This post is also available in: Español
Some accidents are beyond devastating for those involved, and in these cases, justice may be served with additional monetary costs known as punitive damages. Much pain and suffering can come with serious accidents, including the stress of medical bills and missed work, and it is exceptionally frustrating to be a victim of a serious incident where an offered settlement amount falls short of these mounting expenses. Personal injury laws allow for both the payment of costs for accident-related expenses, as well as money owed as punishment in cases of severe disregard for others’ safety and well-being.
Compensatory versus Exemplary
It is important to understand the difference between compensatory and exemplary damages. Compensatory damages exist to “make the defendant whole.” This type of award is intended to compensate for the quantifiable losses that were suffered as a result of the accident. This would include things such as costs of property damage, medical bills, and lost wages that were a direct result of the accident.
Exemplary damages (the term for punitive damages that is used in The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code) are awarded above and beyond the amounts of compensatory damages. They are intended to be punishment for the fraud, malice or gross negligence of the wrongdoing party. They are also intended as a deterrent so the party that caused the accident does not make the same kind or error or practice the same kind of negligence again.
There are a few important things to know about punitive or exemplary damages before you try to jump into a lawsuit: caps exist for the highest potential receivable amount, there are thresholds of responsibility or liability that must be proven, and certain defendant institutions merit changes in these requirements.
The laws around punitive damages may be very clear cut in some ways, but the work that goes into proving liability and building consensus for a deserved award is not easy. If you are the victim of a serious accident, don’t be afraid to reach out to an experienced accident attorney. Ryan Thompson and his team of experienced legal professionals are experts in evaluating cases and fighting for maximum deserved compensation of all types – compensatory and punitive. Call – Thompson Law – today in Dallas or Fort Worth
The Limits, Coverage, and How they are Awarded
How Much Can Punitive Damages Be?
The amount of damages owed in a personal injury lawsuit is not limitless. The formula for determining the maximum amount that may be awarded is set down in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and is commonly referred to in Texas as “Damage Caps.”
Damage caps are typically calculated as the greater of:
two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount equal to non-economic damages (up to $750,000).
Can the Liable Party in Question Impact the Potential Punitive Damages?
Yes. The above formula is different in the case of medical malpractice lawsuits and in the case where a government organization is being sued. These instances can be highly situation-specific, so please contact your expert Thompson Law attorney for advice about your situation.
Can I Get Punitive Damages for My Injury Case?
By Texas state law, a claimant’s right to this type of recovery is dependent on the ability to prove that the harm they experienced was clearly and convincingly the result of:
- Malice, or
- Gross Negligence.
This is quite difficult to prove by Texas law standards, and the burden of proof always lies with the claimant. It is not an option to transfer the burden of proof to the defendant, or simply to rely on facts of the case that show ordinary negligence or bad faith. There can be very fine distinctions between these insufficient concepts and the demonstration of the specific harm necessary for awarding of punitive damages. Reach out to an experienced accident attorney like Ryan Thompson of Thompson Law to help you navigate the specifics of your event, and fight for everything you deserve.
What Do Punitive Damages Cover?
Punitive damages are not intended to cover specific costs that were a result of the accident. Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded for cases of fraud, malice or gross negligence on the part of the at-fault party for the incident in question. They are a legal tool for punishment and deterrent in cases where the actions at hand were egregious enough to warrant justice above and beyond simple repayment to the wronged party.
Ok, So What Don’t Punitive Damages Cover?
There are three major types of damages that you can sue for in the State of Texas. Punitive is in a category of its own. The other two types fall into the category of the previously discussed Compensatory Damages. Compensatory Damages can either be economic, meaning things like medical costs, lost wages, property damage, legal fees, or lost earning capacity; or non-economic, meaning things like emotional pain and anxiety, physical pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, and other types of loss or inconvenience.
Who Makes Decisions About Punitive Damages?
First, exemplary or punitive damages may be awarded in the case of a settlement. This is where your attorney has negotiated in the arbitration process for an additional award beyond the compensatory damages owed and has won punitive compensation for you based on your suffering of egregious behavior on behalf of the at fault party. In this case a mediator or other specialized participant in the negotiations is instrumental in the decision making around this award.
Second, if a case needs to go to court, a jury can determine punitive damages. This can be an extremely difficult way to award punitive damages, as full agreement is required in a jury trial in Texas. All jurors must fully agree on the liability for the event and to the amount of the award. This is a slightly higher threshold than in other types of decisions juries make where only 10 out of 12 jurors must be in agreement.
How Thompson Law Can Help in a Punitive Damages Case
It has become more difficult to win punitive damages due to the decisions made by Texas courts over the last few decades. With this in mind, call on the experts to help you when you have suffered a life changing accident. Even after medical bills are paid, cars are repaired or replaced, and recompense is received for lost wages after the accident, there are still parts of the story left unresolved. You deserve more than just these basic reimbursements, you deserve justice.
If you have been hurt in an accident, and don’t know where to turn, Thompson Law is here for you. Our expert legal team will strategically evaluate your claim and case and fight hard for you to win the most appropriate and deserving combination of compensatory and exemplary damages possible. Our results speak for themselves, and we take the business of fighting for justice for our clients very seriously.
If you found this article helpful, you may also like: