Are Punitive Damages Available in a Texas Auto Accident Case?


An attorney discussing punitive damages with a client who was in a car accident and explaining what they are.Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are a form of monetary award that may be available in personal injury cases involving gross negligence or severe misconduct.

Punitive damages can only be awarded by a Judge in cases that go to trial. They are a way for the Judge to punish the person who has acted recklessly and to deter others from behaving in a similar way.

In auto accident cases, punitive damages are reserved for cases where the driver who caused the accident was grossly negligent and should have known beforehand that their actions had the potential to cause a great deal of harm. If punitive damages could be available to you, then your attorney will need to gather clear and convincing evidence that the defendant knew that their actions carried great risk but acted anyway or that they intended to cause harm.

Although exemplary damages are rare in the context of auto accident cases, many attorneys mistakenly fail to fight for them when there are legitimate reasons for justifying them.

If you are fighting a car accident lawsuit, then it is important to have the help of an attorney who has courtroom experience and who is bold enough to fight for punitive damages when they are justified. That is exactly what you will find at Chris Morrow Law, PLLC.

We help people with personal injury cases in Texas on a daily basis. We always work on a no-win no-fee basis, which means that if we do not win compensation, then you will not pay us anything. We believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality legal representation, and no personal injury victim should be left to struggle with their expenses.

Arrange a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer at 512-520-8100.

When Are Punitive Damages Available in an Auto Accident Case?

Most personal injury cases, including those involving road traffic accidents, do not go to trial. Usually, it is not in anyone’s best interest to go to trial because court proceedings are time-consuming and expensive. Although an out-of-court settlement will not specify a punitive damages award, it may still be larger if the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless.

However, some auto-accident cases will go to a civil trial if a good settlement cannot be reached or if the defendant’s actions were egregious. A civil trial is different from a criminal trial, and even if the defendant was not given criminal charges, it might still be possible to seek compensation from them in a civil case.

If your auto accident case does go to trial, then a jury will need to vote unanimously to award punitive damages and how much money should be awarded.

In order to determine whether awarding punitive damages is justified, the jury will consider whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the harm you suffered was a result of one of the following:

  • Malice – The defendant intended to cause injury or harm.
  • Fraud – The defendant acted with deception that was willful and intentional.
  • Gross Negligence – An action or omission (failure to act) which was different from how a reasonable person would have behaved. A reasonable person should have recognized the extreme risk and the potential for harm to others. The defendant may have been aware of the risk but proceeded anyway with conscious indifference to the safety and welfare of others.

Examples of Auto Accident Cases That Could Justify Exemplary Damages

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we will help you explore every possible avenue to compensation, including punitive damages. Some examples of cases that could justify punitive damages include:

  • Excessive Speeding – If the person who caused your injuries was street racing or driving aggressively at high speeds, then this could be considered gross negligence.
  • Driving Under The Influence – Everyone should know the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI/DWI case could justify punitive damages, especially if the defendant had previous DUI/DWI convictions.
  • Dangerous Parts – If the auto accident was caused by a defective automobile part and the manufacturer knew of the danger or took steps to hide it, then this could be considered fraud. Alternatively, if the driver knew their vehicle was unsafe and they continued to drive their vehicle and caused an accident, then this could be considered gross negligence.
  • Road Rage – If the at-fault party was enraged and purposely caused damage, then this could be considered malice.

Compensatory Damages in an Auto Accident Case

In order for punitive damages in Texas to be awarded in a personal injury claim, there must first be compensatory or actual damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the victim for the actual losses they have incurred because of the accident. There are two types of compensatory damages, economic damages, and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are designed to compensate victims of personal injury for the economic expense they are faced after an accident. Economic damages after a car accident could include:

