In Indiana, as in every state, when you are injured by the negligence of a government employee or agency -- maybe you were hit by a government-owned vehicle or you slipped and fell in a municipal building -- you can't just go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses. Instead, you need to comply with a fairly strict set of procedural rules in making an injury claim, and some injuries may not qualify as compensable. In this article, we'll summarize what you need to know about making an injury claim against the government in Indiana, at the state and local levels.
Claims for "torts" (which is just a fancy name for "injury") against the government in Indiana are covered by the state's Tort Claims Against Governmental Entities and Public Employees Act, which can be found starting at Indiana Code section 34-13-3. This Act states that governmental entities (like a department or agency) and government employees who are acting within the scope of their duties can be held liable for injuries they cause to others, but only in specific situations. In other words, the Act carves out a few exceptions to the longstanding concept of "sovereign immunity," which entitles state governments to legal protection from liability in many instances.
Indiana Code section 34-13-3-3 lays out an extensive list of situations that the state's tort claims act does not cover. In other words, an injured person cannot hold the government (or its employees) accountable if their injury resulted from, among other causes:
These are just the highlights, not an exhaustive list. So what does Indiana's tort claims act cover? Here are some of the most common types of claims that can be brought against a government entity in Indiana:
A claim against the government in Indiana begins when the form for Notice of Tort Claim for Property Damage and/or Personal Injury is filed with the state attorney general's office and, if applicable, with the local or municipal government responsible for the injury. The form must be filed within 270 days if the claim involves the state government. (The State of Indiana provides claim filing forms on its official website.)
Damages under Indiana's tort claims act are limited. For injuries or deaths that occur after January 1, 2008, damages are capped at $700,000, according to Indiana Code section 34-13-3-4(1)(C). Also, an injured person may not seek punitive damages in a claim against the government in Indiana. Learn more about Damages in an Injury Case.
Indiana Code section 34-13-3-8 covers claims against local, county, and other municipal governments in Indiana. The law specifies that in order to bring such a claim, the injured person must file notice with both the government body being sued and the Indiana political subdivision risk management commission. The notice must be filed within 180 days of the injury, or the claim will be rejected.