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What You Need to Know About Punitive Damages in Texas

Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Nov 16, 2017 in Personal Injury

judge's gavel on tableUnder certain circumstances, a person filing a personal injury lawsuit may be awarded punitive damages, which are additional damages that can only be awarded by a court.

However, punitive damages are rare and can only be obtained if a court determines that the at-fault party’s actions were extremely malicious or negligent.

If you were injured in an accident caused by another’s negligence, you need some of the leading personal injury lawyers in Fort Worth to help examine your claim and determine which options you may have to pursue compensation. He or she will know whether you are able to pursue punitive damages based on the at-fault party’s actions and the amount that may be awarded.

Contact Stephens, Anderson and Cummings for a free, no obligation consultation.

What are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are very different than compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate a personal injury victim for the pain and suffering caused by the at-fault party.

Instead, a court awards punitive damages to a victim as a way to punish the at-fault party for instances of fraud, gross negligence or malicious intent against the victim. Punitive damages are also meant to set an example that deters the at-fault party or others from acting in a similar manner again.

To obtain punitive damages, the victim must be able to prove the at-fault party acted in a manner that it knew was likely to cause another injury.

What Must Be Proven to Obtain Punitive Damages?

In order to be awarded punitive damages in Texas, your attorney must show that you suffered “actual damages.” This means you are able to place a specific dollar amount on the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering you endured because of the at-fault party’s actions.

The next step is proving that some form of “aggravated conduct” occurred. This means the at-fault party acted in an especially negligent manner or displayed a complete disregard for the safety and well-being of others.

For example, if you are pursuing punitive damages after being injured in a car accident, the at-fault driver must have done something that would be considered especially reckless, like driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

However, to obtain punitive damages, a court will examine the at-fault party’s actions by using two test:

  • The objective test: This test refers to whether someone in the shoes of the at-fault party would have known that what they were doing had a high degree of risk for causing others harm.
  • The subjective test: This involves the at-fault party knowing the risk of his or her actions, but performing the act any way.

If the at-fault party is accused of gross negligence, a different standard of proof will apply than for compensatory damages. You will need to provide clear and convincing evidence the at-fault party acted in accordance with the objective and subjective tests. In contrast, most civil cases such as personal injury lawsuits only require a preponderance of evidence, which means that the jury finds the injury victim’s claim to be credible.

Is there a Cap on Punitive Damages?

Under Texas’s damages law, the amount of money that a victim can recover for punitive damages cannot exceed an amount equal to the greater of:

  • Two times the value for economic damages decided by the jury
  • An amount equal to the non-economic damages awarded by the jury, with a limit up to $750,000

However, if the jury does not provide compensation for economic damages, punitive damages are capped at a total of $200,000.

Contact Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you are the victim of another’s negligence, it is in your best interest to contact a skilled attorney to find out if you are entitled to compensation.

At Stephens, Anderson and Cummings, our team of qualified personal injury attorneys will provide you with a free, no obligation consultation to review your claim and discuss the legal options that may be available. If we determine that you have a case, we will help build your case, gather evidence, handle settlement negotiations and represent you every step of the way.

We provide all of our services on a contingency fee, which means you do not have to pay upfront legal fees for our help. You only have to pay us if we recover compensation for your claim.

Call us at (877) 920-9009 today to find out if you have a case.