sort of made remote working a little bit more convenient, inside the courtroom it’s made it much more of a challenge.

Jim Browne: I understand, so you’re preparing and you’re going to teach us old guys what to do about those technological challenges right?

Garrett Lewis: Yep.

Jim Browne: Well, I’m glad you’re on board Garrett. If you have questions about any of those areas of law please call us at Goodin Abernathy. A lot of your questions can be answered by phone, and we really care about the quality and responsiveness of our work, so please call us at 317-843-2606. You’ll get in touch with whichever attorney probably best suits the area of law you’re looking for, and we appreciate you tuning in to Goodin Abernathy.

 

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.

Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

Safety While Commuting on the Monon Trail

It can be difficult sometimes to stay positive during the current COVID-19 crisis. However, experts recommend that it is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health to get outside and exercise. With the decrease in motor vehicle traffic, many people are riding their bikes for exercise and enjoyment. In fact, the current pandemic has led to a tremendous surge in bicycle sales around the globe. If you have been shopping for a new bike lately you will know what I am talking about. We have a wonderful system of shared paths here in Central Indiana. As more and more people are using these paths, it is up to each of us to ensure that they are safe for all users and avoid personal and bicycle accidents or injuries whenever possible.

Passing safety on biking & walking trailsI have always enjoyed cycling, but had fallen away from the activity until recently. The pandemic has allowed me to renew my love for cycling, and I have used this as an opportunity to ride more frequently. I try to ride to work 2-3 days per week, as my schedule allows. With the Courts being closed to the public, and most hearings taking place via phone call or Zoom, I have not needed to wear a suit and tie every day. My current commute is about 25 miles round trip. This takes me about 1 hour each way, and I have found that my rides to and from work are a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors, and save a little money on gas.

Most of my commute is on shared paths, used by both cyclists and pedestrians, which allows me to avoid interaction with motor vehicles, for the most part. However, most of the accidents and close calls that I have observed were between two bicyclists or bicyclists and pedestrians.

The most common mishaps that I have observed can usually be narrowed down to 3 things: 1. Bicyclists riding too fast for the conditions; 2. Pedestrians who move suddenly out of their lane and in to the path of bicycle that they don’t know is approaching, and 3. Confusion between bicyclists and motorists at the intersections of shared paths and roadways.

I ride a relatively slow, fat-tired bike, with an average speed of 12-14 miles per hour. In my opinion, this is plenty fast for shared trails. To go faster than that in an area where pedestrians are walking is just a recipe for disaster. There are places on the Monon Trail, for example, where cyclists can go faster than that, but when there are crowds of people running and walking and crossing the trail, it is simply not safe.

The other danger that I have observed is cyclists overtaking pedestrians without warning them of their approach. In 2016, the Indiana Legislature removed the requirement at I.C. 9-21-11-8, that all bikes must be equipped with an audible signal device, that can be heard from a distance of 100 feet, such as a bell. I think this was a mistake. A simple bike bell is an easy way to alert others, particularly pedestrians, that you are passing them. In my experience, most pedestrians who walk on shared paths, appreciate the signal that a bike is approaching and will be passing them. Most pedestrians will usually give a hand signal that they heard the bell, and many will even say, “Thank you,” as I pass. Many people walk with their children and their pets. An audible bell gives them a heads up to keep their kids or their pets close as a bicycle passes.

Some pedestrians who are not as familiar with walking on shared paths may be startled by an audible bell. I have observed pedestrians jump upon hearing the bell, or quickly move out of the way. I have observed pedestrians turn suddenly, which can cause them to inadvertently move left and into the path of the cyclist. This can be dangerous. Just last week, I saw a runner, who had reached the point in her run where she was going to turn around and go the other direction. She quickly turned around just as a bicycle was overtaking her. The cyclist did not have a bell to alert his presence. The bell is only to alert pedestrians so that they know a bicycle will be passing on their left. It is not a call to get out of the way, or to even change your course in any way. If more cyclists used a bell, I believe pedestrians would be more attuned, and travel on our shared paths would be even safer. If you are walking on the trail, it is always a good idea to move to the right of the trail before stopping, and look both ways before crossing the trail and reversing direction.

Lastly, there is a lot of confusion about what motorists and cyclists are supposed to do when the shared path intersects with vehicular traffic. If you spend any time on Nextdoor, you will see raging debates about who should stop and when. Everyone needs to follow the rules of the road whether you be driving a car or riding a bicycle. All bikes and motor vehicles should heed the signs that pertain to them at each individual intersection. Bikes and pedestrians are required to stop and make sure the intersection is clear of vehicle traffic before proceeding. If there is a flashing yellow light, motorists need to be prepared to stop to allow pedestrians to cross. Usually, motor vehicle drivers will stop for a flashing yellow light if they see bikes or pedestrians waiting to cross. Always make sure it is safe to proceed before riding your bike across vehicular traffic.

If everyone takes a moment to make sure that their bike is functioning properly, and we all pay attention to the rules of the road, our great system of trails will be safer for everyone. Now get outside and ride your bike!

Chip Clark is a partner at Goodin Abernathy, LLP where he specializes in representing clients who have been injured in personal injury accidents. You can follow him on Instagram at @ChipClarkIndy

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