Tag Archives: caps

Supreme Court Upholds Caps on Punitive Damage Awards in Indiana

Lawyer for personal Injury in Indianapolis IN

Recently, the Indiana State Supreme Court upheld, by unanimous decision, Indiana statutes placing caps on punitive damage awards and how distribution is made.

 Under Indiana statute IC § 34-51-3-4, awards granted to plaintiffs for punitive damages are capped at three times compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. Under IC § 34-51-3-6 the plaintiff would receive 25% of the punitive damage award with the greater amount of the award (75%) going to the state’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund.Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

 In State v. Doe the plaintiff was awarded $5,000 for compensatory damages and $150,000 for punitive damages by a jury. But under Indiana statute capping punitive damage awards, the plaintiff would receive the full amount of $5,000 for compensatory damages and 25% of $50,000 ($12,500) for a total award of $17,500. Indiana’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund would receive $37,500.

 The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 80 years of combined experience in breaking down the facts of a personal injury claim and working with insurance companies on behalf of their clients. If you have been injured in an automobile, trucking, motorcycle, or bicycle accident, please feel free to call me at 317-639-9501 for a free consultation.

Charlie Ward

(317) 639-9501

Supreme Court Upholds Caps on Punitive Damage Awards in Indiana | Auto, Motorcycle and 18-Wheeler Trucking Accident Personal Injury Lawyer

Indiana Enacts Caps on Punitive Damage AwardsCall Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Recently, the Indiana State Supreme Court upheld, by unanimous decision, Indiana statutes placing caps on punitive damage awards and how distribution is made.

Under Indiana statute IC § 34-51-3-4, awards granted to plaintiffs for punitive damages are capped at three times compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. Under IC § 34-51-3-6 the plaintiff would receive 25% of the punitive damage award with the greater amount of the award (75%) going to the state’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

In State v. Doe the plaintiff was awarded $5,000 for compensatory damages and $150,000 for punitive damages by a jury. But under Indiana statute capping punitive damage awards, the plaintiff would receive the full amount of $5,000 for compensatory damages and 25% of $50,000 ($12,500) for a total award of $17,500. Indiana’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund would receive $37,500.

A law firm with experience.

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in breaking down the facts of a personal injury claim and working with insurance companies on behalf of their clients. Although caps on punitive damage awards may not generate the desired effect on large corporations, the legislation has been upheld when reviewed in the highest court.

If you have been injured in an automobile, trucking, motorcycle, or bicycle accident, or suffered in a pedestrian accident, please feel free to call me at 317-639-9501 for a free consultation.

Charlie Ward

(317) 639-9501

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225

 

Medical Negligence Tort Reform Leaves Catastrophically Injured Patients in the Cold

Tort reform legislation favors insurance companies

Call personal injury and accident lawyer Charlie Ward today for a free consultation

In 1975, Indiana representatives steered our state toward personal injury tort reform legislation in a rush to cap monetary awards ordered by juries in claims of medical negligence. The majority of these first generation “tort reforms” focused on the legal system. The stated objectives of the legislation were two-fold: to keep medical costs down; and to prevent physicians bolting from the state. This knee-jerk reaction to legislate in favor of the insurance industry and physicians has left catastrophically injured patients in the cold. The caps for personal injury victims of medical negligence, apply a “one size fits all” approach to every case. As of July 2011, 39 states have enacted legislation that limits economic and non-economic damage recovery for those who are injured by members of the medical profession. A few states have enacted legislation in favor of tort reform only to be struck down by higher courts as unconstitutional. [See how Indiana’s laws compare with reforms of other states here.]

On their website, The Indiana State Medical Association states:

“Physicians are only responsible for the first $250,000 in damages to any patient for one act of malpractice and no more than $750,000 in the annual aggregate. Indiana’s Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF) pays any excess, not to exceed $1 million — for a total of $1.25 million.” [Key Features of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act published online by the Indiana State Medical Association.]

