Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

Understanding punitive damages: 3 key questions

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Personal Injury

When someone suffers an injury due to another’s negligence, their injuries can turn their life upside down. Not only do they have to deal with the financial burden of medical care, but they must also face the added stress of pain and disruption of their life.

In these challenging times, understanding the types of financial relief available through the legal system can be a beacon of hope. Among these is a lesser-known type of compensation known as punitive damages.

What are punitive damages?

In the world of personal injury cases, two main types of damages can emerge: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are often the most familiar. These damages aim to cover medical bills, lost wages and other losses.

Punitive damages are often less familiar to injured people. These damages focus on the defendant’s behavior. The court uses them to send a strong message that certain actions are unacceptable and to deter similar conduct in the future.

When might the court award punitive damages?

Courts award punitive damages for situations where the defendant’s actions go beyond ordinary negligence.  For example, if a company knowingly sells a dangerous product without warning consumers, a court might impose punitive damages as to punish that reckless or malicious act.

Deciding to award punitive damages involves a careful examination of the facts. Judges and juries look at the nature of the defendant’s actions and their potential harm to others. They also consider whether the defendant acted with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.

Are there limits to punitive damages?

It’s important to recognize that there are boundaries to punitive damages. In Indiana, the law limits the maximum punitive damages that the court can award to either three times the compensatory damages awarded or 50,000 dollars, depending on which amount is higher.

Many injured people may not know about punitive damages. However, this support could be crucial for anyone who suffered harm at another person’s hands. For many, they represent a beacon of hope and a step toward healing, providing not just financial support but a feeling that justice has been served.