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What Are Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Claims?

Becoming injured in an accident – whether it’s a workplace explosion, a car crash, or a defective product – can leave you with more than just permanent scars and disabilities. Accidents can also wreak havoc on your financial portfolio and future earning ability, draining your savings as you strain to pay for mounting medical expenses.

That’s why personal injury lawsuits exist: They ensure that people can be held accountable for serious acts of negligence, even when criminal behavior has not taken place. By giving financial compensation to the accident victim in the form of “damages,” the defendant may be able to make some restitution for what they’ve done, and ensure that the victim receives proper medical care.

Among the many different types of damages, there’s one that allows you to hold someone accountable for acting out of malice or “gross negligence.” These are calledpunitive damages, and they are often awarded specifically to discourage future defendants from committing the same careless acts.

When Can I Receive Punitive Damages?

Unlike economic damages, which cover your medical bills, and non-economic damages, which make up for emotional trauma and suffering, punitive damages are not compensatory at all. They are considered to be a punishment for the defendant. Due to this fact, an award of punitive damages is purely up to the judge or jury involved in the decision, if they believe that the defendant was guilty of gross negligence.

Road rage is one good example of behavior that could merit punitive damages. If another driver was shouting, screaming, and tailgating at the time of the accident, their reckless anger could prompt the judge or jury to award high levels of punitive damages to any injury victims. In doing so, they would send a clear message to other drivers that road rage has consequences.

Here are some other possible examples of gross negligence:

  • A surgeon operating on the wrong body part or organ
  • A driver zipping through a pedestrian-filled parking lot
  • A property owner leaving slippery floors un-mopped for days
  • A driver who has committed a hit-and-run accident, leaving the injured to die
  • A nurse who intentionally fails to provide updated test results for a patient

Punitive Damage Caps in Texas

While economic and non-economic damages are awarded based on need, and don’t have any caps in most cases, there are limits to how much you can receive in punitive damages. In Texas, these are capped at either $200,000 or twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 for non-economic damages. Although these caps may seem restrictive, the final result works in the plaintiffs’ favor: Punitive damages typically exceed compensatory damages by a factor of 3.

Compassionate Counsel for Your Injury Claim

No matter how you became injured, gross negligence can and should be penalized. By receiving this form of recovery, you may be able to discover greater peace of mind for you and your family, and take more time to rest, recover, and heal from your injuries.

At the Dean Law Firm, our committed lawyers are ready to help make your case, in court or at the negotiating table. We want to make sure that you are given all the care you deserve, and that the negligent party is held accountable. With decades of experience and a deep passion for justice, our attorneys will stand by your side and fight for you.

Contact us at (432) 214-8125 to schedule a no-cost initial consultation with our attorneys.

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