When you are involved in an accident of any kind caused by the negligence or recklessness of another person, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. Accidents can change the course of a person’s life in the blink of an eye. It can be challenging to enjoy life as you once did, not to mention the medical bills for your injuries and loss of wages because of missed work. Many people also experience pain and suffering, which is challenging to put an amount on. In some rare cases, the court may also choose to punish the defendant because of their behavior. This is called punitive damages.
The purpose of this page is to take a closer look at what punitive damages are, the scenarios they are awarded, what limitations are placed on them, and how they are calculated. If you were involved in a car accident, where the at-fault driver acted irrationally, you might have the right to seek punitive damages. We encourage you to contact Shamieh Law to learn more about your rights and the laws pertaining to punitive damages in Texas.
DEFINING PUNITIVE DAMAGES
The purpose of personal injury lawsuits is to support the plaintiff and ensure he or she is put back in the positive shape they were prior to their accident. If another person caused the accident and, in turn, your injuries, they should be held accountable for their actions. This is the case whether you were injured in a car wreck, slip and fall incident, workplace accident, premises liability case, or another situation that occurred because of another person’s negligence. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you may consider seeking punitive damages.
By definition, punitive damages are financial damages awarded to the plaintiff in addition to compensatory damages (the more common type of damages most people are familiar with). There are two purposes for awarding punitive damages:
- To punish the defendant for abhorrent behavior or outlandish misconduct
- To deter others from engaging or participating in similar actions
Although it can be difficult to track whether punitive damages work or not, it is an option that Texas accident victims should be aware of. It is important to note that punitive damages are not in place to give the plaintiff something they lost due to the accident, but rather to punish the defendant for their actions. It should come as no surprise that punitive damages are somewhat controversial and vary from state to state. Below you will find information on how punitive damages are awarded in Texas and the cap limits for how much an individual may receive.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN TEXAS
Each state varies when it comes to the amount awarded for punitive damages. Texans might seek compensation for punitive damages if their injuries were caused by another person’s malice or gross negligence. There are caps in place that govern how much a person is awarded:
- $200,000 or
- Twice the amount of the economic damages, plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to $750,000
Common factors used to award punitive damages include:
- The actions of the defendant
- The character of the defendant
- What assets the defendant has
- The type and amount of harm caused as a direct result of the defendant’s actions
- How much the victims may suffer if the defendant isn’t punished
- The injuries and harm experienced by the victim
- How unreasonable the defendant’s conduct was
- How your life changed following the event
- The comparative strength of the defendant to the victim
- The compensatory damages you incurred
In most cases, you must also be able to prove the following for punitive damages to be awarded:
- The defendant intentionally caused the accident and your injuries
- The defendant’s conduct was malicious or motived by ill will
- The defendant disregarded the injury his or her behavior may result in
- The amount of money necessary to adequately punish the defendant
HOW DO PUNITIVE DAMAGES APPLY TO CAR ACCIDENT CASES?
When it comes to car accidents, the majority of damages awarded are either economic or non-economic. Think of medical bills, lost wages, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation for long-term injuries. However, in some cases, car accident victims may choose to seek punitive damages as well. Examples of when punitive damages may be an option following a Dallas car wreck include:
- The defendant acted on road rage and intentionally rammed your vehicle or caused the car accident
- The defendant was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and knowingly acted recklessly
- The defendant was speeding or racing another driver, consciously disregarding the risk his or her actions may cause others
Punitive damages are relatively rare in personal injury cases, yet, we do see situations where they come into play. Given the complex nature of these types of cases, we encourage you to contact Shamieh Law to learn more about your options. Many attorneys misjudge the situation and fail to pursue a claim for punitive damages. At Shamieh Law, our Dallas personal injury lawyers will advocate on your behalf, whether you are involved in an auto accident, premises liability case, or another type of personal injury that was caused by another person’s gross negligence.
To learn more about how punitive damages are calculated in Texas, or to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, please contact Shamieh Law today.