Being injured in an accident can be traumatic and even life-altering. But if you were injured in an accident caused by another person, you deserve financial assistance with your recovery. Being awarded compensation after an accident is common, but what about punitive damages? You may be eligible for further compensation, but these cases require the expertise of an experienced accident attorney. Below we will share more details about punitive damages in Indiana and how to find out if you’re eligible to receive them.
Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages
If you have been seriously injured in any kind of Indiana accident due to someone else’s negligence, you probably already know that you are entitled to compensatory damages. This money is supposed to make you whole again in a financial sense. Compensatory damages can be both economic and non-economic.
Economic damages pay for the actual financial setbacks you have had as a result of the accident. For example, this type of compensation would pay for your medical bills, future medical expenses, missed paychecks (both past and future), and the costs of repair or replacement of property.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to prove, but they are still awarded to compensate you for what you have experienced (and will experience) as a result of the accident. This type of compensation includes pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
You can read about these in more detail in our blog, What Kind of Damages Can I Receive After a Car Accident?
The Indiana Punitive Damages Statute
In Indiana, punitive damages may also be awarded, but with a very different purpose from compensatory damages. They are not intended to compensate you, the victim. Instead, they are intended to punish the person responsible for your injuries.
A few facts about Indiana punitive damages:
- These do not apply in every injury case. In fact, they are quite rare; the person who caused your injuries must have acted with intent. While running a red light may be negligent, it may not necessarily be grossly negligent. The person did not set out to have an accident, and there was no willful misconduct
- Willful misconduct means that the person who attacked you or caused your injuries acted intentionally. That person either did something or failed to do something they should have while recklessly ignoring the fact that you would probably be injured.
- There must be clear and convincing evidence presented by your lawyer; this is even more than the evidence needed to prove compensatory damages.
- Even if you as the plaintiff (the person filing the claim) and your lawyer can prove that punitive damages are warranted, Indiana Punitive Damages Statute (IC 34-51-3-4) caps the amount that can be awarded at $50,000 or three times the amount of the compensatory damages award (whichever is greater).
- The judge is not allowed to tell the jury about the punitive damages cap. Instead, the judge will reduce the amount if the jury awards more than the limit.
- Punitive damages are not an option in wrongful death lawsuits in Indiana. Courts are prohibited from awarding punitive damages because of wrongful death statutes.
- The Indiana Punitive Damages Statute (Indiana Code 34-51-3-6) states that even if the case is successful, you will not receive the entire amount. Instead, you will be awarded 25% of the punitive damages settlement. The other 75% will go to “the treasurer of state, who shall deposit the funds into the violent crime victims compensation fund established by IC 5-2-6.1-40.” “The Indiana Victim Compensation Program was established in 1978 as a fund of last resort to financially compensate innocent victims who were injured as a result of a violent crime.”
How an Experienced Indiana Lawyer Can Help
Needless to say, cases with punitive damages are difficult to prove; you will need the help of an experienced attorney who can fight to ensure that justice is done and that the perpetrator is dissuaded from doing anything similar again.
Crossen Law Firm will take on the challenging task of fighting aggressively to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your economic and non-economic damages. We can also fight for punitive damages if they are warranted. We have a proven record of success.