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South Bend Car Accident Lawyers

Car accidents do not discriminate and do not forgive. Anybody who drives a vehicle can get into a life-altering accident in a fraction of a second. It only takes one error to end up seriously injured. Still, a large portion of society relies on cars to get around and perform their daily activities. Driving is a necessity in today’s world, which means car accidents are unavoidable—especially in busy towns like South Bend, Indiana.

If you are injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence in South Bend, Indiana, you may be eligible for compensation. Hire a South Bend car accident lawyer to start your claim as soon as possible.

South Bend, In

South Bend, IN Auto Accident Statistics

With funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute partners with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute to analyze and summarize crash data each year. The most recent publication is from 2019, and is taken from data provided by the Automated Reporting Information Exchange System.

The 2019 Indiana Crash Facts recorded 800 fatalities from collisions in 2019 and 46,310 non-fatal injuries. St. Joseph County, where South Bend is located, saw 7,144 collisions in 2019. While over 5,000 of these only resulted in property damage, each one created a potentially dangerous situation for the driver.

Types of Auto Accidents

Any collision can result in an injury. The most common type of auto accident—the rear-end collision—is typically one of the most mild. Both vehicles travel in the same direction and the speed differential is usually smaller than it is in other accidents. Even with these low speeds, however, many drivers can sustain neck or back injuries from the traumatic force of the collision.

Side-impact collisions are more dangerous because there’s not as much protection for drivers on the side of their vehicles. These types of accidents are frequent at intersections when cars are moving in perpendicular directions, but they can happen anywhere and involve serious injuries.

The most extreme type of collision is typically the head-on collision. This occurs when two vehicles meet front-to-front. Oftentimes, these collisions involve the highest combined force because both automobiles are traveling in opposite directions.

Other types of auto accidents, like hit-and-run accidents or collisions with uninsured drivers, can result in complicated legal situations that may require a car accident lawyer to successfully navigate.

Common Causes of South Bend Car Crashes

Auto accidents in South Bend, Indiana can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the common causes of car accidents include the following factors:

  • Aggressive driving: Operating a vehicle while overly emotional or in a hurry can lead to impatient behaviors; speeding, cutting others off, and not using the proper signals can lead to dangerous car crashes.
  • Distracted driving: Anything that takes your attention from the road while you are driving puts you at risk; the most common distractions nowadays are cellular devices.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI): A multitude of substances—not just alcohol—can affect your judgment and reaction time; marijuana, hallucinogens, opiates, and various other drugs can reduce your ability to operate a motor vehicle… It’s also against the law.
  • Tired driving: Driving while fatigued is comparable to driving under the influence; if you are tired or getting tired, switch your driver or pull over before driving further.
  • Extreme weather conditions: There exists an expectation that the driver of a vehicle can safely operate their automobile in inclement weather; you may still be at fault for an accident even if you lose control on snowy or icy roads.
  • Vehicle malfunctions: To a certain extent, every driver must acknowledge that their safety is in the hands of the vehicle (alternatively, the manufacturer); however, taking good care of your vehicle and quickly addressing mechanical issues can minimize the chance of your car breaking down while driving.
  • Poor infrastructure: Sometimes the design of a road, intersection, or city is inadequate for drivers; if traffic signs are obscured or the roads are not properly maintained, drivers may be at an increased risk of getting into an accident.

After an accident, the lawyers and insurance companies will work to recreate the cause of the crash. Based on a proper investigation, eyewitness accounts, and other official reports, they are usually able to determine the cause and exactly who was at fault.

