Can You Pursue Exemplary Damages in Texas?
Texas statutes allow clients to pursue exemplary or punitive damages when gross misconduct or negligence causes personal injury or wrongful death. These are awarded in addition to compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc. The purpose of exemplary damages is to punish and deter the defendant from reengaging in the same dangerous behaviors, such as drunk driving, medical malpractice, workplace negligence, etc.
Exemplary Damages in Texas
The Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, § 41.003, establishes guidelines for when a Texas court should award a plaintiff exemplary damages. The law requires the plaintiff to present convincing evidence that the defendant's fraudulent, malicious, or grossly negligent actions caused the plaintiff harm. Plaintiff must prove that a reasonable person would know that what they were doing was hazardous and they chose to take that action regardless of the danger.
Examples of fraudulent, malicious, or gross negligence include:
- Driving under the influence
- Prescribing medications to a patient with a known allergy
- Allowing a dangerous dog to roam free
- Lying about a product's safety
- Failing to repair known safety hazards
- Failing to perform necessary repairs on a vehicle, i.e., brakes, tires, and other critical systems
The reality is that many factors go into a jury's decision to award exemplary damages. The jury will consider the nature of the incident and the character of the defendant. Jury members examine the defendant's culpability for causing the accident and the circumstances surrounding the event. They will consider whether conduct is offensive to society's norms and justice, and the jury members will consider the defendant's ability to pay.
Finally, the jury must come to a unanimous decision regarding the defendant's liability and the amount of exemplary damages to award.
Damage Caps in Texas
Texas statutes limit exemplary damage awards. They may not exceed $200,000 or more than twice the amount awarded for economic damages plus the equal amount of non-economic damages up to a total of $750,000.
However, courts have considerable discretion and can waive damage caps. For example, when a drunk driver causes a motor vehicle accident that results in serious bodily injury or wrongful death.
The team at Welmaker Injury Law can help you pursue exemplary damages for your injuries. We encourage you to contact us in San Antonio by calling (210) 828-6033 to schedule a consultation regarding your personal injury claim and the types of damages you can recover.