Can I Recover Punitive Damages for My Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
The Kishinevsky Law Firm is a personal injury law firm in the greater Houston area. If you were injured due to the fault of someone else contact us today for a free consultation with a Houston injury attorney.
Texas law allows the recovery of punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, in specific situations. Punitive damages are designed to penalize conduct that is outrageous, malicious, or morally culpable and deter others from committing similar conduct in the future. Exemplary damages are not compensatory. Exemplary damages are neither economic nor noneconomic damages.Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §41.001 (5)
In personal injury claims, the possibility of recovering exemplary damages most often comes up under the legal theory of gross negligence. To prove that a defendant acted with gross negligence, the claimant must show that the defendant’s actions, when viewed objectively from the defendant’s standpoint at the time they happened:
- involved an extreme degree of risk considering the probability and magnitude of potential harm to others and
- the defendant had actual subjective awareness of the risk but proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.
To recover exemplary damages for gross negligence, the claimant must prove these elements by clear and convincing evidence. Additionally, the jury must be unanimous in deciding that the defendant was grossly negligent and the amount to be awarded as punitive damages. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §41.003
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §41.008 requires that at trial, the amount of economic damages to be awarded a claimant shall be determined separately from the other damages by the judge or jury deciding the issue.
Economic damages in this context means “compensatory damages intended to compensate a claimant for actual economic or pecuniary loss; the term does not include exemplary damages or noneconomic damages.”Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §41.001 (4)
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §41.008 also limits the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded against a defendant in most cases. Specifically, it limits the amount of exemplary damages that can be awarded against a defendant to the higher of:
- two times the amount of economic damages awarded in the cases and an amount equal to any noneconomic damages awarded in the case, not to exceed $750,000.00 or
These limits do not apply to lawsuits where the claimant seeks to recover exemplary damages based on the violation of specific criminal laws which are listed in the statute.
Whether a defendant’s conduct was bad enough to justify seeking punitive damages has to be decided individually on a case-by-case basis after evaluating all of the relevant information. Ultimately, like everything else in the case, it is the claimant’s burden to support a claim for punitive damages with evidence. Obtaining that evidence usually means conducting a detailed and thorough investigation to find out what happened and why.
If you have suffered an injury due to the fault of someone else contact us today for a free consultation with a Houston injury attorney to answer any questions you may have and discuss your legal options.