October 8, 2018
Autumn in Indiana means visitors flood state parks like Brown County and Fort Harrison, craving picnic and party spots and great views of the bright, colorful leaves. More adventurous groups make ambitious treks, visiting national parks and filling their passports with souvenir stamps from visitor’s centers all over the country.
Unfortunately, not every party takes place on happy trails. Many people are injured in state and national parks each year, and when these injuries are caused by the park staff’s negligence, they may result in a personal injury claim.
Government Responsibility in State Parks
Indiana’s state parks are part of the Indiana state government, which means the government’s sovereign immunity applies to most legal claims against them. However, there are a few ways in which the government could be responsible for accidents and injuries.
State and National Park Negligence
As is the case for private property owners, public properties maintain a duty of care for those who are invited onto it. This same care doesn’t apply to trespassers (in most cases), but extends to all those who enter the public property through legitimate means.
The park can only be guilty of negligence if it knowingly allows invited guests to encounter hazards in their normal course of exploring. There are three key parts of proving negligence:
- The government owns the property on which a dangerous condition occurs
- The agency responsible for maintaining the property was aware of the danger and did not address it in reasonable time
- The injured person was not at fault for their own injury
If you’ve been injured on any public property, including state and national parks, and you can prove these three things, you may have a valid premises liability case on your hands.
Proving Government Fault in Park Accidents
There’s nothing illegal about filing a lawsuit against the state government, but you’ll want to have the strongest case possible before doing so. Because the government is mostly protected against legal action through government immunity, your case must be the rock-solid exception to the rule if you want to receive damages.
Here’s what evidence you’ll need before starting a state park lawsuit:
- Pictures and video of the accident and hazard (as many perspectives as possible)
- Proof the government owns the property you were injured on
- Statements of third-party witnesses who either saw the accident or the hazard that caused it
- Accident report filed by a police officer or park official immediately after the accident
- A doctor’s medical records proving the severity of your injuries and cost of treatment
Though it may seem highly specific, each one of these pieces of evidence is crucial to your case, as each one supports a myriad of different legal precedents needed to move your case to settlement or trial.
Damages in Government Lawsuits
It’s worth mentioning that the maximum compensation plaintiffs can receive in filing a lawsuit against the government are capped at Indiana-set maximums. Indiana’s maximum amount for this type of case is $700,000 for an individual and $5 million for any single case involving multiple victims.
However, in egregious cases, our state legislature can vote to apportion additional funds to compensate victims of public property tragedies.
Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys on Your Side
Though the government may feel untouchable, there are laws in place that protect people who have been wrongfully injured due to state and national employees’ negligence. However, the laws surrounding these accidents are intertwined and complicated, and many individuals find they benefit from the experience of a legal professional in these cases.
Hensley Legal Group’s personal injury lawyers are here to help. We love this state and its residents, and we’ve helped Hoosiers seek the compensation they deserve since 1998. Call us or contact us online today to start a free, no-obligation conversation about your case.