If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s negligent actions, chances are you’ve already got a lot on your plate with your recovery, juggling your bills due to lost income and budgeting for thousands of dollars of unplanned medical expenses.
But be warned–the clock is already ticking. Although the last thing you want is the additional headache of filing a claim while trying to regain your balance, waiting to file can cost you big time. Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, and Indiana sets this limit at two years. Let’s take a closer look at the statute of limitations in Indiana, including exceptions to the rule.
What’s a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations, also known as a prescriptive period, is a law governing the time limit that a plaintiff has to file a claim against another party.
In Indiana, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the incident. This statute covers filing for injuries as well as property damages. Filing even one day past this time limit will usually result in your case’s dismissal.
While these statutes seem arbitrary on the surface, a statute of limitations makes good sense. It is a way of protecting individuals and maintaining the integrity of the case. These laws:
- Keep evidence fresh: The more time passes between an incident and filing the claim, the less clear the memories surrounding the incident will be. Witnesses will forget what they saw, and no matter how clearly you recall the events now, your memories will fade as time passes. A willing witness at the scene will be less likely to come forward on your behalf if too much time passes. Or that witness may become unable to testify if they move or become incapacitated.
- Stops frivolous suits: Without a statute of limitations, anyone could sue anyone else on a whim…at any time, for any reason. So if your neighbor is angry with you, for instance, they could file a suit against you for an “injury” that happened six years ago…and you would be required to defend yourself.
- Ensure timely resolution: The sooner a plaintiff files a personal injury claim in Indiana, the sooner it’s resolved. Without this statute of limitations, cases and claims will drag on for years.
Filing Against an Indiana City or County Entity
If your personal injury claim involves an Indiana city or county entity, you need to be aware that the statute of limitations for filing is far shorter. Depending on which entity you’re naming in your suit, you and your attorneys will have between 180 to 270 days to submit your claim in writing.
It’s important to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney since these guidelines are far more stringent, and a claim that is not settled within 90 days of its receipt can be lawfully denied.
This is just one reason the government entity can deny a claim–there are many other reasons as well. Make sure to have effective legal representation right from the start to ensure you receive compensation in these cases.
What Types of Claims Are Covered Under this Statute of Limitations?
In Indiana, all personal injury claims are governed by the two-year statute of limitations. These include:
- Vehicular accidents
- Defective Products
- Animal Attacks
- Intentional acts of abuse or violence
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and fall incidents
Proving a Personal Injury Claim
There must be several proven points to assign liability in a personal injury claim successfully. It’s not enough to say someone else’s negligence directly or indirectly caused your injury; you must submit proof that they had a duty to act (breach of duty), that their actions caused your losses (causation), and that you suffered losses as a result of the incident (damages).
Breach of Duty
It must be proven that the defendant had a reasonable duty to ensure safety. For a vehicle accident, this can include factors such as driving within a posted speed limit, staying within a marked lane, and stopping at a red light. It must be proven that the defendant had a duty to act responsibly and failed to do so, resulting in the victim’s injuries.
The next point to be proven is causation. This means that the other individual’s actions led to your injuries, either directly or indirectly. There are varying degrees of causation, however, and some may involve the other party’s awareness of the damages their actions could cause.
The final element for proving liability in a personal injury case will be showing that damages occurred as the result of the incident. These damages can include medical bills, personal property losses, and lost wages.
Personal Injury Claim vs Lawsuit
Most personal injury cases are filed against an insurance company such as homeowners, workers compensation, and automobile insurers. This initial touch point is a personal injury claim. The claim process will usually involve negotiations until a settlement is reached, however if the insurer or person named in your claim denies the claim, it will be heard in court in a lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is filed in court following a denied claim or a failure to reach a settlement agreeable to both parties. These cases frequently will be settled before the court date if a court date can be reached.
It’s important to note that the clock is still ticking regardless of which action you and your attorney choose to take. The process must begin as soon as possible to ensure you file within Indiana’s statute of limitations.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Indiana
Although rare, there are certain times when the statute of limitations is extended or paused.
- Some medical malpractice cases: Injuries resulting from medical malpractice may take years to show. This exception, known as the discovery rule, applies if you didn’t realize an error was made until the mistake noticeably affected you or it was discovered incidentally. An example of this might be a surgeon leaving a surgical instrument inside your body. You may not realize it until you begin having pain or an X-ray for an unrelated reason reveals it.
- Minors: The statute of limitations in Indiana does not go into effect until a minor turns 18.
- Legal disabilities: Those with physical or emotional disabilities will not be covered under the statute of limitations until their disability status is removed.
- Uncooperative defendant: The statute of limitations will be paused until the defendant is located if a defendant can’t be found, has moved out of state, or has gone into hiding.
- Incarceration: Incarcerated individuals will have an exception to the statute of limitations while they remain in jail.
It’s important to seek legal guidance if you think you may qualify for an exception to the statute of limitations for your personal injury claim.