Are there limits on the amount of compensation you can recover in the Hoosier State?
When you hear about a massive jury award, such as the $157 million awarded to the wife of an Indiana man who died when the tree stand he was using malfunctioned, you might wonder if you are eligible for such compensation after an injury. But it’s important to understand that it’s not always the case that the plaintiff receives the entire amount.
Most states, including Indiana, have damage caps that limit the amount of damages you can receive. If the jury awards an amount above those caps, the court will reduce the amount.
Fortunately, Indiana’s damage caps only apply to some relatively uncommon situations.
Let’s take a closer look.
Types of personal injury damages
In a personal injury case, you’re entitled to compensation from the person or entity responsible for your injuries. In Indiana, there are 3 main categories of damages:
- Economic damages are intended to compensate you for the monetary losses that result from your injuries (medical expenses, lost wages, etc.).
- Noneconomic damages are intended to compensate you for the nonmonetary consequences of your injury (pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.).
- Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their actions and deter similar future conduct. Punitive damages are generally only awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct is malicious or intentional.
Whether or not a damage cap applies is dependent on a number of factors, including the category of damages awarded, the nature of the case, and the type of defendant.
Punitive damage caps
In Indiana, punitive damages are capped at 3 times the amount of the compensatory (economic and noneconomic) damage award or $50,000, whichever is greater.
Let’s consider a hypothetical:
However, because the driver was 3 times over the legal limit and driving with a suspended license, the jury awarded $200,000 in punitive damages.
Under Indiana’s damage cap laws, the court would reduce the $200,000 punitive damage award to $60,000 (3 times your compensatory damages).
Medical malpractice damage caps
When a medical professional makes a mistake, the consequences can be catastrophic. Nevertheless, Indiana caps medical malpractice damages at $1.8 million for an act of malpractice that occurs after June 30, 2019.
(The amount is capped at $1.65 million for an act of malpractice that occured before June 30, 2019.)
Government defendant damage caps
If your lawsuit is filed against a government entity, the total amount you can recover is capped at $700,000.
While you might not think your claim involves a government defendant, you might be surprised. Government defendants include those at the federal, state, and local levels. Your lawsuit might involve the government if you were injured by public transportation (such as a city bus) or you fell on government-owned property (such as on the steps of a public library).
Wrongful death damage caps
When an unmarried adult (23 years of age or older) with no dependents is killed, the estate can’t obtain more than $300,000 through a wrongful death lawsuit. Interestingly, there is no cap on other wrongful death lawsuits (such as when the deceased has dependents or is younger than age 23).
Modified comparative fault rule
Indiana follows the modified comparative fault rule. This means that the plaintiff is prohibited from recovering ANY damages if they’re deemed 51% at fault or more. If the plaintiff is considered less than 51% at fault, their damages will be reduced according to their percentage of fault.
Let’s look at an example:
The court determines that the other driver was 80% at fault (for following too closely) and that you were 20% at fault (for driving with a broken taillight).
In this scenario, the most you could recover is $80,000 (your damages reduced by your percentage of fault). If, however, you were found to be 60% at fault for the collision, you’d be unable to recover any compensation for damages whatsoever.
Workers’ compensation caps
Workers’ compensation claims are different from civil lawsuits. However, the amount of income benefits you can receive under a workers’ compensation claim is also capped by statute.
Got all of that?
Here’s a chart summarizing damage cap laws in Indiana for easy reference:
|Indiana damage caps|
|Punitive damages||3 times the amount of the compensatory damage award or $50,000 (whichever is greater)||Ind. Code 34-51-3-4|
|Medical malpractice||Total damages capped at $1.8 million (for an act of malpractice that occurs after July 30, 2019)||Ind. Code 34-18-14-3|
|Lawsuits against the government||Total damages capped at $700,000||Ind. Code 34-13-3-4|
|Wrongful death||Total damages capped at $300,000 if deceased is unmarred, 23-years of age or older, and has no dependents||Ind. Code 34-23-1-2|
If you have questions about your lawsuit, including whether it’s subject to damage caps, you can reach out to a personal injury attorney. Locate one using our free online directory.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.