Skip to Main Content


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

Home » Blog » Can I Get Punitive Damages if I am Hurt by a Drunk Driver?
can i get punitive damages if i am hurt by a drunk driver

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 DWI 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!

Punitive Damages in DUI Accident Cases in Texas

Punitive damages, also known in Texas as exemplary damages, are “punishment” damages. Punitive damages are intended to prevent others from similar actions. They are awarded only in extreme cases of gross negligence or malice, like a DUI accident.

Exemplary damages are in addition to compensatory damages like pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and other noneconomic damages for a personal injury.

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 difficult for victims to obtain justice through punitive or punishment damages. One exception is that they are probably victims of drunk drivers, who may potentially obtain more justice by winning punitive damages.

A defendant can be convicted of a DWI if they are an adult and above a specific limit of blood alcohol.

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 is a unanimous jury verdict with clear and convincing evidence, which is a burden of proof much greater than a general negligence claim.

Proof Necessary to Get Punitive Damages From a Drunk Driver or Bar

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

  • Fraud
  • Malice or
  • Gross Negligence.

Texas law has also limited the amount of exemplary damages available 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. The cost to the DWI defendant in a criminal case is also significant.

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 the limitation on pure punishment damages under the statute inapplicable.

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 coverage is under the policy. A recent case in Texas held the auto insurance carrier not liable for punitive damages.

Are There Other Possible Defendants in a DWI or 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. Call our truck accident lawyer for a free consultation.

Why Personal Injury Lawyers May Seek Punitive Damages for a DUI Accident

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 liability insurance may or may not cover the claim. 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. Punitive damages DUI cases are valued higher by insurance companies.

Call a Houston auto accident attorney for a free case consultation if you have questions about whether punitive damages may be appropriate in your case.

Punitive Damages DUI Cases and Leverage

The fact that a Houston jury may be asked to award punishment damages to deter others from drinking and driving and hurting or killing others is a powerful settlement incentive.

At Baumgartner Law Firm, we have won numerous multi-million dollar awards where we sought exemplary damages or punitive damages in a DUI accident lawsuit.

The average settlement for a drunk driver accident is much higher than a normal car wreck injury claim.

Call Baumgartner Law Firm for a Consultation on an Injury Claim

The personal injury lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm have been helping Houston, 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 a drunk driver has injured you and you want to learn your rights and options, call us at 281-587-1111.

Baumgartner Law Firm

6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069

What Percentage Do Most Personal Injury Lawyers Take?

How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

Medical Evidence to Prove a Texas Personal Injury Claim

How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take in Texas?

Mitigation of Damages in Texas Personal Injury Cases

What is the legal alcohol limit in Texas?

Are Truck Drivers Required to Be Drug Tested After an Accident in Texas?

The Law in Texas for Exemplary Damages: