What Are Punitive Damages?
Some accidents are catastrophic for the victims, leading to much pain and suffering, high medical costs, and loss of ability to earn a living. The outcome can be frustrating for a victim who is offered compensatory damages that don’t adequately cover the value of these damages.
With the help of a skilled personal injury attorney in Mesquite, victims can sue for punitive damages. Personal injury laws allow for the payment of accident-related expenses and money that serves as punishment for severe negligence and disregard for others’ safety and well-being. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, fall in this last category.
The Punitive Damages Law in Texas
Punitive damages can be awarded in personal injury cases. The court must establish that the defendant was grossly negligent, malicious, or fraudulent in their behavior, leading to the victim’s injuries. Proving these elements to the court when pursuing punitive damages can be challenging without the input of a skilled catastrophic injury attorney in Mesquite.
Most claims for punitive damages in personal injury cases arise from gross negligence. A catastrophic injury attorney in Mesquite can help you prove that the defendant committed an act or omission:
- Which, when viewed objectively from their standpoint at the time it happened, involved an extreme degree of risk. The actor should have considered the probability of causing harm to others and the magnitude of damage.
- Which, the defendant had actual, subjective awareness of the risk at hand, but still proceeded to commit the offense without regard for the rights, safety, or welfare of others.
Gross negligence doesn’t always imply that the defendant intended to cause harm but proceeded with reckless abandon, causing damage to the victim. For example, shooting a gun over people’s heads without the intention to shoot anyone is gross negligence if anyone is injured.
Malice involves the actual intent to cause substantial harm or injury. Proving malicious conduct entails showing that the defendant looked forward to the consequences of their action or they believed that acting a certain way would have a specific result. So, firing a gun at someone involves malice since substantial harm or injury is expected.
Fraud is generally deception or cheating. So, when seeking punitive damages based on a defendant’s fraudulent behavior, you must prove actual fraud or their intention to deceive you. Unintentional misrepresentation that you act upon doesn’t suffice as fraud.
What Evidence Does the Jury Consider When Deciding How Much to Award in Punitive Damages?
The jury in your personal injury lawsuit has the authority to determine if you have proven the elements of a punitive damage claim through clear and convincing evidence. If so, they can decide how much to award you for punitive damages. Some factors to look into include the following:
- The nature of the wrong
- The character of the defendant’s behavior
- The degree of guilt of the defendant
- The defendant’s net worth
- The extent to which the defendant’s conduct offends a public sense of justice or decency
- The sensibilities and situation of the defendant and the victim
You can request the defendant to provide information about their net worth through your Mesquite catastrophic injury attorney. However, the defendant can ask the court to limit this discovery. That’s why you should choose an aggressive attorney who can navigate this issue to ensure a favorable outcome.
How Much Can I Recover in Punitive Damages?
The amount of damages you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit is limited. The Texas Civil Proactive and Remedies Code refers to the limit as “Damage Caps.” Punitive damage caps are typically capped at the amount greater between:
- $200,000 and
- Twice the amount of economic damages plus an amount equal to non-economic damages up to $750,000
Cases Where the Cap Doesn’t Apply
The maximum amount and formula for punitive damages differ in the case of medical malpractice lawsuits and claims involving the government. When the defendant’s actions amount to felonies and are committed “knowingly and intentionally,” you can seek punitive damages in excess of the usual cap.
Some felonies to which the cap exception applies to include:
- Sexual assault
- Intoxication manslaughter
- Intoxication assault
In the case of intoxication assault and manslaughter, proving that the defendant acted knowingly and intentionally is unnecessary. The elements are often associated with DWI cases, and your accident lawyer in Texas can fight for unlimited punitive damages.
Wrongful Death and Punitive Damages
You can seek exemplary damages in a wrongful death case if you can prove that your loved one died through an act of gross negligence or willful malice. Since the cases are highly situation-specific, contact an experienced Mesquite personal injury attorney for legal guidance. An experienced lawyer will skillfully demonstrate your entitlement to punitive damages.
Who Makes Decisions About Punitive Damages?
Your catastrophic injury attorney in Mesquite can negotiate in the arbitration process for an additional award in addition to the compensatory damages owed. They can win punitive compensation based on the suffering you endured due to the egregious behavior due to the defendant’s fault.
Secondly, if a case needs to go to court, the jury can decide to award punitive damages, but this option is often complex as a complete agreement is necessary for a jury trial in Texas. The juror must agree on the liability and the amount to be awarded.
A Legal Professional Helping You Fight for Fair Compensation
Winning punitive damages can be challenging because of the decisions courts must make. That’s why you should engage the services of a skilled catastrophic injury attorney in Mesquite. After suffering severe injuries, high medical expenses, and enduring pain and suffering due to someone’s negligence, you deserve more than these primary reimbursements.
If you don’t know where to turn for legal assistance, our lawyers are ready to help. We provide a solid legal strategy to help clients pursue the compensation they deserve. Don’t suffer alone in silence if you have been a victim of someone’s negligence. Contact Oberg Law Office at 972-640-9147 for skilled legal guidance.