by Kevin G. Harvey July, 2012
As Brian  traveled home in the left lane of Interstate 70 one evening last October, traffic in front of him came to a complete stop. Brian consequently brought his small Chevrolet to a stop, but the driver behind him did not notice and smashed into the rear of Brian's car. The impact vaulted Brian's car over the vehicle in front of him. During the flight, his car begin to flip in the air and, after striking the second vehicle in front of him, landed on its top in the right lane. A couple of seconds later, Brian's little Chevrolet was struck by a semi-tractor and trailer.
Given the speed and forces involved in these collisions, Brian was fortunate to have survived. But the accident left this young husband and father scarred and impaired for life. Brian's left clavicle was separated from his shoulder and several ligaments were torn in the process. After his shoulder was surgically rebuilt, Brian spent weeks in an immobilizer and then endured several weeks of physical therapy. Now nine months after the accident, Brian is still receiving medical care because of the pain and discomfort in his shoulder. Brian's surgeon advises him that his shoulder will never return to its pre-accident condition.
As in Brian's case, an auto accident can have a devastating impact on one's life. Brian has experienced severe pain and discomfort, has lost significant time from work, has had to endure a major surgery, has incurred substantial medical bills, and his body will function at less than 100% for the remainder of his life -- all through no fault of his own. In such circumstances, how does the victim of another person's inattentive driving recoup at least some of his or her losses?
For centuries people who have suffered injured from the negligence of others have sought justice and remedies through legal processes. Over time, courts and legislatures have developed the law of "torts" -- the law of civil wrongs. This body of law imposes "duties of care" upon people in certain circumstances, holding them to defined standards of behavior. The failure to comply with a duty of care results in liability for the injuries that result.
The law imposes numerous duties of care upon those who drive vehicles on public roadways. Drivers owe a general duty to all other drivers, vehicle occupants, and pedestrians to drive with such care that it will not cause injury to them. When inattention to the task of driving results in an accident, the negligent driver is responsible for the resulting damages.
An example of a specific source of driver inattention that has received significant recent attention is texting while driving. Indiana law now prohibits texting while driving. This new law thus imposes a specific duty of care: to drive without texting. If you cause injury to another because you were texting while driving (you "breached" this duty of care), the injured person can pursue a civil claims against you.
To recoup damages in a tort case, the injured party must prove that he or she was owed a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached (negligence), and that the negligence caused injury. Compensation that can be recovered in a tort case includes the cost of medical bills, lost wages, reimbursement for pain and suffering, and compensation for impairment.
The law of torts and access to the judicial system remains an important, crucial right for the seriously injured. Allen Wellman McNew Harvey, LLP, is not a high-volume personal injury firm. But several of our attorneys have significant personal injury experience and regularly help the seriously injured, whether it be the result of a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a construction accident, a boating accident, a slip and fall resulting from a dangerous condition on property, or other accidents caused by negligence. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, contact us for a free consultation to inform you of your rights and how we can help.