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Unjust Law Strengthened Aspirations of 2015 Legendary Personal Injury Lawyer | Car Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys

Unjust Law Strengthened Aspirations of 2015 Legendary Personal Injury Lawyer | Car Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys

20155 Legendary Personal Injury Lawyer, Don WardWhen Indiana personal injury attorney, Donald W. Ward, was a first year law student, he learned through personal experience that “a lot of injustices have been legislatively induced.” To counter the power structure favoring insurance companies and special interests, the former President of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association has worked alongside like-minded, dedicated trial lawyers with members of the Indiana General Assembly to amend and pass legislation that would protect the trial court “wins” for injured clients.

Ward recalls one peculiar aspect of the Indiana Guest Statute that directly influenced his professional aspirations. During the fifties and prior to its amendment in 1998, the Indiana Guest Statute favored insurance companies by preventing an injured or deceased passenger from filing suit against a negligent owner or operator of the vehicle in which they were riding, except under narrowly defined circumstances. “Because you were a guest in my car,” Ward said, “my negligent driving did not entitle you to sue me for injuries caused by my negligent driving unless you could prove that I willfully or wantonly ran that red light.” Willful intent was key to overcoming the restrictions of the unjust law.

The early Guest Statute personally affected the Notre Dame Law Student

Jurisprudence was Ward’s calling. But it became personal after his sixteen-year old sister sustained life-threatening injuries when the vehicle in which she was riding crashed due to driver’s negligence. Upon learning of her accident and the injuries she suffered, he immediately left the law school he was attending to take his place with the family alongside her bed.

While in a prolonged state of unconsciousness, witnesses to the crash misled authorities by withholding facts. There was little hope her body could survive the excessive traumas and because of the restrictions placed in Indiana’s Guest Statute, little expectation that the driver’s insurance company would be financially accountable for the mounting medical bills.

Sometime later―her jaw wired shut―she awoke from a comatose state. When she finally regained the ability to form words, she stunned family members when she communicated to them that the driver of the vehicle in which she was riding had been drag racing on the road leading into the small town of Osgood when the accident occurred. She further articulated that prior to the crash, she and other passengers in the car firmly told the driver to “slow down.” Although latent, the adolescent eyewitnesses eventually corroborated the illuminating statement made from the hospital bed.

When the authorities determined the cause of the accident; that the driver of the car had “willfully” engaged in risky driving behavior; and the victim’s request to “slow down” had gone unheeded, this was the break family attorney and Ward’s mentor needed to proceed with a claim that would fall within the strict interpretation of the law. This incident and the bond formed between Ward and the late Howard S. Young Jr., served to strengthen Ward’s resolve to become a practicing plaintiff’s lawyer and to use his skills to affect changes in laws that were unjust and denied citizens equal access to trial by jury.

Former President of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association

Since those days back in the fifties, members of the Indiana Trial Lawyer Association have worked diligently to protect the rights of Hoosier citizens in the legislative process. Ward says, “It is my belief that the voices of individual citizens are heard in the legislative process through the members of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association.” When asked about his career as a trial lawyer, he said “The law profession is a very noble profession and I am very proud to have been a small part of it.”

Indiana’s Guest Statute, also known as the “Hitchhiker’s Law,” was eventually amended and implemented in 1998 reducing its scope to include parents, spouses, children, stepchildren, siblings, and hitchhikers. To learn more about the current Guest Statute in Indiana, visit the Ward & Ward Law Firm blog.

On August 19, 2015, Donald W. Ward of Ward & Ward Law Firm in Indianapolis, received the 2015 Legendary Lawyer Award presented by the Indiana Bar Foundation, a charity comprised of lawyers and judges who are dedicated to strengthening access to justice and an appreciation for the rule of law in Indiana. The committee that selected Ward was composed of Bar Foundation Fellows practicing law across the state of Indiana. Today, Ward is a diligent advocate for his firm’s injured clients and the families of wrongful death victims. Ward says he has no intention of retiring and will continue his work as a practicing personal injury lawyer.

Experienced Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys and Car Accident Lawyers

Call personal injury and accident lawyer Charlie Ward today for a free consultationIf you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, call personal injury attorneys and car accident lawyers,  Don and Charlie Ward, today at 317-639-9501 or 888-639-9501 for an evaluation of your claim.

Ward & Ward Law Firm
Car Accident Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501
888-639-9501

Underinsured Defendant in Auto Accident Cannot Diminish Financial Responsibility Owed “Careful” Plaintiff – Your Auto, Motorcycle and Trucking Accident Indiana Attorney

At fault driver may not benefit from injured driver’s policyCall Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

On September 20, 2012, The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the party at-fault to an auto accident cannot benefit from Plaintiff’s purchase of uninsured/underinsured coverage and acceptance of underinsured motorist benefit compensation.

