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Are punitive damages available in a Texas personal injury lawsuit?

by | Sep 10, 2023 | Personal Injury

When someone decides to file a personal injury lawsuit, they have likely experienced some kind of harmful incident that left them with substantial financial losses. Texas law permits personal injury lawsuits in scenarios involving both misconduct and negligence.

When a person or a business harms someone else by doing something unsafe, failing to do something crucial for safety or breaking the law, the parties affected by those actions can ask the courts to award them compensation. Personal injury claims often seek a combination of economic and non-economic damages depending on the circumstances. Economic damages can include lost income and compensation for medical expenses. Non-economic damages could include physical pain and suffering. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, however.

State law has strict rules for punitive damages

Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which connect to actual financial challenges for an individual, punitive damages are not compensation for losses suffered. Instead, they are a form of punishment for the party that was negligent or that broke the rules. Texas state law uses the term exemplary damages when talking about financial penalties imposed in a personal injury lawsuit.

There are both statutory restrictions on when people can seek punitive damages and limits to how much someone can receive. Most situations won’t meet the standard for punitive damages. Generally, there needs to be convincing evidence that willful misconduct or gross negligence directly led to someone’s injuries or losses. Even if the plaintiff’s attorney can prove that the situation meets those standards, the state will limit the punitive damages that the courts can award the plaintiff in most cases.

The maximum amount of punitive or exemplary damages depends on the other damages awarded. If there were no economic damages awarded, someone could receive up to $200,000. If they do receive economic damages, they could receive up to double their economic losses and the same amount they received in non-economic damages, with a maximum award of $750,000. In certain cases, such as collisions caused by drunk driving, the courts can waive the limit for punitive damages.

Those who have questions about the types of compensation to which they may be entitled in the wake of suffering harm can seek legal guidance at any time to gain greater clarity.