How To File A Car Accident Lawsuit In Indiana
Our lawyers in Fort Wayne explain how the legal process work
If you have been injured in a bad car accident in Indiana, you might decide to file a lawsuit to get the money you deserve for your accident-related expenses. In many cases, this is the best approach for obtaining maximum financial compensation.
How does the process work? What steps do you need to take? How much time do you have to file a lawsuit? Don’t take chances with your future. Get the facts. Talk to an Indiana attorney who thoroughly understands how the legal system works. Make an appointment with a lawyer at Glaser & Ebbs. We know the law and can fight for you.
Our talented team of trial lawyers has more 100 years of combined legal experience working with injury victims in Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana. As a result, we thoroughly understand Indiana’s legal system. We know how to build the strongest possible legal case. We’re the law firm you need when you want to take legal action.
Who can file a car accident lawsuit?
Indiana has a fault-based insurance system for car accidents. Under this system, anyone who is injured or who has suffered a loss as a result of an accident can file a lawsuit or take other legal action against the at-fault party or their insurance company.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, this means only certain people can file a lawsuit or take other legal action against the at-fault party in Indiana. In general, this includes:
- Anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident, including other drivers, passengers and non-motorists (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.)
- Immediate family members (husband, wife, father, mother, children, siblings) of anyone killed in a fatal car accident
If you are not sure if you have the right to file a lawsuit after your accident, simply talk to a lawyer to learn more about your legal rights.
How does the process work in Indiana?
Car accident lawsuits are civil lawsuits, also known as tort cases. If you have the right to file a lawsuit in response to a car accident, there are certain steps you and your lawyer will need to take as part of the process, including:
- Pre-file stage – Before filing a lawsuit, your lawyer will gather information in support of your case. This step often includes an in-depth investigation of your accident. An experienced attorney knows how to find the evidence you need to build the strongest possible legal case.
- File a demand letter – Before you can file a lawsuit, you often first need to file a demand letter against the at-fault party, which in most cases is the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A demand letter states how much money you and your attorney believe your case should be worth.
- Determine which court has jurisdiction – If you decide to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you will need to file your suit in the appropriate court. Often, this is the court in the county where the accident took place. You often have the option of filing your lawsuit in the appropriate circuit court or superior court. For example, if your accident took place in Fort Wayne, you would normally file your lawsuit in Allen County Circuit Court or Allen County Superior Court. The exception would normally be if your claim is worth less $6,000, in which case you would file your lawsuit in small claims court.
- File a complaint – This is the first part of the formal process of filing a lawsuit. A complaint is a letter submitted to the appropriate court stating who you (the plaintiff) are taking legal action against (the defendant). Your complaint letter must have the exact name and address of the defendant. Your complaint letter will also outline the facts of your case, including why the other driver is at fault.
- Request damages – As part of your complaint letter, you will state how much you believe you should receive in financial compensation. In a car accident lawsuit, any money you receive is formally known as “damages.”
- Response from defendant – After you have filed a complaint or request for damages, the defendant (normally the insurance company for the at-fault driver) or the defendant’s attorney will respond in writing. Such responses may include:
- Motion to dismiss – Don’t be surprised if the lawyer for the at-fault driver’s insurance company files a motion to have your case dismissed, meaning have your case dropped by the court. Common reasons why cases are dismissed include insufficient evidence, lack of jurisdiction or failure to state a claim.
- Motion for a more definitive statement – Another tactic often used by attorneys for the defendant is to file a motion for a more definitive statement. This is a request for more information about why you are filing a lawsuit, particularly if the defendant’s attorney believes the plaintiff’s attorney has not met the “standard of proof” required in a civil lawsuit.
- File a counter lawsuit – Another common response to a plaintiff filing a complaint is for the defendant to file a counterclaim or lawsuit against the plaintiff.
- Settle the case out of court – Sometimes, simply filing a complaint or taking other legal action prompts the defendant’s attorney to agree to settle your case out of court, meaning they make a settlement offer for a specific amount of money in order to resolve your legal case.
- No response – If the defendant’s lawyer does not respond, you as a plaintiff can request a default judgment from the presiding court.
- Discovery stage – The next step in many lawsuits involves the discovery stage, a legal term used to describe information shared by the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys. Both sides are required to share information with each other that could come up during trial or other court proceedings.
- Pre-trial stage – If your lawsuit goes to trial, this step can cover a wide range as you and your attorney prepare your case for trial. The pre-trial stage often includes finalizing evidence that will be presented in support of your legal case. In addition, your attorney will often decide which witnesses, if any, to request testimony from at trial. Testimony from outside experts (including accident reconstruction experts) will also often be finalized during this phase of your legal proceeding. Additional motions may also be filed by the plaintiff or the defendant during this stage.
- Courtroom trial – If your lawsuit proceeds to trial, a judge and often a jury will preside over your trial. The first step often involves the judge setting a trial date. If a jury rules on your case, the attorneys for both sides and the presiding judge will select the jury to rule on your case. The actual trial will then take place. Your trial might last a few hours, days or weeks depending on the complexity of your legal case.
- Judge or jury issues a verdict – After both sides present evidence (including opening statements, testimony and closing arguments), the judge or jury will issue a verdict, a decision in which they rule in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. If the judge or jury rules in favor of the plaintiff, they will often award damages (financial compensation) to the plaintiff that must be paid by the defendant or often the defendant’s insurance company.
- File an appeal – In many cases, regardless of who the judge or jury rules in favor of, the other side often files an appeal. This means the other side does not agree with the judge or jury’s decision and wants another judge to rule on the merits of the case. If a judge or jury ruled in your favor and awarded a verdict to you, this means you will not receive any financial compensation until the appeals process has been finalized.
These are just a few of the common steps often taken in many legal cases involving serious car accidents. Each case often has its own unique challenges and may require a different approach. That’s why it’s always important to hire an attorney as soon as possible to work with you every step of the way.
Is there a deadline for filing a lawsuit?
Yes. You only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit or take other legal action in Indiana after a car accident. In general, you only have two years from the date of your accident to act. If you miss this deadline (known as the statute of limitations) you could miss out on your opportunity to obtain the financial compensation you deserve for all past, present and future expenses related to your accident.
Take back control after your accident. Contact our law firm.
Filing a lawsuit or taking other legal action requires great skill, knowledge and expertise. That’s why many car accident injury victims choose our law firm to fight for them. We know how Indiana’s legal system works. We know how to build the strongest possible legal case. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success obtaining sizable settlements and verdicts for injury victims and their families.
We’re not afraid of insurance companies. We know how to stand up to them. We don’t allow them to dictate what happens. We’re in charge and we’re focused on what’s best for you. We don’t back down from a fight. And we fight to win.
Glaser & Ebbs, Attorneys at Law – we fight to win.