When are Punitive Damages Awarded in Personal Injury Lawsuits?

In the realm of personal injury cases, one term you may come across is “punitive damages.” This type of compensation is not just about reimbursing a victim for losses incurred due to an accident or injury. Rather, punitive damages serve a dual role – to punish the wrongdoer for their reckless or negligent behavior and to deter such conduct in the future.

Personal injuries can have a profound impact, causing serious and sometimes permanent damage or even wrongful deaths, affecting not just the victims but their loved ones as well. In this blog post, we discuss when punitive damages are awarded in personal injury lawsuits, giving you a better understanding of this area of law.

Call 317-881-2700 for Professional Personal Injury Lawsuit Help in Indianapolis Indiana
Call 317-881-2700 for Professional Personal Injury Lawsuit Help in Indianapolis Indiana

Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm or injury from an accident or incident caused by another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions or in-actions. Such injuries may occur in various scenarios, such as car accidents, slip-and-falls, medical malpractice, defective products, wrongful deaths, and more. In these cases, the victim may seek compensation for their losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages. In the case of a wrongful death, the immediate family can seek a civil cause of action against the negligent party.

It is important to remember that each state has its own specific laws and regulations concerning these types of cases. In Indiana, the state requires that any negligence or carelessness leading to a personal injury be proven for a successful claim to be prosecuted and damages awarded. Additionally, there is a two-year statute of limitations applicable in all personal injury cases relating to negligence in Indiana, excluding governmental entities which require a tort claims notice to be filed in as little as 6 months. This means that all claims must be filed within two years, and sometimes 6 months, from the date of the incident in order to be considered by the court. There are also other rules which apply to filing deadlines so it is best to consult with an attorney right away.

Understanding Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are additional monetary compensation awarded by a court or jury to a victim of a personal injury that arose out of gross negligence. Unlike compensatory damages that aim to make the victim whole again after an accident or injury, punitive damages have a different purpose. Their primary goal is to punish the defendant for their actions and to serve as a warning or deterrent against similar behavior in the future to others. 

Punitive damages are not awarded in every personal injury case. Rather, they are only available when the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, malicious, fraudulent, or willful. In such cases, the court may deem that compensatory damages are not enough to adequately punish and deter the defendant’s conduct. In some cases, punitive damages can also lead to criminal penalties.

Examples of Punitive Damages

To better understand when punitive damages may be awarded in personal injury lawsuits, let’s look at a few examples:

A drunk driver causes an accident resulting in severe injuries to the victim. The court may award punitive damages to deter the defendant from drinking and driving in the future and to deter others as well.

A company knowingly sells a defective product, causing harm to the consumer. In this scenario, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the company for its reckless behavior and prevent it from putting other consumers at risk.

A doctor commits medical malpractice by intentionally performing unnecessary procedures on patients for financial gain. In such cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the doctor and deter them from repeating their actions.

In cases of employment discrimination, punitive damages may be awarded if an employer is found guilty of discriminatory practices such as harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination. These damages are meant to punish the employer and deter them from engaging in similar behavior in the future. They may also serve as compensation for any emotional distress or financial losses caused by the discrimination.


Punitive damages serve an essential role in the realm of personal injury law. They aim to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions and prevent them from causing harm in the future, as well as to deter others. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury due to another person’s negligence or recklessness, it is essential to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.  So, when seeking legal action for a personal injury case, keep in mind the possibility of punitive damages being awarded and their purpose in deterring harmful behavior.

Are you looking for a compassionate civil litigator who will fight for your rights to financial justice after a serious accident or injury? Contact the Law Office of Craven, Hoover, and Blazek P.C. at 317-881-2700 to schedule a free initial consultation, today. We represent injured victims all across the state, including Indiana residents injured in other states and residents of other states injured in Indiana. We can hold meetings over the phone, at your home, online, or at the hospital if necessary.

Related Posts:

The Link Between Gross Negligence and Punitive Damages
Navigating Economic and Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Claims
The Difference Between Special and General Damages in an Accident Settlement