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Can I Get Punitive Damages if I am Hurt by a Drunk Driver?

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Possibly. When a drunk driver gets behind the wheel, they should know that the chances of injuring someone else are very high. While the law in Texas requires a unanimous jury verdict and clear and convincing proof, being hit by a drunk driver may lead to an award of punitive damages in Texas.

Our Houston car accident lawyers have helped Houston victims of drunk driving car accidents seek punitive damages for over three decades. Let us help you protect your rights!

CPRC Section 41 is the Punitive Damage Law in Texas

In Texas, punishment or punitive damages are regulated under Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 41. In short, Texas has made it very difficult for victims to obtain justice by punitive or punishment damages. One exception is that is probably victims of drunk drivers, who may potentially obtain more justice by winning punitive damages.

As part of Texas’s ongoing “tort reform,” many proponents of the victim’s rights have called the exemplary damage statute harsh. Among the requirements for obtaining punitive damages are a unanimous jury verdict and a burden of proof much greater than a general negligence claim.

Proof Necessary to Get Punitive Damages

Additionally, victims must be able to prove one of the following to pursue a punitive damage case.

  • Fraud
  • Malice or
  • Gross Negligence.

The amount of exemplary damages available has also been limited by Texas law and codified in Section 41.008 -Limitation On Amount Of Recovery. There are exceptions to the limitations of the amount of punitive or punishment damages when specific penal code sections have been violated knowingly or intentionally.

The awards of punitive damages are specific to an individual defendant, and each defendant is only responsible for punitive damages and applies to that specific defendant.

DWI Cases and Punitive Damages

In the context of a drunk driving accident in Texas, juries have long been unsympathetic to the person who chooses to drive and injure innocent Texans. Just as sentences and criminal actions against drunk drivers have been severe, jury verdicts in civil cases have also been substantial in many instances. Our Houston DWI / DUI accident lawyers have been recovering maximum compensation after a drunk driving crash for over three decades.

An argument can be made that a specific criminal statute may also apply to make inapplicable the limitation on pure punishment damages under the statute.

Does Liability Insurance Cover Punitive Damages?

There seems to be a debate on whether an insurance policy may cover exemplary or punitive damages. Much depends upon the language of the specific policy in question. We have found in many instances that excess policies or umbrella policies may specifically provide coverage for punitive damages. However, the prudent person will review the insurance policies to determine whether there is coverage under the policy or not. A recent case in Texas held the auto insurance carrier not liable for punitive damages.

Are There Other Possible Defendants in a DUI Accident?

Yes. Other possible defendants in drunk driving accident cases can include bars or clubs under a dram shop cause of action and in very serious cases such as those a failure of the car or pickup truck such as a car fire or other defect, the automobile manufacturer.

Also, a semi-truck accident lawyer should be able to determine if a truck driver or trucking company intentionally violated safety rules that led to a crash or if the trucker is using drugs or alcohol.  If so, you may be able to get punitive damages from a truck accident.

Why Personal Injury Lawyers May Seek Punitive Damages

There are very important reasons why the best personal injury attorneys will seek punitive damages in their case pleadings. One of the tactical reasons is that with proof of intentional conduct, the attorney may discover the company’s or individual’s net worth.

Another vital reason is that the claim may or may not be covered by liability insurance. Suppose the exemplary damages are not covered under a liability or umbrella insurance policy. In that case, the company or individual may be personally at risk for those damages, which should provide ample incentive to push their insurance company to settle the case reasonably.

Call Houston’s leading punitive damage attorney for a free case consultation if you have questions about whether punitive damages may be appropriate in your case.

Call for a Consultation Without Charge

The personal injury lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm have been helping Texas families after catastrophic injury accidents for decades. Need to find the best personal injury attorney in Houston? Give us a call for a FREE consultation!

If you have been injured by a drunk driver and want to learn your rights and options, call us at 281-587-1111.

The Law in Texas: