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Texas Law Allows Some Victims to Recover Exemplary Damages

Justice statue and scalesIn a personal injury case, the goal is for the injured party to receive compensation from whoever is responsible. In legal language, these types of awards are called damages. There are several types of damages that may be claimed in a lawsuit, depending on the type of lawsuit and the facts of the individual case. The distinctions between different kinds of damages can be confusing, especially when you’ve been hurt and are just seeking to recover your medical costs and rehabilitation.

Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

In any personal injury lawsuit, there are typically two broad categories of damages that may be sought: compensatory damages, and punitive or exemplary damages. Compensatory damages are the things that you probably think of when you think of a settlement or jury award, and include compensation for things like these:

  • Medical bills, including hospital costs and doctor visits.
  • Rehabilitation or physical therapy costs.
  • Long-term care costs and other related expenses.
  • Property damage, such as repairing or replacing your vehicle or your home.
  • Lost wages from time spent away from work while recuperating.
  • Lost future earning capacity due to a diminished ability to work.

These are usually considered economic damages, to which a dollar amount may easily be attached. In addition, there are certain non-economic damages that you may be able to claim, such as:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Anxiety, stress, or emotional trauma.
  • Loss of consortium.
  • Inconvenience due to the injury.

Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify than economic damages. When it comes time to determine your award, the jury will have the final say regarding how to put a dollar value on these items.

Exemplary Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

There’s another kind of damage that may be sought in a personal injury case, but only under specific circumstances. These are called exemplary or punitive damages. They are intended to punish the person responsible, as well as send a message to society as a whole that the type of action perpetrated is unacceptable. According to Texas law, exemplary damages may be sought in a personal injury case only when the injury can be shown to be due to one of three things:

  • Fraud
  • Malice
  • Gross negligence

The amount of the award for exemplary damages is subject to certain restrictions, depending on the specific circumstances, but are generally limited to either: two times the amount of economic damages awarded, plus an amount equal to the total non-economic damages awarded (up to a maximum of $750,000); or $200,000, whichever is greater.

The defendant in a case involving exemplary damages may file a motion to have what’s called a bifurcated trial. In this type of trial, compensatory damages are first decided, without considering any factual information related to potential exemplary damages. The jury must first find the defendant liable for compensatory damages based on a preponderance of evidence, and then unanimously agree that exemplary damages may be in order. The trial then moves to the exemplary phase, in which the injured party must show with “clear and convincing” evidence (a higher standard than is required for only compensatory damages) that a punitive award is owed.

Legal Help With Your Injury Case

Wayne Wright LLP understands that the concept of damages in a personal injury case can be confusing, but our skilled attorneys are here for you. We’ve dedicated our lives to helping the victims of negligence, recklessness, and wrongdoing recover financially from serious injuries in a court of law. If you or someone you love has been injured and someone else is to blame, contact Wayne Wright LLP today and arrange a free consultation about the money that you may be owed. Our consultations are free and we work on a contingency basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless we win your case. Call us by phone, use the contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now to get in touch with an experienced legal professional today.