Tort reform insurance lobbyist crushed by his own reform

Frank Cornelius, a lobbyist for the Indiana Institute of Insurance, worked to secure passage of Indiana’s first medical tort reform laws and by his own account, “fought to enact the law that limits my compensation.” Sadly, Mr. Cornelius was harmed in a series of negligent medical incidents 14 years later that confined him to a wheel chair in excruciating pain requiring a morphine drip, and a respirator to facilitate breathing. What began as a routine arthroscopic surgery left him disabled until an early death at the age of 50. As often occurs when a family member has been catastrophically injured, his marriage fell apart and the consequences his family suffered were painful for him to witness. In a letter penned to the New York Times, shortly before his death, and entitled “Crushed by My Own Reform,” he details his horrendous experiences with the providers medically responsible for his injuries—the same providers he sought to protect with legislation. It states in part:

“Make no mistake, damage caps are arbitrary, wholly disregarding the nature of the injury and the pain experienced by the plaintiff. They make it harder to seek and recover compensation for medical injuries; extend unwarranted special protection to the medical industry; and remove the only effective deterrent to negligent medical care, since the medical profession has never done an effective job of disciplining negligent doctors.” [Read the full text of Mr. Cornelius’ letter here.]

What prompted Legislative Reforms of the Seventies?

During the seventies, physicians were experiencing higher than normal insurance premiums due to a sagging stock market and a decline in insurance company investment revenues. In the publication entitled “Trends Alert”, the Council for State Governments asserts that insurance rates are cyclical and coincide with the ups and downs of the stock market. The Council further claims that a rise in doctor’s insurance premiums occurs every ten years or so. The slump in the economy during the seventies created a crisis which forced insurance companies to raise their premiums at a time when modern medicine was employing more sophisticated forms of treatments and pharmaceutical therapies.

Tort Reform Legislation Overrides the Authority of the Jury System

The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution grants every citizen a right to a trial by a jury. Members of the jury are employed to hear the evidence of a case and to judge the facts. Juries set the awards which can be reduced by the judge if deemed unreasonable against the facts. Our juries act as an essential safeguard against government oppression, unchecked power and undue influence by special interests. Legislated caps on recovery of monetary awards granted by impartial juries have been a source of contention for constitutionalists and continue to be challenged across many fronts. On October 25, 2011, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a preliminary opinion in the case of Plank v. Community Hospitals of Indiana, Inc. and State of Indiana stating that Mr. Plank, husband of the deceased, was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the subject of the constitutionality of the State’s malpractice cap. While the Indiana Court of Appeals has routinely upheld the authority of legislators to enact tort reform laws, we’ll watch this case and keep you informed of their decision.

During the healthcare deliberations of twenty-ten, the meme on Capitol Hill was “tort reform” as the key to controlling costs. Insiders and lobbyists unsuccessfully pursued federal legislation that would unite the states. Today the American Tort Reform Association and several well-funded lobbying organizations representing the interests of insurance companies, medical, pharmaceutical and energy industries, and many other major corporations, chip away—state by state—at our jury system of justice by grabbing headlines with catch phrases like “legal abuse” and “runaway attorneys”. We are very fortunate to live in a country where opinions can be expressed. But good decisions by government representatives require a 360°examination of all sides of an issue by a curious public.

You can view Indiana’s legislation at http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title34/ar18/.

Trial lawyers representing hurt and injured

The law firm of Ward & Ward has more than eighty-five years of legal experience with personal injury and wrongful death claims and continues to seek justice for clients that have been harmed by the negligence of others. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today for a free evaluation of your claim.

By Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501

 

Tort Reform for Acts of Medical Negligence – Is it the Best We Can Do for Injured Parties?

Indiana’s tort reform endeavorsCall Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Unless you’ve been harmed by the negligence of a health care provider, you probably aren’t aware that in 1975 Indiana led the nation in tort reform legislation, placing caps on medical negligence claims. The stated aims of Indiana’s tort reform endeavors were two-fold: to keep physicians from fleeing Indiana during the malpractice crisis of the seventies; and to keep healthcare costs to a manageable level.

During the national healthcare debate of 2010, we heard a lot from Washington about “tort reform” as a necessary precursor to reducing health care costs across the nation. However, most states have already enacted their own brands of tort reform. Washington insiders unsuccessfully sought unifying legislation that would wrench the authority from the states and seat it in the lap of federal legislation. Presently, the objective of the American Tort Reform Association is to fight this battle on a state by state basis. Today, most states have some form of tort reform on the books. Indiana Code Annotated § 34-18-14-3 addresses “Recovery Limitations” also known as “caps” for medical negligence claims.

