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June 24th, 2019

Punitive Damages and Personal Injury Cases: Everything You Need to Know

When you initiate a personal injury lawsuit with help from your lawyer, there are different types of damages you could be awarded for your injuries. It is important to understand the differences between each type and how they are awarded based on the extent of your personal injuries.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are broken down into two sub-categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are for monetary losses. They include such expenses as:

  • Lost Wages
  • Future Lost Wages
  • Medical Care and Treatment Expenses
  • Surgery Expenses
  • Rehabilitation Expenses
  • Replacement or Repair Costs for Property Damages
  • Legal Fees

Non-economic damages are monetary compensation for those things that cannot be valued and which have resulted in a negative impact on your life. These include:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Companionship
  • Physical Pain
  • Mental Pain and Anguish

Non-economic damages are considered to be subjective. As such, it can be difficult to determine their value. Often, it is at the discretion of your personal injury lawyer to determine the value and seek this amount as part of your compensatory damages settlement.

Punitive Damages

In Texas and other states, punitive damages are sometimes awarded in certain personal injury cases. Punitive damages are considered when the individual or business who is responsible for your personal injuries is found to be grossly negligent.

To make an example of the defendant and punish them for their extreme negligence, the court will award punitive damages to the plaintiff. It should be noted that punitive damages are not automatically awarded in every personal injury lawsuit.

Furthermore, the behavior of the defendant must have been one that showed a general disregard or lack of concern over the safety of others. For example, you may approach an intersection when the light turns yellow and you stop, however, the driver behind you is texting and not paying attention. They do not stop in time.

They hit the back of your vehicle, which causes you to be pushed out into heavy cross traffic. As a result, your vehicle is hit multiple times by other vehicles, resulting in more severe personal injuries. The court could find that the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent since they disregarded the safety of other motorists.

Are There Limits in Texas on Punitive Damages?

Texas does have a cap on the amount of punitive damage awarded. According to Sec. 41.008 (b) of the Texas Statues, “Exemplary damages awarded against a defendant may not exceed an amount equal to the greater of: (1)(A) two times the amount of economic damages; plus (1)(B) an amount equal to any non-economic damages found by the jury, not to exceed $750,000; or (2) $200,000.”1

For example, you are awarded $750,000 for your economic damages and $750,000 for your non-economic damages. The cap on potential punitive damages would be two times your economic damages ($1.5 million) plus $750,000 for your non-economic damages, for a total of $2.25 million.

Please keep in mind the dollar amounts used here are of illustrative purposes only. The actual amount of punitive damages you are awarded can and does vary if the court finds you are so entitled.

If you have been injured in a car accident, work accident, or another accident as a result of another’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim for economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages. Since personal injury cases are complex, they do require the expertise of qualified personal injury attorneys.

To find out more if you have grounds for filing a lawsuit and the amount of compensation you could be entitled to receive, please feel free to contact Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers for a free consultation today!


  1. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/CP/htm/CP.41.htm
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