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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.

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.

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.

Safety Protection Against Falls at Work

Knowing how to properly use and maintain ladders while working is life-saving knowledge to have for safety protection against falls at work – and at home. Daily, within the United States, at least two thousand citizens are critically hurt during the use of a ladder. If you add in the occasional slip and fall occurrence, that number goes up considerably. For a hundred of them, long-term disability or possibly even permanent disability can be the end result due to their injuries.

Fall Protection and Training

Fall protection and training will consistently play key roles in keeping your employees safe. Worker’s compensation insurance premiums increase as more employees file claims. Falls happen every single day and at least one ladder accident causes a person’s death. At that point, you must ask yourself, “What is the cost to someone when told they are permanently disabled, can never work again or worse.” Loss of income alone can be devastating to a family. Effective January 2017, OSHA established updated employer requirements connected to the performance, design, and utilization of fall protection structures. The update raises consistency between construction standards and the general industry.

The majority of industrial companies’ biggest expenses due to employee injuries deal with ladder-related falls. The financial weight can be astounding. The dreadful human cost is even more shocking. With effort, fall protection and prevention, when it comes to a slip and fall, ladders or aerial access equipment, will most likely be a huge focus the future. Think of this scenario. If you were on the cliff of a mountain, would you rather build a fence around the top of that cliff for safety? On the other hand, would you prefer to station an ambulance at the base of the mountain just in case?

All safety equipment is designed with its potential dangers in mind. During the design process the attempt to eliminate all of those red flags. The designers outline everything in their hierarchy of controls. In layman’s terms, they engineer out the danger. If you do not see a path to engineer the danger out, safeguard against the danger. If guarding against it is not possible, then you must properly warn, supply personal protection equipment and adequately train people on its use and dangers.

Technology of Ladders

Many things over the years have improved thanks to technology. The time has long past to improve the safety of ladders. The primary design of conventional ladders has been untouched for centuries. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the rate of ladder injuries has grown in the past decade. Sadly, a team somewhere reviewed the design and decided that the original blueprint of the ladder could not be enhanced. This is why you will see many warning labels on ladders. These visible warnings force safety professionals to schedule a myriad of training meetings. These meetings teach employees to not do things on a ladder that everyone knows they are going to do anyway.

Stepladders actually present their set of special problems. Falls still happen due to over-reaching. They also have compliance rules pertaining to sustaining three points of contact while in use. You should constantly maintain three points of contact when you ascend and descend on a ladder. For example, there should be a combination of two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot at all times. Now, what should you do once you are no longer in climb mode and begin working? Technically, you are still supposed to have three contact points. Most personnel feel it is difficult to work with just one hand. Tying off above certain height levels is also something recommended. Lastly, what do you do when it comes to working on surfaces that are uneven or over stairs? The debate continues.

Aerial safety cages are another means of reaching heights. They are not actually considered ladders and are not scaffolds or power lifts either. Aerial safety cages permit the operator to perform their work in a completely enclosed space. The unit is a height-adjustable platform that is in compliance with all tie off and guardrail rules. This newer type of access equipment is more adaptable than traditional ladders or powered lifts. Aerial safety cages are capable of adjusting for working on stairs or uneven surfaces. They cages are approved for use surrounding live electrical circuits because they are assembled with non-conductive fiberglass rails.

Protection and prevention against a fall on the job begins with understanding how individuals use ladders. Just as important, there needs to be continued concentration on how people injure themselves using ladders. With continued research in this area, there can be real opportunities to designing new and safer products for climbing. If you are hurt or need worker’s compensation answers, Goodin Abernathy LLP can assist you. Call us for a free consultation if you have been injured on the job.

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.