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Understanding Indiana Compensation Caps for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

September 11, 2013

The recent tragedy at the Indiana State Fair has sparked interest in many persons as to the limits on compensation for personal injury or wrongful death cases in Indiana.  There are several types of limitations and it can be confusing to sort them out.

If the case is against a government unit such as the State of Indiana, city, town or school corporation, there is a limit of $700,000 that one person can obtain regardless of the severity of the injury or even death.  More importantly in the State Fair situation is the law that limits total damages to be paid to all victims of a single event to five million dollars.  This means the State would not have to pay more than five million dollars in total compensation to all victims, regardless of the amount of medical bills, time and money lost from not working, loss of future earnings and loss of love and affection due to a person being killed.  This law is called the tort claims act and requires a notice of claim to be filed within 270 days from the date of the event if the State of Indiana or a state agency will be named as a defendant due to their legal responsibility for the injuries caused by their conduct.  If the tort claim is against a city, county or school corporation, it must be filed within 180 days of the event.

Another special rule in Indiana governs the amount of damages that can be collected in a wrongful death case.  If a person is 23 or older, unmarried and does not have any children, then Indiana law limits the recovery for loss of love and affection on the part of surviving parents or adult children to $300,000.  This is regardless of whether a government unit, or a private company, is named as the defendant.  Reimbursement of medical expenses is not included within the $300,000 and there is no limit on the amount of last medical bills that can be recovered in such a case.  In contrast, if a person is married or has children financially dependent upon him/her, then there is no limit on the amount of money that can be awarded by a jury as compensation for the wrongful death.  Similarly, there is no limit if the person who is killed is a child, defined in Indiana as a person under the age of 20, or between 20 and 23 and enrolled in school.

These special rules make it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain fair compensation for a person badly injured or for the family of a person killed at an event such as the Indiana State Fair.  Of course, responsibility may be shared by many other companies and persons who contributed in some way to the disaster.  Engineers and meteorologists will delve into the evidence and provide opinions as to where the responsibility should rest.  Our law firm has retained a structural engineer and meteorologist to help us get to the bottom of why this disaster occurred.  We would certainly be available to talk to anybody at any time who has questions about the State Fair matter or recovering damages for personal injury or wrongful death in Indiana.

 Wilson Kehoe Winingham brings you this information with best regards for you and your family’s safety.

Bruce Kehoe                                                          Bill Winingham

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