How Punitive Damages Work in Texas
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, you may be eligible to two primary types of compensation: special damages for your financial damages like medical expenses and lost wages and general damages for emotional and psychological harm like disfigurement, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. If your case goes to trial, there is also the possibility of a third type of compensation: punitive damages.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Every personal injury case involves some type of damages, whether they are economic or non-economic damages. In cases in which the defendant acted in a very egregious manner or a way that is harmful to society as a whole, the law allows victims to sue for more money to deter similar actions and to punish the wrongdoer.
In this way, punitive damages do not compensate victims for the harm they have suffered; they punish the defendant with a higher amount of compensation to the victim to better serve justice.
Only a small number of personal injury claims qualify for punitive damages and this type of damages can only be awarded in a jury trial.
To win punitive damages in Texas, you and your attorney must prove several aspects of your case:
- Actual damages, which means there is a dollar award for your medical bills, lost wages, and mental anguish.
- The plaintiff exhibited “aggravated conduct.” This means showing gross negligence, or that the defendant knew the risks but acted anyway or that a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would have known their behavior represented an extreme risk and probability of harm.
Punitive Damages Law in Texas
In the past, juries could award punitive damages in any amount, but this is no longer the case in Texas. Under Texas law, punitive damages are now capped under the Texas Damages Cap. Under this law, punitive damages are limited to 2x the amount the jury awards for economic (special) damages plus an amount equal to what the jury awards for non-economic (general) damages. If no compensation is awarded for special damages, punitive damages are capped at $200,000.
How a Houston Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
If you believe your case qualifies for punitive damages, it’s important to consult with Sigmon Law trial lawyers to build your claim and prepare it for court. Texas law requires jumping through several legal hurdles to receive punitive damages, including proving the defendant displayed aggravated conduct and proving the case beyond a preponderance of the evidence.
If you have suffered serious injuries due to someone else’s gross negligence or reckless behavior, you may be entitled to punitive damages in trial. Contact Sigmon Law for a free consultation with a Houston injury claim attorney to discuss.