Punitive damages are a step above and beyond compensation for injuries or sustained damages. Punitive damages punish the at-fault party after determining that they were grossly negligent, fraudulent or malicious. Punitive damages exist to reprimand members of society who grossly take the safety of others with little or no concern, resulting in specific injury cases.
Punitive Damages Are Designed to Prevent Reckless Endangerment
By creating additional strain on the at-fault party, the courts have successfully deterred these incidents from happening. In Houston and the rest of Texas, the only instances where an at-fault party may be held for punitive damages are:
- Gross Negligence
These damages are filed under, or covered by the Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 41. Disregarding the safety of the public, whether at-fault of a corporation or individual, cannot be tolerated.
Houston Auto Accident Lawyers Explain Punitive Damage Instances
If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident due to reckless behavior or negligence of another driver, that could fit underneath the title of Gross Negligence under the Civil Practice Code. The injured party could recover compensatory damages for actual economic losses and could also seek punitive damages as an additional penalty. However, in the state of Texas, there is a limit, or “cap” on punitive damages.
In Texas, punitive damages may not exceed the greater of:
- twice the total amount due for economic damages (such as in a personal injury case to cover medical bills and lost wages), plus, the amount that is equal to non-economic damages, also known as punitive damages, (which can’t exceed $750,000)
- or $200,000
Let’s use an example where the at-fault party is found liable by a jury for gross negligence that resulted in seriously injuring another person in a car accident and punitive damages are awarded. Let’s assume that the jury awards the injured party $1,000,000 in compensatory economic damages and $2,000,000 in non-economic damages. The injured party would recover $1,000,000 in compensatory damages for their actual economic loss. They would also recover additional punitive damages capped at $2,750,000, which is two times the $1,000,000 economic damages plus the $750,000 maximum non-economic damages allowed. The total recovery for the injured party in this example would be $3,750,000 ($1,000,000 compensatory damages plus $2,750,000 punitive damages).
Courts Discourage Lack of Reasonable Basis
After an accident occurs, it’s likely that the injured party or family of the injured/deceased party will be emotionally charged. If the court finds that the accident was truly not a result of gross negligence, the accused is in their full legal right to levy financial sanctions from the injured party. By plainly stating this rule, it prohibits people from seeking punitive damages without a reasonable cause and protects the at-fault party if the event in question was truly an accident and not an act of gross negligence.
Houston Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
If you believe that you, or a member of your family have been involved in an incident where punitive damages may be explored, you should immediately contact the injury lawyers Houston turns to for reprimandation under punitive damages against at-fault parties. We live in a civil society, and in uncivil times, compensation isn’t always enough to cover the damages.