The earliest Indiana legislation stipulated that prior to 1990, the total amount recoverable for an act of medical negligence or the wrongful death of a patient by a medical caregiver may not exceed $500,000. Since 1975, legislators have twice increased the awards. Currently, for claims accruing on or after July 1st, 1999, the total maximum amount awarded to the plaintiff is capped at $1,250,000. On their website, the Indiana State Medical Association clearly states:

“Physicians are only responsible for the first $250,000 in damages to any patient for one act of malpractice and no more than $750,000 in the annual aggregate. Indiana’s Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF) pays any excess, not to exceed $1 million — for a total of $1.25 million.” [Key Features of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act published online by the Indiana State Medical Association.]

In 1975, Frank Cornelius, a successful and influential lobbyist for the Indiana Institute of Insurance, helped secure passage of Indiana’s original medical tort reform law. Fourteen years later, in an ironic twist of fate, Mr. Cornelius suffered a succession of serious and permanently disabling medical acts of negligence brought about by the same medical providers he sought to protect with legislation. His injuries required permanent confinement to a wheelchair and his breathing was only made possible with the aid of a respirator. Just prior to his death, in a letter written to the New York Times on October 7, 1994 he wrote an article entitled “Crushed By My Own Reform.” It states in part:

“Make no mistake, damage caps are arbitrary, wholly disregarding the nature of the injury and the pain experienced by the plaintiff. They make it harder to seek and recover compensation for medical injuries; extend unwarranted special protection to the medical industry; and remove the only effective deterrent to negligent medical care, since the medical profession has never done an effective job of disciplining negligent doctors.” [Read the full text of Mr. Cornelius’ letter here.]

While the constitutionality of capping medical negligence awards and awards for negligent acts resulting  in wrongful death has been challenged based on the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, the State of Indiana has routinely upheld the authority of Indiana to legislate tort reform.  However, most recently, on October 25, 2011, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a preliminary opinion in the case of Plank v. Community Hospitals of Indiana, Inc. and State of Indiana stating that Mr. Plank, husband of the deceased, was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the subject of the constitutionality of the State’s malpractice cap. We’ll keep you informed of this issue if new developments occur.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where opinions can be stated. The national organizations in favor of tort reform are well-funded and voice their opinions with catch phrases that appeal to the headlines. But good decisions by government representatives can only be made when the public is educated on all sides of an issue.

The law firm of Ward & Ward has over eighty five years of legal experience with personal injury and wrongful death claims and continues to seek justice for clients that have been harmed by the negligence of others. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today for a free evaluation of your claim.

Charlie Ward

(317) 639-9501

www.wardlawfirm.com

Punitive Damages Awards in the State of Indiana

Indianapolis IN Accident Attorney

Punitive damage awards meant to halt bad behavior

Punitive damages are monetary awards that extend beyond compensation for an individual’s economic and non-economic damages. A wrongful act performed with a sincere intention to deal fairly with others is an inadequate basis for such an award. Punitive damages awards are used as a tool of the legal system to thwart outrageous or egregious conduct; the evidence must demonstrate that the offender’s behavior was intentionally willful, wanton or reckless using the following guidelines:

  • Willfulness implies intent to commit a wrongdoing which causes harm to another. For example, if a manufacturer knows that their goods could cause injury but chooses not to modify their product because of the cost, then that person or entity’s conduct can be deemed “willful”;
  • Wanton conduct is acting with a reckless indifference to the consequences and the disregard to another’s well-being; and
  • An act of recklessness is performed with a complete disregard of a predictable injurious outcome.

Caps on punitive damage awards in Indiana

Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

In Indiana, the legislature has limited the maximum amount allowable in cases of punitive damage awards. Indiana Code 34-51-3-4 §4 states:

A punitive damage award may not be more than the greater of:

  1. Three (3) times the amount of compensatory damages awarded in the action; or
  2. Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

            As added by P.L.1-1998, SEC.47.

Distribution of Punitive Damage Award

In IC 34-51-3-6, the person to whom the punitive damages were awarded will receive 25% of the award and the remaining 75% will be deposited by the Indiana State Treasurer into the violent crimes victim’s compensation fund with an option for the State Attorney General to negotiate and compromise the State of Indiana’s 75% portion of the punitive damage award.

Experienced Personal Injury and Product Liability Attorneys

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 85 years of combined experience in personal injury law including car, motorcycle, trucking accidents and wrongful death claims. Our firm receives no legal fees or expenses unless we collect damages on your behalf. Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 for a free evaluation of your claim.

By Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501