When the trial court jury found the Defendant, Alan Steady, 100% at-fault for injuries sustained by Ronald Kern in an auto accident, a judgment in the amount of $98,000 was entered against the Defendant. Plaintiff Kern received policy limits of defendant’s minimal legal coverage of $25,000 by Steady’s insurance company. Kern also received $68,000 in underinsured motorist benefits from his own insurance company, State Farm, as well as $5,000 in medical payment coverage. Steady then asked the Court that the $98,000 judgment against him be deemed fully satisfied and the trial court granted his request.

State Farm then appealed to the higher court for the right to recover from Defendant the amount of $68,000 in funds they paid their client in underinsured motorist benefits and $5,000 in medical payment benefits. Defendant claimed State Farm was not a party to the lawsuit when judgment was entered against him. But the Court of Appeals citing Indiana Code section 27-7-5-6(a) confirmed that State Farm had standing to appeal as follows:

“The insurer shall be subrogated, to the extent of such payment, to the proceeds of any settlement or judgment that may later result from the exercise of any rights of recovery of such person against any person or organization legally responsible for said bodily injury or death, or property damage, for which payment is made by the insurer. Such insurer may enforce such rights in its own name or in the name of the person to whom payment has been made, as in their interest may appear, by proper action in any court of competent jurisdiction.”

On the merits of the case, the appellate court cited once again Indiana Code section 27-7-5-6(a) which provides a right of recovery by the insurer against a third-party tortfeasor and that the insurer “…shall then be subrogated to the proceeds of any settlement or judgment that results.”

The Court concluded that the trial court erred:

“Steady is not entitled to benefit from Kern’s carefulness and assiduousness in obtaining underinsured motorist coverage.”

 The case was reversed and remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Lawyers with Experience Helping their Injured Clients

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in complex personal injury claims. If you’ve been injured in an auto, motorcycle or trucking accident, call an experienced personal injury attorney. Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501 for a free analysis of your claim.

By Charlie Ward

[email protected]

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

 

If You Think Your Auto Insurance Protects Your Family From Personal Injury Damages—Think Again!

If you drive children to school, you should know about Indiana’s Guest Statute and how it may affect your family

Call personal injury and accident lawyer Charlie Ward today for a free consultation

I would like to explain how the Guest Statute law leaves you and your family unprotected from personal injury damages—not to panic you—but to inform you, your family and your friends. My hope is that you’ll take the information to heart, make thoughtful driving decisions, and then pass the information on. The erroneous assumption that you, your children and other family members are fully covered for personal injuries by your auto insurance policy gives you a false sense of peace. When you purchased your automobile policy, I doubt very much that your agent informed you of Indiana’s Guest law.  Read the statute at Indiana Code 34-30-11 and you’ll get the impression that the legislators are doing you a great favor by granting you—as owner/operator of your vehicle—immunity from injuries sustained by family members. As a matter of fact, the statute favors the far more powerful insurance industry.

What is the Guest Statute?

In essence, the Guest Statute states that a driving error on your part and the resulting damages, personal injuries and possible loss of life will not be covered by your automobile insurance policy if the injured passenger(s) is a family member, riding as a ‘guest’ —specifically a spouse, child, step-child, a sibling or a parent unless the owner, operator or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle is willfully or wantonly reckless in their driving conduct.

If you make an error in judgment

For example, you’re driving your son to school. The bell is about to ring, another late slip and your son serves a Saturday detention. Under pressure to get him to school on time, you’re resolved to make the left turn arrow—this time. Poor timing and a lapse of judgment causes a tragic accident by an oncoming car wherein both you and your son suffer catastrophic personal injuries. Your health insurance company may pick up the medicals. But if you don’t have health insurance… well, unfortunately hospitals are not charitable institutions. If you were solely responsible for the accident, the injuries suffered by the other driver, of course, would be covered by your own automobile insurance, perhaps to the policy limits. But your son’s injuries, possible future medicals, wage and loss damages, pain and suffering will not be honored under the same automobile liability policy that will protect the stranger. Good drivers occasionally make errors in judgment. The scenario described above could happen to any one of us at any time. Who do you think stands to benefit from the Indiana Guest Statute?

Collusion?

The insurance companies argue that the opportunity for you and your ‘guest’ passenger to join in collusion against the insurance company is too great a risk.  But the possibility of collusion and false claims should not preclude the substantive right of individual personal injury litigants to have a voice in a court of law, a right granted under the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. Did the boy used in our example make that driving decision? Was he given a choice between a Saturday detention and the unintended consequence? The insurance companies have been heard—loud and clear. This law is tipped in their favor. Are your state representatives really looking after your family’s best interests?

Experienced personal injury attorneys

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over eighty years of legal experience with personal injury and wrongful death claims. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today for a free evaluation of your claim.  

