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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

The Indiana Legal System: What Does "At-fault" Mean in Car Accident Law?

An estimated 19,515 people died in motor vehicle crashes between January and June of 2023 alone, the latest reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed. Unfortunately, many of these accidents are caused by drivers acting carelessly or negligently.


In Indiana, the person who causes a car accident is considered "at fault" if they committed a negligent or reckless action or omission. Under personal injury law, the at-fault driver must be held responsible for the financial damages victims incur and could face penalties for their behavior.


How is fault determined in Indiana? When is a driver considered "negligent" in this state? Below is more information about Indiana car accident laws.


What "Fault" Means in Indiana

What "Fault" Means in Indiana


As mentioned, "at-fault" parties in car accidents are the ones who committed an action or omission that resulted in the collision and, consequently, injured another driver, passengers, or bystanders.


In Indiana, the at-fault driver is responsible for the injuries and damages victims sustain. This leads to another question: How is fault determined in this state?


A driver can be held responsible for a car accident when they do or fail to do something and that results in the crash. These are some examples of negligence on the road:



However, although it's unusual, not all car crashes are caused by one of the drivers involved. Sometimes, a third party that contributed to the accident bears legal liability for the resulting financial damages, such as the car owner, the manufacturer, or a transportation company.


At-Fault State vs. No-Fault State


How fault is handled in car accident cases depends on several factors, including location, as there are "at-fault" and "no-fault" states.


  • At-fault car accident state: In at-fault states, the person who is found liable for the accident is legally responsible for the damages that victims sustain.

  • No-fault car accident state: In no-fault states, each person's auto insurance should cover damages and losses related to the car accident.


Is Indiana a No-Fault or At-Fault State?

Indiana is an at-fault state, which means that liable parties are legally responsible for compensating victims through their car insurance coverage. This system is followed in most states.


Why Is It Important to Determine Fault in a Car Accident Case?


As mentioned, in Indiana, the at-fault driver is legally required to compensate victims for their financial damages. This is often done through their liability insurance, which means injured people have to file a claim against the liable party's insurance company.


What If Multiple Parties Are At Fault for an Accident?

Sometimes, more than one party can be found at fault for an accident in Indiana. Common examples include multi-vehicle collisions with two or more cars and chain reactions.


In some two-vehicle crashes, the company that must maintain the road surface or the automobile manufacturer may also be held responsible.


However, Indiana follows a modified comparative negligence system with a "51% fault" rule, which means that an injured person who contributed to the accident can still recover compensation for their damages, but they'll be held accountable for their percentage of fault.


If a person is 40% at fault for an accident, they'll most likely be awarded 60% of the financial damages. However, if they're more than 51% responsible for the accident, victims cannot recover compensation at all.


How to Prove Fault for a Car Accident


Determining fault is essential in all car accidents because the party that caused or contributed most to the collision must provide compensation for physical or emotional injuries and property damage to victims. Additionally, they can be sued and face severe consequences, such as higher car insurance rates, fines, and jail time.


However, in order to recover compensation, injured people must prove that the other driver or party was negligent, reckless, or careless and caused the accident as a result.


To prove liability, victims and their legal teams should collect strong evidence, which may include the following:


  • Photos and videos of the accident scene

  • Statements from witnesses

  • Statements from the drivers involved in the accident

  • The police report

  • Side marks on the roadway

  • Evidence from the accident scene, which may include debris on roadways or blood

  • The type and location of damage to the motor vehicle


In Indiana and other at-fault states, victims should build a strong and convincing legal case to prove that the other party was responsible. Otherwise, they won't be able to recover compensation. That's why those injured in a car crash should contact an attorney. They can also consult on questions such as what does no-fault mean in car accident law?


What Type of Compensation Can Victims Recover in an At-Fault State?


In most at-fault states, including Indiana, car accident victims can be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.


Compensatory Damages in Indiana

Compensatory damages compensate car accident victims for losses and financial damages related to their injuries. These can be economic and non-economic.


  • Economic damages: They compensate people for quantifiable damages that result from their injuries, such as medical bills, future medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and prescriptions.

  • Non-economic damages: They're intended to compensate car accident victims for injury-related damages that aren't quantifiable or tied to a specific amount, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of quality of life, disability, and loss of consortium (this is only available in wrongful death cases where surviving family members are awarded compensation).


Punitive Damages in Indiana

The judge or jury in some at-fault states, including Indiana, can award punitive damages to car accident victims if the at-fault party acted intentionally or deliberately. They aren't intended to compensate injured people but to punish the person or entity that caused the crash.


Indiana has placed a cap on punitive damages. They cannot be bigger than three times the compensatory amount or $50,000.


Are Drivers Required to Carry Insurance in Indiana?


As mentioned, at-fault parties are required to pay compensation to victims, which can be done through a claim against their insurance company. However, what would happen if the driver who caused the accident doesn't have auto insurance coverage?


In Indiana, drivers are legally required to carry insurance, considering the following minimum amounts for an auto insurance policy:


  • Bodily injury: At least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident

  • Property damage: At least $25,000 per accident


Additionally, people can purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, which would cover injuries and property damage if the at-fault party's coverage isn't sufficient. These are the minimum requirements:


  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury: At least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident

  • Uninsured motorist property damage: At least $25,000 per accident

  • Underinsured motorist bodily injury: At least $50,000 per person and $50,000 per accident


Newly written Indiana auto liability policies must include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. However, policyholders can reject this in writing.


Do Car Accident Victims Need Help from a Lawyer?

Do Car Accident Victims Need Help from a Lawyer?


As explained above, when a person is injured in an at-fault accident, they're entitled to compensation according to Indiana laws. However, handling this process can be challenging.


Besides experiencing intense pain, victims see their bills pile up. Many lose their jobs or require long-term treatment, which can further affect their finances. Also, most people don't understand how the Indiana legal system works.


However, working with an experienced attorney can make all the difference. If a person was injured in an accident caused by a negligent or careless party, a lawyer can help them understand their rights and guide them through the legal process.


Attorneys understand how Indiana personal injury laws work and can handle necessary tasks, including evidence collection, witness interviews, and more, as victims focus on recovering from their injuries.


Since Indiana is an at-fault state, victims must file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company to recover compensation. However, the insurance adjuster investigating the case will try to dismiss it to make a low-ball settlement offer.


Luckily, the best car accident attorneys in Indianapolis know insurance companies' tactics and can handle conversations with them to make sure victims receive the fair compensation they're entitled to.

To sum up, these are some of the things lawyers can do for car accident victims:


  • Build a solid personal injury case according to Indiana laws

  • File the car accident claim

  • Collect evidence to prove liability

  • Help injured people understand their rights

  • Interview witnesses

  • Calculate damages to pursue fair compensation

  • Organize the documentation necessary to prove damages, such as invoices for medical expenses, property repairs, and other services

  • Handle negotiations with insurance companies

  • Provide legal representation if the case must be resolved in court


Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!


Any individual who has been injured in an accident caused by someone else can receive compensation for their damages. However, the legal process is intricate, so victims may need help from an experienced personal injury attorney. They have insight on an average chiropractic care car accident settlement Indiana.


Fortunately, those looking for a reliable car accident lawyer can find one at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. We have extensive experience in personal injury cases and are ready to help victims fight for their rights. Contact us today!

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