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I Think My Rights Were Violated. Now What?

Unfortunately, constitutional violations can and do occur.  Typically, those violations can happen when a law enforcement officer unlawfully arrests someone, uses excessive force during an arrest, or fails to intervene when a fellow officer commits a constitutional violation.  Sometimes constitutional violations occur when corrections officers in jails or prisons fail to adequately address a serious medical condition of an inmate or when they use excessive force against him.  While constitutional violations can take many forms, one thing remains constant: there are strict deadlines that can seriously impact an individual’s ability to file a lawsuit. 

            In the State of Indiana, if an individual intends to file a lawsuit bringing state law claims, like battery or confinement, against a local government entity or employee, like a city police department or a county jail, they are required to serve a Notice of Tort Claim within 180 days of the incident.  If an individual intends to file a lawsuit bringing state law claims against a State government entity or employee like the Indiana State Police or an Indiana prison, they are required to serve a Notice of Tort Claim within 270 days of the incident.  If a Notice of Tort Claim is not served, an individual will lose their ability to bring state law claims in the future, except under very limited circumstances.  The requirements for a Notice of Tort Claim can be found under Indiana Code § 34-13-3 et seq.  Failure to tender a Notice of Tort Claim typically does not affect an individual’s ability to bring federal claims for things like excessive force or unlawful arrest.  If you want more information on Notices of Tort Claim, see Keffer Barnhart Partner Scott Barnhart discuss them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBRYmaLhP8g.

The purpose of the notice requirement under the statute is to provide the governmental entity the opportunity to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding a claim so that it may determine its liability and prepare a defense.  Snyder v. Town of Yorktown, 20 N.E.3d 545, 553 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014).  One of the critical factors that courts look at is whether the notice supplied by the claimant of his “intent to take legal action” contains sufficient information for the government entity can determine the full nature of the claim against it so that it can determine its liability and prepare a defense.  As such, the substance and content of the notice is or can be critical to whether a party may be able to pursue a claim, months or even years down the line.  A letter, even one sent by an attorney to a governmental entity, may not be enough unless it is clear that the letter intended to satisfy the notice requirement of the ITCA and included the information required under the statute.  See id.   

            Separately from Notices of Tort Claim and claims under state law, an individual who has had their federal rights violated is required to file a complaint prior to the applicable statute of limitations.  While every claim is different, lawsuits for battery, confinement, excessive force, unlawful arrest, deliberate indifference, and malicious prosecution typically must be filed in a court within two years of the incident.  The unfortunate reality is that a constitutional violation can happen to anyone.  Knowing your rights, what has to be done next, and when it must be done by is one of the best ways to protect your rights after a violation has occurred. 

If you think your rights were violated, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized history.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.