Sovereign Immunity and Tort Claims Against Indiana State Government

Sovereign Immunity and Tort Claims Against Indiana State Government – The Indiana Tort Claims Act

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If you reside in Indiana, chances are you’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the Indiana Tort Claims Fund. The debate revolves around the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, the number of victims killed or injured in the accident and the monies available to the victims and families of the deceased through the state fund.

Why does Indiana have a Tort Claims Fund?  The answer to this question stems from our country’s early history and the basis of our legal system. When America was founded, our system of justice was based upon the English Common Law system of our mother country and the principle of Sovereign Immunity. It was an accepted standard of English Common Law that the sovereign “King could do no wrong”. Under this assumption the subjects of the King were unable to obtain legal justice from that which the king—the sovereign governing entity—ruled, without his royal permission.

At the dawning of the twenty-first century, we take it for granted that Americans have the right to hold corporate or governmental entities responsible for personal injury actions that harm or contribute to the harm of others. But it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that the Federal government passed the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. §2674) waiving the federal government’s Sovereign Immunity for certain actions. This occurred as citizens began to demand accountability from their government.

On Halloween night, October 31st, 1963, a massive explosion caused by concession propane tanks at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum during a widely attended ice show, killed 74 persons and injured more than 300. An impartial panel commissioned by Judge Dillon estimated that the monies necessary to fairly reimburse injured victims and families of deceased would total $7,502,303. However, a fund of $1,122,480.79 represented the full amount of insurance coverage held by Discount Gas Corporation. After distribution of the insurance fund, more than 350 persons sued the State of Indiana charging that the State and State Fair Board had an implied contract to provide safe seating for ice show spectators. A lower court ruled that the state had no sovereign immunity and the question was then bumped up to the Indiana Supreme Court for a ruling. However, the Supreme Court did not rule on the question of state sovereign immunity when the existing case settled out of court.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the State Supreme Court was asked once again to rule on the issue of Sovereign Immunity of the State in Perkins v. State and again in 1972 under Campbell v. State. Judge Arterburn of the Supreme Court settled the dispute, writing that the State, acting in a proprietary activity, “…could not avail itself of the immunity privilege.”

In 1974 the Indiana State General Assembly enacted the Indiana Tort Claims Act. The law currently in place, Indiana Code, Chapter 3, Section 4
addresses the $700,000 cap per claimant, a $5,000,000 limitation on the aggregate liability for all claimants, and prohibits punitive damage awards. Although the individual awards for personal injury claimants have increased over the years, the total cap of $5,000,000 liability, per incident, to settle wrongful death and personal injury claims has remained the same since 1974.

Today attorneys and legislators are debating the decades old cap and its ability to address the scope of the tragedy. Already one attorney has filed suit claiming the cap denies individuals an equitable award and creates an economic incentive for the state to act negligently in future endeavors. There are those that believe the capped figure capriciously holds down merited awards. However, in the end it is expected that the legislature will have their say. We will watch with interest as the legislature attempts to deal with the Indiana Tort Claim Act and possible reforms.

Charlie Ward is a personal injury attorney experienced in accident, personal injury litigation and wrongful death claims. The law office of Ward & Ward receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie today at 317-639-9501 to discuss your acc ident and receive a free analysis of your claim.

 

Punitive Damages Awards in the State of Indiana

Indianapolis IN Accident Attorney

Punitive damage awards meant to halt bad behavior

Punitive damages are monetary awards that extend beyond compensation for an individual’s economic and non-economic damages. A wrongful act performed with a sincere intention to deal fairly with others is an inadequate basis for such an award. Punitive damages awards are used as a tool of the legal system to thwart outrageous or egregious conduct; the evidence must demonstrate that the offender’s behavior was intentionally willful, wanton or reckless using the following guidelines:

  • Willfulness implies intent to commit a wrongdoing which causes harm to another. For example, if a manufacturer knows that their goods could cause injury but chooses not to modify their product because of the cost, then that person or entity’s conduct can be deemed “willful”;
  • Wanton conduct is acting with a reckless indifference to the consequences and the disregard to another’s well-being; and
  • An act of recklessness is performed with a complete disregard of a predictable injurious outcome.

