What Is the Open and Obvious Doctrine in Indiana?
Property owners are required to keep their buildings in excellent condition and make sure they are safe for anyone who sets foot on them.
If a property owner fails to comply with this rule and a person has an accident or is injured as a result, liability law holds them responsible for their damages and losses.
Victims are also legally entitled to compensation if they sustained injuries due to dangerous conditions on someone else's property.
However, there's an important exception to be aware of before taking legal action: Indiana's open and obvious doctrine.
Understanding Indiana's Open and Obvious Doctrine
As mentioned, under Indiana law, people have a legal duty to keep their property, including the inside building and land they own, safe for others.
However, a property owner may use the open and obvious defense to dismiss premises liability claims. In these cases, they may not be held liable if the injured parties had an accident on a building that was obviously risky or when there are well-marked conditions.
If a store owner puts up a "WET FLOOR" sign because there's a puddle of water on the floor, it would be difficult to hold them responsible if a customer suffers a slip-and-fall accident, for example.
In this regard, if the hazardous conditions are clearly apparent, the open and obvious doctrine applies. However, courts often consider different elements.
When the injured individual files a slip-and-fall lawsuit and uses the premises liability principle to support their cases, the jury may also consider if other dangerous conditions were truly open and obvious to the average person when the accident occurred.
These conditions may include safety features, lightning, handrails, and flooring, for example.
How Does the Open and Obvious Doctrine Affect the Slip-and-fall Case?
As mentioned, property owners are expected to take reasonable care and follow safety precautions to make their premises safe for others. When there's an accident that injures a person, they probably failed to meet these standards. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can answer questions like, "What is the average Slip-and-Fall settlement in Indiana?"
Victims expecting to build a solid case should gather evidence that they have been injured by a preventable and foreseeable hazard. In these cases, the property owner should or should have been aware of the dangerous conditions.
Moreover, the injured party must prove that the injuries resulted from an accident that occurred on the property and had no other cause.
However, even if the victims prove that the accident occurred on someone else's premises, accused parties can use three defenses against the Indiana premises liability law, including the open and obvious doctrine.
Defenses Indiana Property Owners Often Use
An Indiana property owner can use the open and obvious defense to deny other parties' claims if the hazard that caused the accident was clearly apparent. In addition, they can rely on the assumption of risk and comparative fault.
If the hazard was "open and obvious," the plaintiff was essentially on notice and should have avoided the danger. Therefore, the property owner is rarely considered liable in these cases.
However, Indiana courts do not accept the open and obvious doctrine as an absolute defense when an injured party files a premises liability claim. Instead, the jury considers the state's comparative fault system and the assumption of risk laws since both often cover instances where a hazard is apparent.
As a result, Indiana plaintiffs cannot recover damages if they are over 50% at fault for the accident that caused the injuries. If claimants are 50% or less responsible for their injuries, damages will be reduced based on that percentage.
Due to the assumption of risk, which means Indiana property owners claim that plaintiffs knew of the risk, claimants may also be barred from recovering damages.
This doctrine, which is considered an affirmative defense, prohibits plaintiffs from recovering damages for injuries sustained when they voluntarily exposed themselves to damages.
It's important to know that assumption of risk may apply in some circumstances and is used as a defense even though Indiana is a comparative fault state.
Should Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident Victims Consider the Statute of Limitations?
Besides the doctrines that defendants can use against premises liability laws, plaintiffs must also be aware of Indiana's statute of limitations.
The Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4 indicates that injured parties have two years from the date of the incident to bring personal injury cases, whether the accident occurred on someone else's property or the owner failed to prevent unreasonable risk.
However, there is also an exception to the statute of limitations: If the injured person is under 18, deals with a property owner who hides their identity, or is mentally incapacitated, the deadline is extended.
Are Premises Liability Cases Handled in Court?
Many people file a premise liability lawsuit and must present their case in a trial court. However, this is not common.
In fact, most cases are settled out of court. Property owners often cover the costs of these claims with their premise liability insurance coverage and are willing to reach out-of-court arrangements.
However, those who did not have appropriate insurance and did not exercise reasonable care, causing another person's injuries, may be required to cover victims' expenses personally.
Should Victims Hire a Lawyer?
While property owners may or may not decide to hire defense attorneys, those who have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident and want to file a premise liability claim should seek legal help to pursue compensation.
Claimants who work with experienced personal injury attorneys have a better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome and recovering various damages and losses, such as the following:
Physical therapy costs
Prescription medication expenses
Medical equipment expenses
Pain and suffering
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of current income
Loss of future income
The best slip and fall lawyer in Indianapolis will go the extra mile to help victims recover every penny they deserve, even if defendants try to use the open and obvious doctrine to dismiss their cases.
Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!
Anyone who has been injured on someone else's property and wants to hold at-fault owners accountable for their negligence or carelessness can count on Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys.
This law firm has an experienced team of attorneys willing to handle these cases and help victims fight for their rights and recover the compensation they are entitled to. Get in touch today and request a free consultation!