Injuries Sustained in a Vehicle Accident

Even minor accidents can have lasting consequences. Here are some common examples of injuries sustained in South Bend car accidents:

  • Broken bones from car accidents are not limited to just the limbs. Depending on the type of collision and the specific position your body is in at the time of impact, your body may be locked or crushed in a way that any bone in your body could shatter. Some broken bones require a reset and cast for a few weeks, while others might take months (or even years) to recover from.
  • Whiplash is one of the most commonly associated car accident injuries because it can result from any abrupt halt, even when there are no visible injuries. If the vehicle stops too quickly and the head snaps forward or backward, the resulting force can traumatize the neck. This can cause discomfort for weeks or lead to more serious spinal/back problems.
  • Traumatic brain injuries, also called TBIs, can occur from a multitude of different actions. If an area of the brain is damaged from the blunt force of a concussion or perhaps penetrated by a piece of shrapnel, it can cause lasting changes to your behavior. TBIs can have a variety of effects on the victim—from memory loss to increased aggression—so it’s important to receive a checkup as soon as possible after your car accident.
  • Internal injuries occur when someone is injured under their skin where it’s not completely visible; this can lead to severe issues later in life if not identified and treated early.
  • Spinal cord damage is often quite serious. The spine is covered in nerves that help the brain control the rest of the body; damage to the spinal cord can result in serious pain, numbness, and sometimes paralysis
  • Lacerations are wounds that occur as a result of the penetration or cutting of the skin; often a result of shrapnel, broken glass, or high-speed impacts.

While it’s relatively easy to receive compensation for the medical costs associated with these injuries, it can be much more difficult to get full compensation for lasting effects. When you file a car accident claim, not only are you to be awarded for the present injury, you are also pursuing damages for future expenses. Do not discount the long-term damages associated with car accident injuries, even the ones that seem mild.

Determining Fault for an Indiana Car Accident

Indiana is considered an at-fault state, which means that in any accident, somebody will be assigned blame. Regardless of the circumstances, one party will be held accountable for compensating the other party. Hiring a car accident lawyer can make this process much less of a headache, especially when dealing with modified comparative negligence.

What Is Modified Comparative Negligence?

When determining who is at fault in a South Bend car accident, the blame rarely falls onto one person. Usually, both parties will be partly responsible for the crash. To account for this issue, Indiana follows a system called modified comparative negligence.

Indiana Code 34-51-2-5, also known as the “51% rule,” states that a driver who is at least 51% at fault may not receive money from the other driver. You can only recover damages from the other party if you are 50% or less at fault. This means that you can still press charges if you are partially the cause of your car accident.

The important part of modified comparative negligence, however, is the reduction of your compensation based on how much of the accident is determined to be your fault. If you are 20% at fault, your compensation will be reduced by 20%. If you are 30% at fault, you will lose 30% of your awarded benefits, and so on.

A driver who is 51% or more at fault is also still capable of recovering damages for their losses, just not from the other driver.

Steps to Take Following a Car Accident in South Bend, IN

What happens leading up to a car accident can be unpredictable, but what happens after typically follows a general pattern. Here are some of the things you should do if you are involved in a car accident in South Bend, Indiana:

  • Remove all involved parties from additional danger
  • Contact emergency personnel
  • Receive the necessary medical treatment
  • Begin collecting evidence and documenting the scene
  • Take photos and videos of injuries, damage, and the surroundings
  • Take statements from the other driver or any witnesses
  • Create your own report and offer any additional information to police officers
  • Contact your insurance company and/or a car accident lawyer
  • File a car accident claim
  • Determine fault and negotiate a settlement

If you are unable to perform any of the above tasks, ask another able-bodied person to help you out in that moment. This could be a passenger, a witness, or somebody who arrived at the scene after the accident. Once you are back into working conditions, contact the individual to see what information they gathered and present it to your legal counsel.

South Bend, Indiana Car Insurance Requirements

When an Indiana driver gets into a car accident, they are expected to demonstrate financial responsibility. To prepare for this possibility, most drivers will purchase car insurance ahead of time. In Indiana, car insurance is required to provide at least a certain coverage amount. The necessary amounts include the following:

  • $25,000 per person for injury or death
  • $50,000 per accident if more than one person is injured or killed
  • $10,000 for each accident damaging another person’s property
  • $50,000 for a claim against an uninsured or underinsured motorist

Those first three coverage amounts are for paying the other driver for their injuries or damaged
property. The final amount is actually for the policyholder in the event of a collision with another driver who does not have sufficient insurance coverage. This money will help to pay off your medical expenses. Additional coverages—like collision or comprehensive coverages, which repay damage to the policyholder’s car in accidents with insured drivers—are not required.

