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Can you seek punitive damages from a liable party if the negligence was especially unreasonable?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2022 | Personal Injury

If you are injured in a traffic accident, by a defective consumer product, or on someone else’s property, and if you can prove – with help from an Indiana personal injury attorney – that another party is responsible for your injury, you are entitled by law to compensation for your injury-related expenses and losses.

What types of compensation are available to an injured victim of negligence who prevails with a personal injury claim in Indiana? Can victims recover more if a liable party’s negligence was excessive or egregious? What are “punitive” damages, and when are they awarded?

You will learn the answers to these questions if you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of personal injuries and your rights, but if you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, you also must have the legal advice and services that an Indiana personal injury lawyer will provide.

Who May Recover Compensation With a Personal Injury Claim?

If you’re injured in Indiana because someone else was negligent, after you’ve been treated by a medical provider, speak at once with a personal injury attorney.

Most personal injuries happen in traffic collisions, but you may also seek compensation if you’re injured because:

  • A property owner did not repair a dangerous hazard on his or her private property.
  • Someone else’s dog or another pet bit or attacked you.
  • A defective commercial product failed and injured you.
  • A health care provider or a medical facility committed medical malpractice.

How Are Injury Claims Resolved?

Most of the injured victims of negligence in Indiana recover compensation without going to trial, because most personal injury claims in this state are resolved when the attorneys for each side negotiate a private, out-of-court agreement that is acceptable to everyone involved.

However, if there is a dispute over which party was responsible for the accident, or if no reasonable settlement amount is offered in the private negotiations, an Indiana personal injury attorney will be prepared to take your case to trial.

What Are the Three Types of Personal Injury Compensation?

At a personal injury trial, your attorney will tell a jury how you were injured, explain the extent of your injuries, and ask the jurors to order the payment of your compensation. In most cases, three types of damages – that is, three types of compensation – will be available:

  • Economic Damages: These are the losses that can be documented with medical bills, receipts, pay stubs, and similar documents. Copy these documents, keep them securely stored, and bring them when you first meet with your personal injury lawyer.
  • Noneconomic Damages: Noneconomic damages compensate injury victims for physical pain, trauma, and emotional suffering. Courts and insurance companies use accepted, standard formulas to calculate the noneconomic damages that a victim should recover.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are ordered to punish egregious negligence or intentional wrongdoing and to keep it from recurring. Punitive damages are ordered as a penalty, not as compensation, but victims receive any punitive damages that are awarded.

How Are Punitive Damages Handled in Indiana?

Most personal injury cases do not involve punitive damages because in most cases, a liable party’s conduct was neither intentional nor egregiously negligent. Additionally, punitive damages may not be awarded unless economic and noneconomic damages are recovered first.

Punitive damages may be ordered in cases where a defendant acted intentionally or with extreme negligence, including car accident claims and premises and product liability cases. There is no cap on the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded in a personal injury case in Indiana.

A jury may award punitive damages to punish a defendant if it finds the defendant’s conduct to be fraudulent, intentional, or willful and wanton, and if the jury believes justice and the public good require it. Indiana does not allow punitive damage awards in medical malpractice cases.

What Else Should Negligence Victims Know?

Although only particular cases involve the possibility of punitive damages, it is enormously important to be aware of that possibility. A jury has the ability to award punitive damages that exceed the amount of economic and noneconomic damages combined.

How much can an injured victim of negligence expect to recover? That answer depends on the extent and nature of your injuries, who the defendants are and what kind of insurance they have, and whether your personal injury claim can be settled privately or a trial is required.

No Indiana personal injury lawyer can estimate the final amount of compensation you may recover until that lawyer can meet with you and review the specifics of your case.

When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you are injured in this state by intentional misconduct or by negligence, a personal injury lawyer can examine your claim, scrutinize the evidence, and tell you if punitive damages may be involved in your own personal injury case.

After any accident that results in your injury and was not your fault, as soon as you have been treated for that injury by a medical professional, put your case immediately in the hands of an Indiana injury attorney. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years.

If you’ve missed that deadline, go ahead and speak to an attorney, as your case may qualify as one of the few exceptions allowed to the two-year deadline. But if you’ve been injured recently, or if you are injured by negligence in the future, contact an attorney at once.

Your personal injury claim will be stronger if your attorney examines the evidence while it’s fresh and speaks to the witnesses before their recollections begin to fade.

What Will It Cost You to Seek Justice?

Personal injury lawyers in Indiana work on a contingent fee basis, so you will pay a personal injury lawyer nothing to begin working on your case, and you will owe no attorney’s fee until and unless your attorney recovers compensation on your behalf.

If for any reason you are not compensated at the end of the personal injury process, you will not owe an attorney’s fee.

Your first consultation with an injury lawyer is provided without cost or obligation. Victims of negligence should take advantage of this chance to receive personalized legal advice and to learn how the law applies to your own case.

If you and your attorney can prove that another party was at fault for your injury, you will be compensated, you may even receive punitive damages, and the law will be on your side.