Thomas E. Scifres PC - Attorney At Law.
Thomas E. Scifres PC - Attorney At Law.
  • 43 Public Square,
    Suite 103,
    Salem, IN 47167
  • Schedule Your Free Personal Injury Consultation.

    (812) 359-8007

    Call For An Appointment To Discuss Your Needs.

Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Claims 101

Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Claims 101An Introduction To Personal Injury Claims

In our society, we rely on those around us to act in a way that keeps us all safe and avoids negligence. Negligence occurs when, rather than behaving reasonably, a person behaves unreasonably. Personal injury claims arise when this negligence causes you some type of injury and as a result of that injury, you suffer a loss.

Losses can include anything such as a loss of mobility, a loss of freedom from pain, a loss of mental peace, a loss of a good night’s sleep, loss of wages and the ability to work, and more. Any time you suffer a loss caused by another person’s negligent actions, you have a right to recover for those losses. That gives rise to a claim.

Claims are made against the other person or their liability insurance company. These claims are always technically brought against the person who was negligent. However, most people have an insurance policy that allows their insurance provider to step in and defend them in the event that a claim is made against them.

When insurance providers assume this role, it becomes their responsibility to make payments that cover the losses that have occurred as a result of their insured’s negligent actions. Often, insurance providers will discredit or undervalue your claim in order to minimize the amount that they have to pay to close the case. This is what leads personal injury claims to become personal injury lawsuits.

A personal injury lawsuit is a formal legal proceeding that is filed whenever you can’t resolve your claim informally with the other party or their insurance company. These lawsuits have certain rules that govern them that are discussed later in this book. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that lawsuits are used primarily to hold insurance companies responsible for the losses you have endured.

The claims and litigation (lawsuit) process can be lengthy, complicated, and stressful. This is why so many people turn to our office each year – so that they can focus on recovery while having the confidence of knowing that they will walk away with the best outcome available to them.

Proving Negligence & Understanding What It Means

Negligence is a legal term that describes a person’s failure to take reasonable measures to do things correctly or safely. In personal injury lawsuits, negligence questions whether the person responsible for your injury acted in the way that a reasonable person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.

Negligence has three parts:

  1. Someone had a duty to act in a certain way.
  2. That the person breached that duty by acting differently from what would be expected.
  3. That, as a result of their actions, the person caused you damage(s).

Additionally, there is something called a “safety statute”, which describes how someone should behave for safety reasons. The “safety statute” is often made to prevent injury to a certain category of people such as children, food workers, and law enforcement.

If the person who was injured is in the category of people that the safety statute was designed to protect, you don’t have to prove negligence in the personal injury case. In this instance, you only have to prove that what the negligent party did was a violation of the statute.

An Introduction To Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death claims and personal injury claims are similar in many ways, but they are very different in a few key areas…

Wrongful death lawsuits are relatively new. In the past, if you died in an accident, you did not have the right to recover anything (because you were no longer alive). Thus, your personal injury lawsuit went away.

However, in 1852, the state of Indiana passed the first wrongful death statute, which changed everything. This new law allowed the deceased person’s “estate” to bring a claim for damages. In short, this means that the person who is responsible for settling the estate of the person who has passed away can bring a claim on their behalf.

A personal injury case is made when an injured person seeks compensation for the losses that they have suffered. On the other hand, a wrongful death lawsuit is made when a person dies as a result of another person’s negligent actions.

Clearly, wrongful death claims cannot be brought by the person who has suffered the losses directly. So instead, wrongful death claims are brought forth by the decedent’s estate. (Decedent is the legal term for someone who has passed away.)

Wrongful death claims are based on laws that hold other people financially accountable when their actions harm you. When a person’s actions deviate from their legal responsibilities, they become financially responsible to make the situation right. (Because so many people are covered by insurance policies, this “financial responsibility” falls on their insurance provider.)

However, while wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits have many similarities, the law differs when it comes to the kinds of losses that the other person or their insurer can be responsible for paying. As a result, it’s important to work closely with an attorney who can help you make sure that you are getting the coverage you need.

Who Is Legally Allowed To Bring About A Wrongful Death Claim?

In Indiana, there are three versions of the Wrongful Death Act. Two versions govern the death of an adult and one governs the death of a child. In each of these three versions, the personal representative of the estate is the only person allowed to recover damages.

For instance, say you have dependent children. You’re divorced or your spouse is deceased. If you are killed wrongly by someone else’s negligence, all three children would have a wrongful death claim. But under the statute, whoever opens the estate claim first is the one who will have the right to pursue a wrongful death suit.

This rule regarding who can pursue the claim is why it is important in the case of personal injury/wrongful death that you seek an attorney as soon as possible.

When A Personal Injury Claim Turns Into A Wrongful Death Suit

Wrongful death claims usually arise when death occurs at the time of the accident or very soon after. However, there are a handful of cases where you could have both a personal injury and a wrongful death claim at once.

For example, consider that someone is severely injured in an accident. As a result, they are hospitalized in critical condition. While that person is hospitalized, they are missing work, they have medical bills, and they are likely in a great deal of pain. In this instance, that person would likely have a strong claim to coverage for lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

But consider that this same person goes into surgery some time later to treat the damage done in the accident. During the operation, their condition worsens and they do not survive. In this case, the timeline of the personal injury claim would end – and a new timeline would begin for a wrongful death claim.

This type of case would be incredibly complicated – and they are rare – however, you can see how it is possible to have a personal injury claim and a wrongful death claim at the same time.

With the guidance of a skilled attorney for Personal Injury Cases, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we’ll make it look easy.

For more information on Personal Injury Law In Indiana, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (812) 359-8007 today.

Thomas E. Scifres

Schedule Your Free Personal Injury Consultation.
(812) 359-8007
Call For An Appointment To Discuss Your Needs.

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