Filing an Injury Claim Against the Government in Indiana

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.

Tort Claims Against the Government in Indiana

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.

What Indiana's Tort Claims Act Does (and Doesn't) Cover

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:

  • the condition of a water or sewer structure, like a reservoir or dam, if it was being used in a way that was not "foreseeable"
  • temporary road or property conditions caused by weather
  • the condition of unpaved roads, trails, and footpaths leading to recreational areas
  • the performing of a "discretionary function" (one involving judgment or a policy-related decision)
  • adopting and enforcing (or failing to adopt and enforce) any law, rule, or regulation
  • any action (including refusal) regarding permits, licenses, certificates, and similar government documents
  • failing to inspect private property
  • entering any property in which the entry is legal
  • an act taken (or not taken) under a law or court order that is found to be invalid, if the actor would not have been liable if the law or court order were valid
  • acts or failures to act by any third party who is not a government employee or agency
  • highway or roadway design or maintenance, as long as the road is in a "reasonably safe" condition
  • injuries related to an emergency communication system, and
  • remediation of hazardous substances, petroleum, and other pollutants.

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:

  • claims arising from car accidents with a government-owned vehicle
  • claims involving a dangerous condition in a government building (one that leads to a slip and fall, for example)
  • medical malpractice claims (involving a government-owned health care facility, for example), and
  • other situations where a government agency or employee's negligence caused injuries or other losses that can be compensated in a tort case (like property damage), as long as they are not specifically exempted by the law. (Learn more about Negligence and Fault for an Accident.)

How to File Under the Indiana Tort Claims Act (And What You Can Recover)

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.

Bringing a Claim Against a Local or Municipal Government in Indiana

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.

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