gámez law fights!

Gámez Law Fights!

Gamez Law Fights billboard

What Are “Punitive Damages”?

by | Oct 3, 2022 | Injuries, Personal Injury |

The damages awarded in a personal injury case will vary based on the decisions made by the judge and jury presiding over the case. However, in some cases, punitive damages may be awarded if your case involved gross negligence or malice. Learn more about punitive damages in Houston and San Antonio when you discuss your case with a personal injury attorney.

Ask a Personal Injury Attorney: What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are a special type of damages awarded in some personal injury cases. Specifically, punitive damages are additional damages that are added to your settlement to punish the person who is liable for your injuries.

In other words, in addition to compensatory damages for your physical injuries and personal property damages, you may receive punitive damages if your case involved intentional misconduct. Cases that involve criminal acts may also result in awards for punitive damages.

Who Decides Punitive Damages?

In general, only the judge or jury presiding over your case will determine punitive damages. For example, based on the details of your case, the judge may decide that you are entitled to punitive damages because of malignant actions from the person responsible for your injuries. In Texas, a jury or a judge will calculate the damages that are appropriate for your case.

Are Punitive Damages Always Awarded?

Not all cases qualify for punitive damages. There are specific criteria that must be met for a judge or jury to award punitive damages in your case. If punitive damages are eligible for your case, your personal injury attorney will need to prove that intentional tort or willful misconduct contributed to your accident.

From San Antonio to Houston: Punitive Damages in Texas

In Texas, it’s most common for punitive damages to be awarded in cases that involve criminal charges. For the most part, the compensation awarded in a personal injury case is designed to compensate for financial losses, pain and suffering, and other economic damages.

Personal Injury Cases and Punitive Damages

According to Texas state law, the standards for the victim to recover punitive damages include providing evidence that there was an intent to cause harm, gross negligence, malice, or fraud. Common cases where punitive damages may be awarded can include car accidents, construction accidents, and wrongful death claims.

Punitive damages are not typically awarded in medical malpractice cases, even if those cases involve wrongful death. However, if there is evidence that a physician willfully violated the standard of care while treating a patient, and this violation caused the death of the patient, punitive damages may be awarded to the family of the deceased.

Gross Negligence and Malice

The number one criterion that is used to determine whether punitive damages can be awarded in your case is gross negligence. While negligence is proven by establishing that the liable party owed the victim a certain standard of care, gross negligence is more serious. For gross negligence, it must be proven that the liable party was aware of the risks of an action but proceeded with the action anyway.

Gross negligence and malice often involve indifference to the safety and welfare of other people. Gross negligence and malice may also mean indifference to the rights of other people, including the right to live.

What Evidence Is Considered?

A judge or jury will have to consider certain elements related to Texas statutes to award punitive damages. These elements must be convincing and supported by evidence. Some of the evidence that is considered when punitive damages are awarded include the nature of the negligent act, the degree of responsibility of the liable person, and the extent of the action.

Sometimes, the net worth of the liable party may also influence whether or not punitive damages are awarded. In this case, punitive damages may be awarded when a defendant has a high net worth because the compensatory amount for economic and non-economic damages is inadequate compensation for the victim.

What Are Caps on Punitive Damages?

Although punitive damages are an additional award to victims of personal injury accidents, there are still caps on this type of damage. For example, punitive damages greater than $200,000 are capped in cases where the economic damages are not equal to double the economic losses of the accident. Sometimes, cases that involve non-economic damages of up to $750,000 may influence the cap on the punitive damages for that case.

Can You Ask Your Personal Injury Attorney to Petition for Punitive Damages?

Although awards for punitive damages are relatively rare, if you believe that criminal negligence or other malignant actions contributed to your accident, you can ask your personal injury attorney to petition for additional damages in your case. When you ask your attorney to file a claim for punitive damages, your attorney will need to find evidence to prove the criminal elements for this type of damage.

If you intend to ask for punitive damages, it’s best to petition for these damages when you file your initial lawsuit. Doing so can increase the value of your settlement and may even work to increase your settlement outside of court, so you can avoid a trial.

Other Important Aspects of Texas Personal Injury Lawsuits

In addition to understanding the punitive damages that may apply to your case, there are other important aspects of personal injury lawsuits in Houston and San Antonio, Texas you should be aware of. When you work with a personal injury attorney, you will need to understand the limitations of personal injury lawsuits about the compensation you are entitled to. Some important sections of Texas law to understand include:

Comparative Negligence

In many personal injury cases, comparative negligence is used to determine the percentage of responsibility each person involved in the accident has for causing the accident. Comparative negligence is most commonly used in car accident cases in which both drivers are partially responsible for the accident.

A personal injury attorney will find evidence to prove that you are less than 51% responsible for the accident. When comparative negligence is triggered in your case, it can directly affect the amount of compensation you’re entitled to. If you have found more than 51% responsible for the accident, then you will forfeit any right to compensation from the other driver.

Statute of Limitations

In Texas, most personal injury cases have a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the accident. If you do not file a lawsuit within two years, you will waive the right to seek any compensation for your economic and non-economic damages.

Wrongful Death Laws

Wrongful death lawsuits are common in construction accidents, medical malpractice accidents, car accidents, and product liability accidents. In Texas, only the immediate legal and biological family of the deceased individual can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Furthermore, the compensation awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit is often greater than the compensation awarded in other personal injury cases.

Punitive damages are designed to punish the person who is responsible for your accident and injuries. Usually, punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages for your case. Get in touch with a personal injury attorney in Houston or San Antonio, Texas to learn more about whether punitive damages can be added to your personal injury case.