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When are punitive damages recoverable in Indiana?

There are different categories of damages that may be recovered by personal injury claimants in Indiana. Some categories are intended to make the wronged party “whole” again by paying for economic damages (medical bills, lost income, and other objectively calculable losses) and non-economic damages (inconvenience, pain and suffering, and other intangible losses).

However, in some circumstances a plaintiff can claim “exemplary damages,” more commonly called “punitive damages.”  The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and to dissuade them and others from similar conduct in the future. See Orkin Exterminating Co. v. Traina, 486 N.E. 2d 1019, 1022 (Ind. 1986).

In the state of Indiana, punitive damages are not recoverable in wrongful death cases. They also are not recoverable in most personal injury cases because the defendant typically acted with simple negligence rather than willful or wanton misconduct. You may be awarded punitive damages if the defendant knowingly acted with conscious and intentional misconduct that had a high probability of causing injury.

In a civil case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving their case by the greater weight of the evidence. However, with a punitive damages claim, the plaintiff’s burden is higher. The plaintiff must prove their punitive damages claim with clear and convincing evidence. This is where a personal injury lawyer with courtroom experience can help.

Read on to learn the answer to your question, “When are punitive damages recoverable in Indiana?”

Indiana Punitive Damages Caps & Allocation

A personal injury lawyer assists clients in pursuing punitive damages.

Indiana Code § 34-51-3-4 caps the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs in a civil action. The cap is $50,000 or three times the total compensatory damages award, whichever is greater.

Pursuant to Indiana Code § 34-51-3-6, a plaintiff who is awarded punitive damages only collects 25 percent of the total award. The other 75 percent is allocated to the violent crime victims compensation fund.

Importance of Hiring an Injury Attorney If You Intend to Pursue Punitive Damages

A personal injury lawyer assists clients in pursuing punitive damages.

Non-economic and punitive damages are often more challenging to prove than economic damages, since they are not objectively verifiable. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether your claim for non-economic or punitive damages has merit and, if so, will know how to calculate and prove them. Your lawyer can also help you avoid mistakes that might lead to a damages dispute, which not only could increase the amount of compensation you ultimately recover but also might prevent unnecessary delays and stressful litigation.

Discuss your case with a Lafayette accident lawyer from Ball Eggleston.

The Lafayette personal injury attorneys at Ball Eggleston can answer all of your claims-related questions, including those related to exemplary damages. Our law firm offers free initial consultations, and we will not charge you any attorney fees unless we win your case. Call (765) 742-9046 or contact us online to learn more.


Ball Eggleston—a Lafayette, Indiana law firm—is located at 201 Main Street, Suite 810 P.O. Box 1535 Lafayette, IN 47902. Contact Ball Eggleston by phone at (765) 742-9046, by fax at (765) 742-1966, or by email at info@ball-law.com. For additional information, find Ball Eggleston online at www.ball-law.com.

You can also find the firm on Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.