Caps on punitive damage awards in Indiana

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In Indiana, the legislature has limited the maximum amount allowable in cases of punitive damage awards. Indiana Code 34-51-3-4 §4 states:

A punitive damage award may not be more than the greater of:

  1. Three (3) times the amount of compensatory damages awarded in the action; or
  2. Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

            As added by P.L.1-1998, SEC.47.

Distribution of Punitive Damage Award

In IC 34-51-3-6, the person to whom the punitive damages were awarded will receive 25% of the award and the remaining 75% will be deposited by the Indiana State Treasurer into the violent crimes victim’s compensation fund with an option for the State Attorney General to negotiate and compromise the State of Indiana’s 75% portion of the punitive damage award.

Experienced Personal Injury and Product Liability Attorneys

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in personal injury law including car, motorcycle, trucking accidents and wrongful death claims. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 for a free evaluation of your claim.

By Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501

 

Accidents in Carmel Indiana Reduced by Re-Engineering Traffic Rotaries

Navigation of roundabouts

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Modern rotaries are called roundabouts but they differ from traffic rotaries or circles in several significant respects. Modern roundabouts are smaller in diameter resulting is slower speeds.  Signs and striped approaches map out navigational protocols and the mandatory yield to circulating traffic by entering vehicles has been statistically shown to reduce the number of accidents in Carmel, Indiana.

Historical importance of roundabout technology

The concept of a traffic rotary or circle dates back to 1903 when the French built the first rotary at Place de l’Etoile in Paris.  Since that time, gyratory systems have been engineered in cities worldwide. The first rotary in America was engineered in New York City, only two years after the construction of Place de l’Etoile. The original rotaries were piloted in a fast and somewhat reckless way with circulating traffic yielding to high-speed entering and merging traffic. In the early days, uniform driving courtesies or ‘rules of the road’ were non-existent. And each decade brought an increase in traffic until the rotaries became too dangerous to safely navigate.  Eventually rotaries began falling out of favor in North America.

Modern roundabout engineering

A modern roundabout is an intersection minus the traffic lights. It keeps traffic moving from every direction. Intersections are one of the most complex traffic situations that drivers encounter. With today’s improved roundabout model, there are only eight locations of possible crash encounter while a four-way stop, has thirty-two. Studies have shown that roundabouts have eighty percent fewer accidents with injury than ordinary intersections. And Carmel law enforcement agencies have revealed that damages to property seems to drop as much as sixty-six to eighty-five percent.

Roundabouts are achieving popularity all over Indiana and the rest of the nation. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual contains an overhead map which visually explains how to navigate a roundabout. You can view the manual here.

Lawyers with experience in personal injury and wrongful death law

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in personal injury law including auto, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian and trucking accidents. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 for a free evaluation of your claim. Our attorneys are available to speak with you.

By Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501

 

 

Roundabouts Reduce Auto and Motorcycle Accidents in Carmel Indiana – Bicyclists Most At Risk European Studies Show

Carmel Indiana leads nation in number of community roundabouts

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In 2007 Sperlings Best Places named Carmel, Indiana 19th for the “Best Metro Area in America”.  It takes an outstanding city and vision to prove that government can work with efficiency and in the people’s best interests. Today, Carmel, Indiana leads the nation with a total of 85 roundabouts and the numbers continue to grow in Carmel and towns across the country.

History of traffic circles in the United States

Traffic circles have been part of the transportation system in the United States since 1905 starting with Columbus Circle in New York City. The large circle designs in use worldwide permitted high-speed weaving and merging with the greatest consideration given to vehicles entering at high speeds. But as the population grew, large numbers of crash, accidents and congestion increased causing the previously popular rotaries to fall out of favor in both Canada and America. Alexander Ralston modeled the Indianapolis plat based upon the Washington D.C. grid; his design included a circular street which later became known as Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Today, his roundabout still operates with efficiency and remains an historic landmark for the city as well.

Modern roundabouts, however, were perfected in England when the British saw an opportunity to remodel the roundabout by adopting a mandatory “give-way” rule at all circular intersections that required entering traffic to give way, or yield, to circulating traffic.

How Do Safety Design Issues Measure Up?

