Punitive Damages After Being Injured by a Drunk Driver
Written by Greg on November 2, 2015
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver and were injured, if the drunk driver had insurance coverage, the insurance company will most likely attempt an early settlement with you to avoid paying your full damages. One reason the adjusters try to act early is the concern about punitive damages.
In Texas, punitive damages (which are really punishment damages) are also called “exemplary damages”. The state of Texas has restricted the application of exemplary damages and also placed limits on the amount that is recoverable as punishment damages in the state.
Punitive Damages Law in Texas
The application of exemplary damages in a personal injury case comes from Civil Practice And Remedies Code Section 41.
That statute makes clear that the law applies to any action in which a claimant seeks damages relating to a cause of action. This includes personal injury claims stemming from a drunk driving accident.
Exemplary damages in Texas are very tough to obtain and require a higher standard of proof than actual damages which are things like pain and suffering or medical expenses. Because drunk driving or DWI accidents involve an extreme degree of risk to the public a court can find the conduct of the intoxicated driver amounts to gross negligence as required for punitive damages to apply. The claimant must prove the elements of exemplary damages by clear and convincing evidence.
Likewise, the statute has made it more difficult to obtain punishment damages by requiring a unanimous verdict on the exemplary damage question. The statute also limits the amount of damages that are recoverable under Section 41.
Because the drinking driver engages in such dangerous behavior, many juries have found that substantial exemplary damages were appropriate for the victim. The defendant has the option of bifurcating the trial and submitting the exemplary damage question in the second half of the case. This allows a jury to determine liability and actual damages separate from punitive or punishment damages.
Speak with a Lawyer
If you have been injured by a drunk driver and have questions regarding the claim handling process, actual damages or punitive damages, call the Baumgartner Law Firm for a no-obligation consultation regarding your rights and options at 281-587-1111.
We will do our best to answer your questions and help you in any way we can.
Houston, Texas 77069
Phone: 281 587-1111