Punitive Damages in Texas Explained
- May 9, 2013
- Personal Injury
Unlike damages sought to reimburse the victim of a Dallas car accident (claiming damages for incurred and future medical bills, loss of earnings, as well as compensation for physical pain and mental suffering), punitive damages in Texas are not actually intended to benefit the injury victim, but rather further punish the negligent at-fault party. However, if your Dallas personal injury lawyer is able to recover punitive damages should your case go to trial, then you would indeed be the beneficiary should such damages be awarded.
Punitive Damages in Texas Law
Punitive damages are only awarded in situations where the negligent party was so grossly negligent that the jury in your case is compelled to reprimand them above and beyond the full and fair compensation entitled to you under Texas law. The legislature defines gross negligence as such an entire want of care as to establish that the act or omission in question was the result of actual conscious indifference to the rights, welfare, or safety of the persons affected by it.
In addition to the legal restrictions concerning punitive damages, many insurance policies typically include clauses which protect the insurance company from paying out punitive damages. Generally, a Dallas personal injury attorney will only be able to seek punitive damages in cases of gross negligence where either such clauses do not exist, or the defendant is a corporate entity or a private individual with considerable financial resources. Claims involving punitive damages are thusly more likely to occur in auto accident cases involving truck wrecks or motor vehicle defects than in other types of car crash cases.
Claiming Punitive Damages Against Drunk Drivers
Although the actions of an intoxicated motorist would definitely fall within the law’s description of gross negligence, it is not altogether common for Dallas personal injury victims to recover punitive damages in drunk driving collision claims. However, your lawyer may still push for punitive damages should your case go to trial because it allows them to demonstrate the full extent of the at-fault driver’s gross negligence to the jury. This helps to win the favor of the jury when it comes to awarding compensatory damages even in situations where exemplary damages are not available.
Such tactics may not be used in situations where the insurance company has already admitted their client was drunk. The reason for them employing this tactic is to prevent the jury from hearing your evidence of their client’s gross negligence.
To discuss your accident case with an experienced attorney, please contact Guajardo & Marks for a free initial consultation.