Seeking financial compensation for an injury that someone else caused in Texas will require some knowledge of how the legal process works. You will become familiar with one term in particular: damages. In legalese, damages are the compensation awarded to an injured party (plaintiff) for a negligent party’s (defendant’s) wrongful acts. In some states, the damages available in a personal injury case are limitless. In others, however, damage caps control how much money a plaintiff can recover.
What Is a Damage Cap?
When a court awards damages in a personal injury case, it provides financial compensation to make the victim whole again. A plaintiff in Texas can recover compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are actual losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. Noneconomic damages reimburse a victim for physical pain, emotional suffering and mental distress brought by an injury.
At the beginning of personal injury law, there were no caps on the damages an injured victim could recover from a defendant. Over time, however, some states began introducing damage caps as a way to protect the system. Damage caps are meant to dissuade people from making fraudulent or frivolous personal injury claims by placing a limit on how much compensation is available. Although some states have since ruled damage caps unconstitutional, certain caps on damages still exist in Texas.
Does Texas Have Any Damage Caps?
Yes, Texas does have damage caps. If you wish to bring a personal injury claim in Texas, your financial recovery may be subject to these caps…but only if you have a certain type of case. Texas law does not place a limit on damages in every type of injury claim. Instead, it only imposes caps in three scenarios.
Medical Malpractice Claims
If you wish to hold a health care practitioner or hospital responsible for your injuries, you cannot recover more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages from each doctor or medical center. You also cannot recover more than $500,000 collectively from all medical facilities. Thus, the most you can receive in total noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice claim in Texas is $750,000.
Claims Against the Government
Under the Texas Tort Claims Act, you can hold the government responsible for its negligence and the negligence of its employees. Damages are capped in lawsuits against government organizations, however. You cannot recover more than $250,000 per person involved, $500,000 for any single event or $100,000 for property damage. This cap applies to both types of damages, economic and noneconomic.
Punitive Damage Claims
Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for gross wrongdoing or heinous acts. They are not awarded in every personal injury case. If a judge in Texas does award punitive damages, the amount cannot exceed the cap of $200,000 or twice the amount of noneconomic damages plus an equal amount of noneconomic damages, up to $750,000 (whichever is larger).
How Might a Damage Cap Affect Your Personal Injury Case?
If someone else’s negligence gave you an injury in Texas, the amount you receive in financial compensation from the at-fault party may be subject to the state’s damage caps. This will only be the case, however, if you are pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, a claim against a government entity or punitive damages.
In a car accident case against another driver that does not involve punitive damages, for example, you would not encounter any damage caps in Texas. If a damage cap does apply to your case, you will be unable to recover compensation beyond the statutory limit, even if your actual damages are worth more.
The laws regarding damage caps in Texas are controversial and constantly changing. For the most up-to-date information on the current damage caps, including if they will apply to your personal injury claim, consult with an attorney near you.