  • Property Damage – The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle or anything else damaged in the crash.
  • Lost Wages – If your injuries resulted in time away from work, then you should be compensated for lost income.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity – If your injuries are ongoing and you are unlikely to be able to return to work in the same capacity, then you could be compensated for a lifetime of lost earnings. However, you will need to have strong evidence to demonstrate your diminished earning capacity.
  • Medical Bills – Medical bills are often victims’ biggest worry after a crash. Your attorney will help you fight all bills related to your medical care, including hospital bills, medication costs, transport to and from appointments, physiotherapy, home adjustments, and more.
  • Future Medical Expenses – If your injuries are ongoing, then it is essential you have the help of an attorney who knows how to fight for your future expenses. Otherwise, you could still be left out of pocket in the future. Your attorney may need to draw upon expert testimony to establish the value of your future expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic losses, also known as pain and suffering damages, may be available to compensate you for things such as:

  • Mental Anguish – Car accidents are traumatic, and it is common for victims to be left with mental health conditions such as PTSD.
  • Physical Pain – The pain of your injuries is also likely to cause you mental suffering.
  • Loss of Enjoyment – If your injuries have left you unable to live your life as you did before, such as an inability to participate in hobbies you once enjoyed, then this should be considered in your settlement.

Non-economic damages are highly contentious. However, when you have the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, they will help you evidence your claims so that your settlement is reflective of your pain and suffering.

Caps on Damages in Texas

Texas does not put a cap or limit on economic or non-economic damages after a car accident, but it does put a cap on punitive damages.

Punitive damages in Texas can not exceed twice the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages awarded, not to exceed $750,000 or $200,000, whichever is greater.

However, this cap does not apply to cases involving wrongful death, drunk driving, or cases involving injury to a child, disabled individual, or elderly person.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help You Recover Punitive Damages

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we are committed to fighting for justice for personal injury victims in Texas, with car accidents being the most common case we deal with. We are skilled litigators, and if your case justifies punitive damages, then we will advocate fiercely on your behalf.

We will investigate your case and gather all the available evidence. We will work with medical consultation and accident reconstruction specialists to establish the facts of your case so that it is difficult to fight against.

We will take over all negotiations or preparations for trial and will keep you informed and engaged at every stage. We will give you choices and the likelihood of outcomes so that you can decide how you wish to proceed.

In order to secure punitive damages, the jury will need to be presented with clear and convincing evidence of malice, fraud, or gross negligence. Clear and convincing is not as high a standard as beyond a reasonable doubt which is required in criminal court, but it still requires the skill of an experienced car accident attorney who has dedicated themselves to your case.

Are Punitive Damages Available in a Texas Auto Accident Case – FAQ

Punitive damages are not available in every car accident case, but they may be available in cases where the at-fault driver did something more extreme than in a typical accident, such as driving under the influence or street racing.

Yes, punitive damages are available in some wrongful death lawsuits in Texas. If you have lost a family member in a car accident, then we want to help. We understand that no amount of money can heal your grief, but you should not be left suffering financially because of the gross negligence, fraud, or malice of another person.

Every car accident claim is unique, and how long it takes could depend on how clear liability is, the severity of your injuries, and the quality of your representation. Cases that do go to trial will take longer as you will need to wait for the court to be available to hear your case. Cases that go to trial tend to take a year or more.

Yes. Texas operates under comparative negligence, which means that even if you are found to be partially at fault for an accident, you can still claim compensation, even punitive damages. However, your compensation will be reduced by the amount you are deemed to be at fault. For example, if the defendant was driving under the influence, but you were speeding, you may be found to be 20% at fault for the accident. In a claim worth $200,000, you would receive $160,000.

The at-fault party may try to place blame onto you unfairly to reduce what they have to pay you. An experienced car accident lawyer will ensure that this doesn’t happen and that you secure what you deserve.

Although the vast majority of cases do not go to court, if your case involves gross negligence, malice, or fraud, then it is more likely. It is essential you have representation from an experienced trial lawyer from the beginning so that you have strong evidence to support your Texas personal injury case.

Chris Morrow Law, PLLC – The Attorney That Works

Personal injury claims allow victims to claim compensation when they are injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault. An award of punitive or exemplary damages can further ensure that a victim is not left suffering financially. It also makes a statement to the at-fault party and society as a whole that malice, gross negligence, or fraud is not acceptable.

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we will help you explore every avenue to compensation. If your case justifies punitive damages, we will help you fight for all of the compensation you deserve.

Call Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, today to arrange a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney at 512-520-8100.

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