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When can a plaintiff seek punitive damages in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | Motor vehicle accidents |

The primary purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to put the plaintiff in the same or similar financial position they would have been in had the defendant never harmed them. But on occasion, the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) were so egregiously reckless or purposefully destructive that merely having them compensate you for your damages is not enough.

Focused on the defendant’s behavior, not your damages

This is what punitive damages are for. As the term implies, this is a special type of damages meant to punish a personal injury defendant for extremely negligent or intentional behavior. Possible examples include causing a drunk driving car accident with blood-alcohol content three times the legal limit or ramming a pedestrian with a car. Indiana law considers cases like these so dangerous to the public that it allows plaintiffs to pursue punitive damages to discourage the defendant from doing it again.

Capped damages

At the same time, state law limits how much you can be awarded in punitive damages. The statute addressing punitive damages caps it at either three times your compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. For example, if the jury awards you $100,000 in compensatory damages, you could also be awarded up to $300,000 in punitive damages.

Punitive damages are not a factor in most auto accident claims, but you and your attorney should pursue all possible compensation, which could include punitive damages, depending on the facts. An experienced lawyer will know how to deliver maximum compensation for serious car crash injuries. This can mean a settlement out of court or going to trial.