How Does Indiana’s “Guest” Statute Affect You and Your Family?

The Indiana Guest Statute prohibits family members and hitchhikers from receiving compensation for injuries

Call personal injury and accident lawyer Charlie Ward today for a free consultation

Indiana’s ‘Guest’ statute, Indiana Code 34-30-11 makes it clear that unless the owner, operator or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle is willfully or wantonly reckless in their driving conduct, a passenger family member may not hold their host-driver spouse, sibling, parent, step parent or child responsible for bodily injuries or death resulting from the driver’s negligence.

In addition, a hitchhiker may not hold the host-driver responsible for loss or damage arising from injuries or death resulting from the operation of the motor vehicle unless the injuries or death are caused by the wanton or willfull misconduct of the operator, owner or person responsible for the operation of the motor vehicle. Immunity does not apply when passengers make payment for transportation.

How does the Court define willful or wanton behavior?

Willful or wanton behavior is defined by the Indiana Supreme Court as either “1) an intentional act done with reckless disregard of the natural and probable consequence of injury to a known person under the circumstances known to the actor at the time; or 2)an omission or failure to act when the actor has actual knowledge of the natural and probable consequence of injury and his opportunity to avoid the risk”[McKeown v. Calusa, 172 Ind. App. 1, 5, 359 N.E.2nd 550, 553-54 (1977)].

The Guest Statute IC 34-30-11-1

Indiana Title 34 – Civil Code and Procedure reads as follows:

IC 34-30-11-1

Guest statute

Sec. 1. The owner, operator, or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle is not liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or the death of:

  1. the person’s parent;
  2. the person’s spouse;
  3. the person’s child or stepchild;
  4. the person’s brother;
  5. the person’s sister; or
  6. a hitchhiker;

resulting from the operation of the motor vehicle while the parent,spouse, child or stepchild, brother, sister, or hitchhiker was being transported without payment in or upon the motor vehicle unless the injuries or death are caused by the wanton or willful misconduct of the operator, owner, or person responsible for the operation of the motor vehicle.As added by P.L.1-1998, SEC.26.

Purposes of the Guest Statute

The opinion of the Indiana Court of Appeals, KLLM, Inc. v. Legg, states:

“…we recognized that the purposes of Indiana’s Guest Statute are threefold: first, it reduces the threat of “collusive” lawsuits, whose likelihood would be greater between family members than mere acquaintances; second, it reduces the threat of “Robin Hood” proclivities of juries where juries would be more eager to take from the “rich” liability insurance companies and give to the “poor” victims, especially where the victims were members of the same family; and three, it fosters family harmony by not allowing family members to sue and recover for injuries caused by another family member’s negligence. Davidson, 558 N.E.2d at 851. With respect to hitchhikers, we recognized a fourth purpose for Indiana’s Guest Statute: it deters the illegal act of hitchhiking by not allowing hitchhikers to recover for their injuries caused by a driver’s negligence. Id.
Thus, under the Guest Statute, KLLM would not be liable for any loss or damage arising from the death of Hanna if Hanna was a hitchhiker who was being transported without payment in or upon the motor vehicle at the time of his death.”

What’s the risk when you ride with a relative at the wheel?

In a real world scenario, let’s take a look at how the statute might affect you.

Your car breaks down. You have an important meeting and ask your brother to drive you. To get you there on time, he ekes through a red light and you’re catastrophically injured by an oncoming car. Your brother is at fault for the accident and the personal injuries you’ve incurred because, in his haste, he ran the red light. Your brother has an auto insurance policy and has paid his premiums in good faith. But under Indiana’s Guest Statute, you cannot file a claim against his insurance company for the injuries or disabilities you’ve suffered. Your health insurance policy  may pick-up the majority of medical bills incurred but a high deductible could significantly set you back, possibly even bankrupt your future. A permanent disability resulting from your brother’s momentarily poor judgment could leave you unable to adequately provide for yourself or your family in the future.

Common law requires the host-driver to exercise ordinary care for the safety of his non-paying as well as paying passengers. Yet, Indiana insurance companies have asserted that personal injuries received by a relative of an insured driver invite collusion and false claims. The possibility of collusion should not preclude the substantive right of individual litigants to their day in court. To assert that untruths may be told undermines the judicial system our society lives by. It is not unreasonable to assume that accidents requiring snap decisions result in personal injuries or death to loved ones.  How often do you drive a family member to an event?

Trial lawyers with experience

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over eighty five years of legal experience with personal injury and wrongful death claims and continues to seek justice for clients that have been harmed by the negligence of others. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Ward & Ward Law Firm today at 317-639-9501 and ask for “Charlie” for a free evaluation of your claim.

Charlie Ward

(317) 639-9501

www.wardlawfirm.com

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