Claiming After an Accident: Are There Damage Caps for Personal Injury Cases in Indiana?
When somebody is harmed due to another party's negligence, they are entitled to compensation for their injuries and everything that comes with them. Some people believe that there is no limit to how much a victim can win in a personal injury case- but that is not necessarily true.
Damage cap laws limit how much money a person can be awarded in total in a personal injury case. They are different in each state- and they don't impact every claim- but is important for people to know the rules in case they apply to them. Shuerger Shunnarah can explain how to navigate your personal injury lawsuit in Indiana.
The Quick Answer
Indiana law does apply damage caps to personal injury claims- although most cases are not impacted by the limits.
They generally only come into play in high-value lawsuits with large sums of money involved- most often medical malpractice cases and wrongful deaths. A personal injury lawyer in Indianapolis can help victims and their families navigate the ins and outs of their claims to determine whether or not Indiana damage caps are likely to impact them.
Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal injury damages are all the things a victim can recover compensation for following their accident. There are economic damages and non-economic damages to cover out-of-pocket expenses and the things that do not have a dollar amount attached to them. Shuerger Shunnarah Trail Attorney can answer questions like, "What are special damages in personal injury?"
Here is an overview of the types of damages claimable in Indiana personal injury cases before taking a closer look at damage cap laws.
Medical expenses can be debilitating- weighing heavily on the victim's mind and making it harder for them to focus on recovery. Luckily, the injured party can claim the cost of their medical bills and other expenses associated with the recovery from the liable insurance company.
If personal property gets damaged in the accident, the costs of repairs or replacements can be included in the claim.
Lost Income (and Future Income)
When a person's injury stops them from being able to work (either because they are physically incapable or they do not have access to the materials they need), they can claim their lost wages.
Additionally, if the person is injured to a point where they can no longer perform the same job or earn the same income, the loss of future earnings is taken into account.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages (also known as general or noneconomic damages) compensate victims for intangible losses- such as emotional pain and the long-term impact on a person's life.
These damages are subjective- since they are based on feelings rather than actual expenses with receipts and reports.
Punitive damages are- as the name suggests- a punishment applied to the liable party for their negligent actions. They are awarded to the victim on top of the compensatory damages for their financial and emotional losses.
What Are Damage Caps?
In short, a damage cap is a limit to how much money a person can be awarded in a legal compensation claim.
Why Do Damage Caps Exist?
The reason damages are capped in many cases is to avoid defendants being liable for sums of money that can't handle or would bankrupt them. It is designed to protect the economy- since the government and hospitals are two of the organizations that are sometimes involved in exceptionally large lawsuits.
How Do Damage Caps Impact Personal Injury Claims in Indiana?
Most personal injury cases will not reach total monetary losses that exceed the caps applied, so they are not often something victims need to think about. That said, if someone is severely injured or a plaintiff's life is lost, the damages awarded could reach the upward limits.
Here is a summary of the Indiana legal caps on damages and the claims they apply to.
Medical Malpractice Damage Caps
Medical malpractice claims are made against a doctor, nurse, or hospital that is responsible for harm to a patient. It could be due to incorrect treatment, faulty medical equipment, wrong diagnosis, or any other negligent act that causes injury.
The damage limits are high- but there is a limit. The most a person can claim in a medical malpractice case is $1.8 million.
Indiana sets the maximum a doctor or hospital's medical malpractice liability insurance can pay out is $250,000- and the Indiana Patients Compensation Fund covers the rest.
Punitive Damage Caps
The rules for capping punitive damages in Indiana are based on the sum of the initial compensatory damages. They are capped at three times the total compensation- or $50,000 (whatever is higher).
To explain further- in a case where an injured person is awarded $10,000 in compensatory damages, the maximum punitive damages they can receive is either $30,000 or $50,000. If the court initially awarded $100,000, it would be reduced to $50,000. In a case where the compensation awarded was $30,000, and the court sets the punitive damages at $100,000- the punitive damages would be reduced to $90,000.
Wrongful Death Damage Caps
Wrongful death claims are particularly devastating, so the caps on damages are not applicable in many cases.
There is no damage cap on a wrongful death lawsuit where the victim is younger than 20 years old- or younger than 23 years old if they are still enrolled as a student. Furthermore, in cases where the deceased victim is survived by a spouse or child, there is theoretically no limit to what they can claim.
Damage caps apply to wrongful death cases where the victim is an unmarried adult with no children. In this instance, the cap is $300,000.
Government Agency Damage Caps
If a government agency is liable in a personal injury case in Indiana, the limit for a single victim is $700,000. However, there is a $5 million cap per incident- so if there are multiple victims, the amount is spread between them.
How Can an Attorney Help with Damage Cap Laws in a Personal Injury Case?
Damage caps do not impact most personal injury lawsuits in Indiana- but they do come into play in high-value cases. A personal injury claim for medical malpractice is the most common instance where limits make a difference.
Speak to experienced attorneys at Shuerger Shunnarah for personalized advice on damage caps and how they could impact a case. Call today for a free case evaluation- and let Shuerger Shunnarah go to war for you.