Indiana does not require drivers to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) coverage either. PIP covers extraneous medical expenses which are associated with the injury. This includes lost wages, physical therapy, transportation to and from medical procedures, funeral expenses, and much more.

Deciding whether or not to buy extensive car accident coverage is a personal choice. When involved in a car accident in South Bend, Indiana you will not have as much of a choice for seeking compensation. Depending on the accident, you may be at the discretion of the other driver’s insurance company. Reach out to a South Bend car accident attorney for guidance on filing a car accident claim to your or the other driver’s insurance company.

How Does a South Bend Car Accident Attorney Help?

A car accident is usually a traumatic and stressful experience. If you are the victim of a car crash in South Bend, IN, it’s likely your top priority won’t be performing a comprehensive investigation of the accident site. Similarly, you probably won’t want to have extensive chats with the insurance company about why you deserve compensation. The legal processes associated with car accidents can be arduous and annoying, especially if you are already dealing with other injuries, treatment, or repairs.

A South Bend car accident lawyer can relieve some of this burden by using their knowledge and training to effectively handle your car accident case. Not only will an attorney conduct a thorough investigation, they will also act as a frontline between you and the insurance companies. This prevents the insurance companies from offering you less than you deserve or trying to intimidate you out of pursuing damages.

Available Compensation for Car Crash Victims

A South Bend car accident lawyer can help you receive many different benefits from your car accident claim. Each of these benefits is dedicated to covering the financial, physical, and emotional costs of your auto accident. These benefits are typically broken down into categories depending on how they are calculated. Some of the economic damages—costs that have concrete values—include the following expenses:

  • Visits to the doctor
  • Copays
  • Medical testing
  • Rehab and physical therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical expenses
  • Emergency services
  • Attorney fees
  • Damage to property or possessions

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, deal with things that don’t have a set value and are subjectively determined by the insurance company and your legal team.

Indiana State Laws for Car Accident Cases

The state of Indiana has laws in place both to protect the victims of car accidents and ensure that the process is valid.

The law which plays the biggest role involves Indiana Code sections 34-51-2-5 and 34-51-2-6. These codes represent the modified comparative negligence rules detailed earlier in this article. Stating that fault will be divided between drivers and even though the driver who is at fault will be required to cover the victim’s damages, the victim’s benefits will be reduced by a percentage corresponding to their share of fault.

Another very important law is the Indiana statute of limitations on car accidents. A statute of limitations represents a strict time limit on the right to file a lawsuit. Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, which also covers personal injury cases, a victim will have two years from the date of the accident to ask state courts for a civil remedy. If the victim of an accident dies, the two-year window begins on the day they die as opposed to the day of an accident.

Indiana also requires drivers to have a minimum amount of liability coverage to ensure that drivers in accidents will be taken care of. The proceedings of a case change significantly if the other driver is uninsured. Namely, your insurance company will be responsible for covering your damages.

Lastly, under Indiana Code section 9-26-1-1.1, the driver(s) involved in a crash must give notice of the accident as soon as possible to the local police, the county sheriff, or a 911 operator. This ensures that the accident will go on record and can be properly investigated if someone presses charges.

Working With WKW: What Sets Us Apart?

Our South Bend car accident firm takes cases on a contingency fee basis. Not only does this mean that you don’t have to pay anything unless you win, it also means that we won’t get paid unless you win. There’s no risk for you to reach out, and you have everything to gain once we’re on the case.

We also use all available resources to provide a desirable outcome for our clients. This means using the latest technology for accident scene recreation and simulation. It also means making sure that we have enough time to tend to the needs of your case. We limit the number of cases we take on at any given time so that we can give you all the attention you require.

Contact Our South Bend Car Accident Lawyers

If you or someone you love is injured in a car crash in South Bend, Indiana, reach out to the Wilson Kehoe Winingham team for legal guidance. Don’t put your financial future in the hands of an Indiana law firm without the experience and knowledge that we have gathered over the last three and a half decades.

The sooner you hire one of our South Bend car accident attorneys, the sooner you will realize that you are our top priority. Call (317) 920-6400 or fill out our online contact form to begin seeking damages for your car accident injuries in South Bend, Indiana.

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