Can You Get Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?

February 3, 2021 Vehicle Wrecks

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to get punitive damages in a car accident case. Punitive damages may be awarded in car accident injury claims when the at-fault driver or other party was grossly negligent in their actions. When someone is grossly negligent, it means that they had little or no regard for the safety and well-being of others.

As opposed to damages to pay for things like medical bills and pain and suffering, which are called compensatory damages because they compensate accident victims for their losses, punitive damages are meant to punish wrongdoers for their grossly negligent or intentional behavior. These types of damages are also meant to discourage others from similar misdeeds.

While they are meant to punish the person who hurt you rather than pay you for losses, you will receive the money for these damages if they are awarded in your case.

Understanding Damages in a Car Accident Case

When you’re hurt in a crash that wasn’t your fault, there are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages you may be able to ask for. Economic damages include compensation for things that are easy to measure, like doctor bills and lost wages from not being able to work. Non-economic damages are pain and suffering. They compensate victims for chronic physical pain and emotional distress that injury accidents cause. As already stated, punitive damages, which are also called exemplary damages in Texas, are meant to punish wrongdoers rather than compensate victims.

Punitive damages are among the most difficult damages to prove. For this reason, it’s always smart to have an experienced lawyer handle your case. An attorney can advise you about whether you might be able to get punitive damages in your unique car accident case. If they believe you can, they know what kind of intricate evidence is necessary to make the distinction between negligence and gross negligence to the court.

Crash Cases in Which You Might Get Punitive Damages

If someone is simply distracted or careless when driving and causes a crash, even if it’s a bad one, you probably won’t be able to get punitive damages. That careless behavior wouldn’t rise to the level of gross negligence. So when can you get punitive damages in a car accident case? Here are some general examples of the kinds of crashes in which juries might award punitive damages:

  • In drunk or drugged driving cases
  • In hit-and-run injury accidents
  • When crashes are caused by street racing, playing chicken, or exhibiting other extremely dangerous behavior
  • When wrecks are due to excessive speeding or other extremely reckless driving
  • If someone intentionally causes a car accident that results in injury.

Punitive damages might also be awarded in cases when vehicle owners knowingly drive cars with badly malfunctioning brakes or other parts and crashes happen. Auto and auto parts makers who don’t fix defective designs in their products may also be held liable for punitive damages in accident cases. Punitive damages might be pursued against trucking companies if they knowingly push drivers to the point of fatigue, even though they know it increases the risk of accidents, and accidents occur.

How Much is a Claim for Punitive Damages in a Car Crash Worth?

All the circumstances in your case will be taken into account in deciding what your punitive damages could be worth. This will include the details of the accident, how badly you were injured, and how grossly negligent the at-fault party was in causing your injuries. In deciding on punitive damages, the court will also consider things such as the character of the at-fault party, how much they have in assets and property, and whether other victims might be harmed if they aren’t punished.

It’s important when you’re wondering what your claim may be worth to know that there is a cap on punitive damages in Texas. Punitive damages are capped at the greater of:

  • $200,000, or
  • Twice the amount of your economic damages plus the amount equal to your non-economic damages of up to $750,000.

Punitive damages caps don’t apply if the accident that caused your injuries was a felony.

To get an idea of what your individual claim may be worth, it’s very important to speak with an experienced attorney. An attorney who has successfully handled many car accident cases will be able to estimate a value range for your claim. They can also advise you whether you might have a case for pursuing punitive damages in addition to compensatory losses.

How Will an Attorney Prove Punitive Damages in a Car Wreck?

Attorneys will pursue all the evidence to prove punitive damages in a car wreck. This can include reviewing police reports, witness statements, digital evidence, crash angles, and a variety of other things. In many cases, it will also involve bringing in expert witnesses to testify on your behalf.

Successfully proving a car accident case, especially one that involves gross negligence, is an involved process that relies on a high degree of legal knowledge and experience. When you’re bringing a claim for the injuries you’ve suffered because of someone else’s extremely reckless actions, don’t hesitate to get help.

Get Help from an Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyer

Filing a car accident lawsuit is often complicated. When you are seeking punitive damages along with compensation you need to pay for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, it becomes even more so. The bar is higher in proving punitive damages than for other damages.

At the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant in Houston, our attorneys have extensive experience in winning punitive damages for clients who have been injured due to egregious negligence. To arrange a free consultation about your case, call our law firm at (713) 973-8888 today. We look forward to helping you understand what damages you may be able to ask for when you’ve been negligently injured in a car or other motor vehicle crash.

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