In Indiana, whenever one wishes to bring a claim for personal injury and/or wrongful death against a state entity, such as a city, county, political subdivision, or the state itself, you are required to serve upon that entity a Notice of Tort Claim. The average person doesn’t even know what a “tort claim” is, much less the requirements of preparing one. What is it? Where do you send it? What must be in it? How soon must it be sent?
For starters, a “tort” is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “a private or civil wrong or injury . . . for which the court will provide a remedy in the form on an action for damages.” In the context of a personal injury claim, if you believe a governmental entity has been negligent and that you were injured as a result of that negligence, then the claim you make is a “tort claim.” The law requires you to put the entity on notice of your intent to bring a claim by serving it with a tort claim notice.
A Notice of Tort Claim is a formal, written notice directed to the State of Indiana and numerous governmental entities that may be liable for damages incurred by someone on state property, such as sidewalks or parking lots, in an airport, or on a city bus. This legal notice sets out the basis of the person’s claim—contains all information required by statute—when someone makes a claim for personal injuries, a wrongful death, or other property damages against the city, the county, or the state. It is typically, but not always, an attorney who prepares this written notice. The preparation of a Notice of Tort Claim must be properly prepared and filed timely.
There is a firm deadline for filing this type of notice in order to preserve one’s right to pursue a legal matter against the city/county/state. Pursuant to Indiana Code 34-13-3, a person filing a personal injury or property damage claim against a governmental entity has 180 days after the loss to file a tort claim – that’s just six months! If you are suing the State of Indiana, you have a bit longer: the deadline is 270 days from the date you were injured.
If you send a tort claim notice but fail to comply with all the requirements of Indiana Code §34-3-3, there are dire consequences. The filing of a tort claim is basically the first step in the legal process against a governmental entity. If you do not file your Notice of Tort Claim timely—and correctly—you will be forever barred from filing a lawsuit against the city/county/State of Indiana for your claim. In other words, your claim will die if you do not properly navigate the tort claim process.
We frequently handle legal malpractice claims against other attorneys, and we can tell you that this is one of the unfortunate, but common, mistakes we often see made—even by lawyers. The window for filing the notice is short and there are many nuances associated with doing it correctly. If the tort claim notice is not prepared correctly, not sent to all of the proper governmental entities, or does not meet all necessary requirements, it is essentially the same as not sending one at all. For this reason, it is critical to ensure that your tort claim notice is not only timely, but properly prepared. For more information regarding tort claim notices, see Indiana Code 34-13-3-3.
When it comes to the handling of a tort claim, we highly recommend hiring an experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney to assist you. We have attorneys standing by who are well-versed in the tort claim process and would be happy to speak with you about your legal claim. What you don’t know can hurt you. Let us help you navigate the nuanced tort claim process like a pro. Call us at (317) 269-3500.
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