Indiana Wrongful Death Damage Cap – What Is a Life Worth?

Think about some of the recent stories you have heard on the news in which someone has lost their life in a tragic event. Now, think about the lives that were lost at the fault of someone else. When a wrongful death lawsuit is brought against an individual, an entity, a business, a government agency, or several organizations, it seems fair to say that the jury should be left to determine how much that life was worth, based on the evidence presented in court. After all, that is the main reason for the lawsuit – to determine how much that life (or those lives) is worth and to compensate the plaintiff for that life.


Each state has its own legislation for caps on damages for different types of cases, whether wrongful death or injury. Some states do not apply any caps for damages, while other states have imposed caps to only specific types of cases, such as medical malpractice lawsuits. Also, certain types of damages can be capped, such as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.  


Indiana Caps Wrongful Death Awards for Those With No Dependents


You may be surprised to find out that Indiana caps wrongful death awards when they pertain to the “loss of the adult person’s love and companionship.” This cap on damages only applies to those who are not survived by a spouse or a child. Which brings up the question: why is a life worth so much less, just because no dependents exist?


Under this law, even if a jury were to award a wrongful death plaintiff $200 million in damages, the court is instructed to reduce that amount to the Indiana cap amount and the defendant would only have to pay out $300,000. (The law states that a jury cannot be told that the legal limit of damages in these types of cases is only $300,000.) Do the state representatives of Indiana truly believe that the maximum amount a human life is worth is only $300,000? Would state representatives feel that way if they lost one of their loved ones due to someone else’s negligence? It is quite doubtful that they would feel the same if they lost someone they were close to, like a brother or sister.


Let’s look at what $300,000 stands for: Kendall Jenner earned $300,000 for a single Instagram post, celebrity marketing at its best. Ashton Kutcher earned more than twice that amount per episode of Two and a Half Men back in 2011. To make things more real for us average people who do not get to enjoy the riches of celebrity life: If the average American makes just under $50,000 per year, $300,000 only covers six years of income for the person who lost their life. How does $300,000 seem anywhere near fair compensation for an entire human life in today’s economy?


Those With Dependents Is a Different Story


On the other hand, a wrongful death lawsuit for someone who is survived by a spouse or a child has absolutely no cap for damages awarded. These awards can essentially be unlimited, based on the expected salary the person would have incurred over the rest of their life, loss of their love and affection, and other pertinent factors. Often, damages for these types of cases will reach into millions of dollars.


What Is the Difference?


To brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and anyone else who has lost their loved one, who remains unmarried and childless, the loss is no less. Do you happen to know anyone who is not married? Someone who never did have kids? That person is supposedly worth only $300,000 if they happen to lose their life due to someone else’s negligence, just because they did not get married and they have not had any kids.


Marriage & Kids Are Put Off Nowadays


Consider this for a moment: People are not as quick to jump into a marriage and having children nowadays. Both women and men tend to focus on their careers before even thinking about getting married and having children. This law means that a woman’s fiancée is worth less than he would have been worth if he had married her. How sad would it be if a man were to lose his life in a wrongful death situation just weeks before their wedding day?


Protecting Corporations and Insurance Companies


Why would legislators believe that a single person was worth any less than a married person or someone with kids? Normally, when any cap is imposed in legislation, that cap is there to protect businesses, corporations, and insurance companies or other entities. One can only assume that this law was made to ensure that the compensation in which businesses, corporations, and insurance companies might pay out for wrongful death lawsuits is limited in some form to protect them.


Travel to the Next State


Even crazier is the fact that neighboring states, Illinois and Michigan, do not impose caps on wrongful death cases like Indiana has. Simply living on the other side of the state border increases the value of a life tremendously, almost infinitely. Certainly, if the people of Indiana understood how this law would cap damages for wrongful death cases in Indiana, they would have rallied against the legislation before it was passed.


What About Same-Sex Unions?


Another issue that has been brought up is whether same-sex unions in Indiana qualify as marriage, according to law, in regard to the Indiana wrongful death lawsuit legislation. Alisha Brennon, a plaintiff in a wrongful death case that stemmed from a stage collapse, wants to know what Indiana has to say about the issue, as she lost her partner due to the tragic event. While Indiana law would cap Brennon’s loss at $300,000, again, crossing the border to a neighboring state would completely eliminate the questions at hand.


As you can see, Indiana has some laws in place that most people would not be aware of until they actually went to court to pursue a lawsuit. When you have an experienced and knowledgeable Indiana personal injury lawyer or a skilled Indiana wrongful death attorney by your side, you will be prepared for these issue ahead of time. The law offices of Rowe & Hamilton are ready to help you win your case.

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