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Punitive Damages In Indiana


Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on Aug 09, 2011 in Advice

Personal injury law in Indiana exists to make the victim whole after the accident. The injured can recover the medical expenses, lost work time and loss of use due to disability thanks to the Indiana state personal injury laws. Those are just a few things recoverable in a civil case.

The state legislature also ensure that victims of negligence or fraud receive a sort of justice through the court system. That is the punitive damage award. Punitive damages exist to punish the defendant for the malicious or reckless acts that led to the accident and your subsequent injuries.

The award isn't given without regard. The Indiana Code 34-51-3 does have some considerations for anyone seeking punitive damages in a civil case.

Burden of Proof

Proving that the defendant was liable for your injuries may be enough to get your medical bills reimbursed, but it is not enough to prove a case for punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded in Indiana when the defendant has been malicious, reckless, and/or negligent in his behavior.

For example, your neighbor may have killed the tree on your property. However, if it is accidental, there is no case for punitive damages. A neighbor who planned to damage tree or did so as an accidentally through reckless behavior (driving into the tree with a car while drunk) can be liable for punitive damages.

The victim, also known as the plaintiff, has the responsibility to prove the the case for punitive damages.

Award Caps and Restrictions

The extravagant punitive damage awards that juries have awarded in past years and in other states are not allowed in Indiana. There are a few factors that affect damage award amounts. ñ IC 34-51-3-4 caps the damage award at three time the damages awarded for your injuries or $50,000 which is greater. ñ IC 34-51-3-5 gives the judge in the case the power to reduce any jury award that exceeds the punitive damage limits.

However, IC 34-51-3-3 restricts the judge from informing the jury of the the punitive damage limits. Once a punitive damage award is handed down, the defendant can't use an insurance policy to cover it, under Indiana law. This limitation also goes for many other types of insurances.

The state does not allow insurance for punitive damages.

The limitations should not deter anyone from seeking punitive damages in a case where they are warranted. Remember, punitive damages are used to punish the defendant. Not pursuing them could leave behavior unpunished and other vulnerable to the defendant's malicious, reckless or negligent behavior.