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How Compensatory and Punitive Damages Work in Indiana




When dealing with an injury caused by someone’s negligence, it is essential to understand how damages work in Indiana. You need to know what compensatory and punitive damages are so you can make an educated decision about whether to accept a settlement offer or take the case to trial, where a jury will determine your award.

As you may guess, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant because they have been grossly negligent. Plaintiffs may receive punitive damages in trials involving medical malpractice, defective drugs, dangerous products, wrongful death, etc. Punitive damages come in addition to regular compensatory damages, but a car accident or a premises liability case will not lead to that in most cases.

In personal injury claims and lawsuits, plaintiffs usually rely on compensatory damages offered as settlements or as jury awards.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are the most common damage award in Indiana (and in most states across the country). Briefly, compensatory damages intend to help negligence victims recover financially, medically, mentally, etc. Monetary relief can accomplish this, but it’s not always easy. In most cases, calculating economic and non-economic damages requires expert involvement.

You can get compensation with a personal injury lawyer from Yosha law firm in Indiana, but your attorney will work a lot to gather evidence and testimonies of expert witnesses.

Compensatory damages are meant to pay back the plaintiff for actual losses incurred because of the defendant’s actions. For example, if you were injured in a car accident and had to miss work because of your injuries, you might be awarded compensation for those missed days of work. In addition, Indiana laws allow plaintiffs to recover damages for medical bills, pain, suffering, lost wages, etc.

Your attorney will also explain how Indiana’s contributory negligence doctrine might affect your case and settlement. However, you should know that the state does not put caps on economic damage.

Here are some things you can recover in a personal injury claim or lawsuit in Indiana:

  • Reasonable and necessary medical expenses you incur because of your injury (including future medical expenses you might have to cover after settling your case).
  • Lost income.
  • Property damage.
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Mental anguish (emotional distress).
  • Loss of consortium.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are designed to compensate an injured victim for their harm due to someone else’s gross negligence. In addition, they are designed to punish the defendant for their behavior and deter others from behaving similarly in the future.

In Indiana, punitive damages are limited by statute. The Indiana Code § 34-51-3-4 caps the number of punitive damages you can receive in a civil action. The court must find that all the following conditions have been met:

  • The defendant acted with malice or with intent to defraud or harm another person.
  • The defendant acted intentionally or recklessly.
  • There is enough evidence presented at trial to support a finding of malice or intent on behalf of the defendant.

Your attorney will let you know that under the current law, Indiana caps punitive damages of $50,000. Alternatively, the punitive damages can be capped at three times the number of compensatory damages, whatever amount is higher.

Final Words on Damages in Indiana

In Indiana, you can pursue compensatory or punitive damages for the same injury.

Punitive damages are awarded when the injury is intentional, malicious, fraudulent, or reckless. In addition, they are designed to punish the person who caused your harm, while compensatory damages are intended to compensate for your losses.

Regular compensation is a legal remedy for actual losses or expenses resulting from an injury. In contrast, punitive compensation is an additional punishment imposed on the wrongdoer to deter them from repeating the negligence act.

Your attorney will explain that those breathtaking jury awards of millions or billions you see in movies or heard about in other states are impossible in Indiana. However, the state’s justice system will allow you to become whole again and recover the money you lost due to your injuries.


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