Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant, not to compensate the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff will typically receive some or all of the punitive damages award. This is in addition to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other costs associated with the injury. It is in the victim’s best interest to work with a lawyer who understands how punitive damages work in order to make the most of this additional award.
Chapter 41 Of The Texas Civil Practice And Remedies Code
In Texas, punitive damages, also referred to as exemplary damages, are a matter of statute. They are defined in the damages section of the state Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 41. This statute explains when exemplary damages are applicable.
Exemplary damages may be available when a criminal act has resulted in serious injuries that require more than nominal damages. In other words, other forms of compensation must be substantial before exemplary damages can be considered. Furthermore, exemplary damages may be awarded if severe injuries resulted from any criminal act. In addition to drunk driving crashes, exemplary damages may be awarded to victims of assault, theft and other crimes that caused bodily harm.
Punitive Damage Awards Can Be Substantial
The statute puts a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. The award may be “two times the amount of economic damages; plus an amount equal to any noneconomic damages found by the jury, not to exceed $750,000; or $200,000.” In cases in which the crime that resulted in physical harm was categorized as a felony, the cap may be exceeded. In other words, punitive damages awards can be substantial.
Obtaining a punitive damages award is only part of the process. Since this award is typically paid by the defendant out of pocket, rather than by the defendant’s insurance company, additional legal steps may need to be taken to recover the award. It is important to choose a lawyer who not only understands how to win a punitive damages award, but knows how to collect on it as well.
At the law firm of Leonard B. Gabbay, P.C., we are well-versed in punitive damages. We offer a free case assessment to help you determine whether you are eligible for a punitive damages award in your DWI motor vehicle accident claim.