Punitive Damages In Drunken Driver Cases
Written by greg on February 9, 2015
In Texas, punishment or punitive damages are regulated under Civil Practice And Remedies Code Section 41. In short, the state of 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 is ongoing “poor reform” many proponents of victim’s rights have called the exemplary damage statute harsh. Among the requirements for obtaining punishment damages are a unanimous jury verdict and also a burden of proof that is much greater than under a general negligence claim.
Additionally, victims must prove one of the following in order to pursue a punitive damage case.
- Malice or
- Gross Negligence.
The amount of exemplary damages available has been limited by law in Texas and has been codified in section 41.008 -Limitation On Amount Of Recovery. There are certain exceptions to the limitations of the amount of punitive or punishment damages when specific penal code sections have been violated either knowingly or intentionally.
The awards of punitive damages are specific to an individual defendant and each defendant is only responsible for the amount of a punishment damages and applies to that specific defendant.
In the context of a drunk driving accident in the state of Texas, juries have long been unsympathetic to the person who chooses to drink and drive and injures 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.
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.
There seems to be some debate whether or not exemplary or punishment damages may be covered by an insurance policy. Much depends upon the language of the specific policy in question. We are found in many instances that excess policies or umbrella policies may specifically provide coverage for punishment damages. However, the prudent person will review the approval insurance policies to determine whether there is coverage under the policy or not.
Other 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.