Can You Get Punitive Damages After a Truck Accident in Texas?
Posted on August 13, 2021
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You may be eligible for financial compensation as a victim or a surviving loved one of a truck accident in Texas. While no dollar amount can take back what happened to you, a fair settlement or judgment award can give you the money that you need to put your life back together and move forward. One category of damages that you may not be aware of is punitive damages. Punitive damages are available in limited circumstances.
What Are Punitive Damages?
The purpose of an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit is to reimburse an injured victim for the losses suffered in an accident. The financial compensation awarded to a victim to make him or her whole again is known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages make up for a victim’s financial and personal losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are awarded to punish the defendant.
Punitive damages are exemplary. This means that they come in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are above and beyond economic and noneconomic damages. This is why a plaintiff must prove his or her eligibility for punitive damages before receiving this type of award. The plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney must demonstrate that punitive damages are warranted based on the circumstances.
What Does Texas Law Say About Punitive Damages?
The laws surrounding punitive damages in a truck accident case differ from state to state. Some states do not allow for the recovery of punitive damages at all. Most, however, will grant an injured victim punitive damages if a specific set of circumstances exists. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 41.003 states that exemplary damages may only be recovered if the claimant can prove using clear and convincing evidence that his or her injuries resulted from:
Fraud. Fraud means to knowingly or recklessly make a false representation to the plaintiff. For example, a trucking company may be guilty of fraud if it knowingly destroys evidence of a violated safety regulation.
Malice. The law defines malice as specific intent by the defendant to substantially injure the claimant or cause serious harm, such as a truck driver experiencing road rage and intentionally ramming another car.
Gross negligence. Gross negligence is a defendant’s disregard for an extreme degree of risk to the plaintiff. If an action is foreseeably dangerous but the defendant proceeds anyway, with a conscious indifference to the safety or welfare of others, this is gross negligence.
In general, if you wish to get punitive damages after a truck accident in Texas, you or your attorney must show that the defendant(s) – such as the truck driver or trucking company – was reckless, had a wanton disregard for the safety of others or maliciously intended to harm you and that this is what caused your injury. Your lawyer will need to establish this using a preponderance of the evidence, or enough evidence to prove fault as more likely than not to be true.
How Much Are Punitive Damages Worth?
If your lawyer makes a strong case for punitive damages, a judge or jury may grant this award in an amount deemed appropriate based on your circumstances. There is no average amount in punitive damages that will automatically apply to your case. Instead, values are determined on a case-by-case basis, according to factors such as the nature of the defendant’s actions and the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Is There a Cap on Punitive Damages in Texas?
The courts have full discretion over how much to grant in punitive damages, if any. However, the amount cannot exceed Texas’ cap on punitive damages. State law says that a punitive damage award may not exceed the greater of $200,000 or twice the amount of the victim’s economic damages plus an equal amount of noneconomic damages (up to a maximum of $750,000).
For more information about how much your truck accident lawsuit might be worth, including in punitive damages, consult with a truck accident lawyer in Dallas.