Intersections are one of the most complex traffic situations that motorists encounter. With today’s improved roundabout model, there are only 8 sites of potential conflict whereas in the traditional 4-way stop, 32 potential conflict sites exist. Thus, roundabouts reduce the number of accidental encounters. As a result of the slow precautionary speeds of entry and rotary, crash severity has also been reduced. In 2001, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found that roundabouts had 80% fewer accidents with injury than ordinary intersections. Statistics obtained from the Carmel Police Department, show property damages also appear to drop between 66% and 85%. And although property damages don’t necessarily equate with the degree of personal injuries, indications are still very impressive. You can view Carmel’s engineering study of roundabouts here.

The US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration states: “While overall crash frequencies have been reduced, the crash reductions are most pronounced for motor vehicles, less pronounced for pedestrians, and equivocal for bicyclistsdepending on the study and bicycle design treatments.”

Other studies conducted in several European countries where bicycles are more commonplace than in the U.S., have found that cyclists fare worse than motorcycles and cars. But all European countries agree that a more careful design is necessary to enhance the safety of bicyclists. These studies show that crashes typically occur: (1) between entering cars and circulating bicyclists; and (2) between cars heading into an exit and circulating bicyclists.

European design of roundabouts have improved accident statistics of cyclists

As a result, European countries have instituted the following design changes in their roundabouts: (1) allowing bicyclists to mix with vehicle traffic; and (2) allowing bicyclists to use dedicated lanes outside of the traffic area and within a car’s lane away from motorists. The latter option has been instituted and is the standard in most rural areas of European countries. The National Highway Administration recommends bicyclists ride their bike as a vehicle in the motoring lanes or walk the bicycle with the pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Learn how to navigate the roundabouts

It’s hard to proclaim a downside of reduced speeds, cost effectiveness, less pollution, congestion and potential points of conflict, as well as the overall safety enhancement gained by implementing roundabouts in Carmel Indiana and cities nationwide.  Roundabouts, also called rotaries, are gaining traction all over Indiana. But education is key to understanding how to safely navigate the roundabouts you may encounter. To become educated on the driving regulations of roundabout safety, visit the Federal Highway Administrations website.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Indianapolis

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident as a pedestrian, bicyclist or motorist, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 80 years of combined experience in personal injury law including accident and wrongful death claims. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf.Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 for a free evaluation of your claim. Our attorneys are available to speak with you.

Charlie Ward

www.wardlawfirm.com

(317) 639-9501

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225

Criteria for Punitive Damages Awards

There must be willful, wanton or reckless conduct

Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Punitive damages can be described as monetary compensation that goes beyond what is necessary to compensate the individual for plaintiff’s losses incurred as a result of the harm committed by the defendant. Punitive damages stand somewhere between criminal and civil law and are used as a punishment to discourage outrageous or malicious conduct. They are not awarded on defendant’s negligence alone. The evidence in the case must show that the defendant’s conduct meets one of three criteria, i.e. that defendant was intentionally willful, wanton or reckless.

Willfulness implies intent to commit a wrongdoing which causes an injury. For example, if a manufacturer of a product knows that their product could potentially harm someone but elects not to change or alter the product because the change would be too costly, then that defendant’s conduct can be deemed “willful”. Wanton conduct is acting with a reckless indifference to the consequences and the disregard to a person’s own safety.

Although the individual does not have the intent to injure anyone in particular, injury is a natural and probable consequence of the act. An act that is performed with total disregard of foreseeable harmful consequences is considered a reckless act. A wrongful act performed with a sincere intention to deal fairly with others is an inadequate basis for such an award. Punitive damages were first recognized in England in 1763. In America, colonists recognized punitive damages almost immediately and by the mid-nineteenth century they were a well-established part of American civil law. Currently the American Tort Reform Association and The Coalition for Patient’s Rights have been at odds over the issue of tort reform. Since the 1980s, a movement has seen defendants appealing to higher courts for reviewing punitive damage awards. But to date, the approach to reconciliation has been made on a state by state basis and lacks national uniformity. The legislature in the state of Indiana limits punitive damages [Indiana Code 34-51-3-4].

Trial lawyers experienced in personal injury and wrongful death law

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in personal injury law including accident and wrongful death claims. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 for a free evaluation of your claim. Our attorneys are available to speak with you.

Charlie Ward

(317) 639-9501

www.wardlawfirm.com

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225