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Does Indiana Allow You to Sue for Punitive Damages?


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In Indiana, plaintiffs in a personal injury case can pursue punitive damages, which are distinct from compensatory damages. The latter is meant to cover actual losses, while the former serves as additional compensation intended to punish the defendant.

Punitive damages are a form of compensation that aims to punish and deter defendants who have engaged in severe misconduct. These damages are awarded when a plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted with malice, willful misconduct, wantonness, or conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions. Various legal cases might require punitive damages, but it depends on how the defendant acted in your case.

For a free review of your case with our Indiana personal injury lawyers, call Wruck Paupore today at (219) 322-1166.

Can I Sue for Punitive Damages in Indiana?

Indiana personal injury claimants might recover different types of damages, which fall into various categories. Some of these categories aim to make the injured party whole by covering economic losses like medical expenses, lost income, and other quantifiable costs, as well as non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, inconvenience, and other intangible harms.

However, in certain situations, plaintiffs might also be eligible to claim punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages. Our South Bend personal injury attorneys can review your case to determine whether punitive damages should be pursued for the harm you have suffered. These damages are intended to punish the perpetrator and deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.

Punitive damages are not available in wrongful death claims in Indiana. In most personal injury cases, they are not recoverable because the defendant typically acted with simple negligence rather than willful or wanton misconduct. To be awarded punitive damages, the defendant must have intentionally and deliberately engaged in misconduct that had a high probability of causing harm or engaged in reckless behavior with wanton disregard for the consequences.

In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. However, when pursuing punitive damages, the plaintiff’s burden of proof is higher. According to I.C. § 34-51-3-2, they must demonstrate their claim by clear and convincing evidence.

Is There a Limit to the Punitive Damages I Can Recover in Indiana?

Indiana, I.C. § 34-51-3-4 restricts the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff can be awarded in a civil case. The cap on punitive damages is set at $50,000 or three times the total amount of compensatory damages, whichever amount is greater. This means an individual could be awarded up to three times the amount of their economic and non-economic damages combined.

If the jury decides to award punitive damages, the party at fault needs to pay the damages to the court clerk where the case is pending. After receiving the payment, the court clerk pays 25% of the award to the victim, and the remaining 75% goes to the treasurer of the state. The treasurer then deposits the funds into the violent crime victims compensation fund, as specified in I.C. § 34-51-3-6.

Types of Cases Where Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded in Indiana

Punitive damages can be awarded in Indiana for different legal claims, depending on the specific details of each case. In some situations, such as the death of a person or other severe circumstances, these damages might be granted. Below are some of the most common cases where punitive damages are awarded.

Auto Accident Cases

Accidents involving automobiles or trucks in Indiana can often lead to wrongful death claims, especially when one driver is solely at fault. While drunk driving is a common cause in such claims, it is not the only one. In some cases, road rage incidents can also result in punitive damage cases, depending on the specific circumstances.

To succeed in your case, you need to prove that the defendant’s actions were negligent and constituted gross negligence, meaning they acted with full awareness of their reckless behavior. For instance, shipping companies might be held accountable for punitive damages if they fail to follow operational regulations concerning their drivers, as this can significantly affect the value of your claim.

Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice claims can arise in various scenarios related to medical treatment. These claims can be made against medical facilities and physicians. However, doctors might have some protection as expert witnesses.

Communication breakdowns can often factor in facility-related claims when multiple treatment teams are involved in a medical procedure. Additionally, details related to shift changes might contribute to a claim. Resolving such cases typically requires the expertise of a qualified legal professional who can carefully analyze and investigate the situation.

Workplace Accident Cases

Employers who fail to adhere to safety standards and cause harm to their employees might face punitive damages in a legal dispute. To build a strong case, gathering all relevant information about the employer’s actions is essential.

Slip and Fall Accident Cases

Suppose someone in Indiana is involved in a slip and fall accident, and it can be proven that the property owner or manager intentionally allowed a hazardous situation to occur. In that case, punitive damages might be appropriate. This would demonstrate the property owner’s lack of concern for the safety of visitors.

For instance, a shopkeeper who was aware of a leaking roof that caused slippery floors in an area where customers frequently visit but did not take measures to address the issue could be held responsible for punitive damages. The decision to award punitive damages in this scenario would reflect the property owner’s disregard for the well-being of others.

Pedestrian Accident Cases

If a driver causes an accident involving a pedestrian in Indiana and it is discovered that they were using their mobile phone to text or browse social media while driving in a crowded city area, then it might be appropriate to consider imposing punitive damages. These damages are intended to emphasize the severe consequences of the driver’s behavior, which shows a disregard for the safety of pedestrians.

Product Liability Cases

Product liability claims can also lead to the award of punitive damages. The Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) maintains a list of defective products, but individuals who suffer injuries while using a product can file their claims. These injuries can occur abruptly or over time, making such cases complex and highly disputed.

It is essential to seek the assistance of an experienced legal representative for product liability claims. One significant advantage for the plaintiff is that manufacturers are held to “strict liability” standards, which means they do not need to prove negligence on the part of a designer or manufacturer, only that they produced the product.

Our Indiana Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

Contact Wruck Paupore at (219) 322-1166 for a free case evaluation with our West Lafayette, IN personal injury attorneys.

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Top-Rated Litigator.
Helping injury victims move forward.

Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.

More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.

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In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.

Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.

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For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.

Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.

Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.

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