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Houston Auto Accident Compensation: Punitive Damages 101

Cars after rear end accident, victim may be able to seek punitive damages for Houston auto accident compensation

Punitive damages may be available for Houston auto accident compensation in some car accident cases.

There are many types of Houston auto accident compensation that may apply for your case. After a car accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for expenses related to the accident they caused. However, they may also be liable for punitive damages. While these types of damages are rare in car accident cases, they may be available for your case. In this article, we’ll discuss punitive damages, when they apply, and some other information you may need to know for your case. 

Houston Auto Accident Compensation: Types of Damages Available

Victims of car accidents can seek various types of Houston auto accident compensation. These include:

  • Medical Expenses: The at-fault driver is responsible for your medical expenses for any injuries from accident. This includes not only current medical expenses, but future expenses. For instance, if you will probably need additional surgeries or ongoing treatments. 
  • Lost Wages: If you had to take time off of work to heal or attend medical appointments for injuries related to the accident, then you can also seek compensation for lost wages. Even if you used paid time off, you can still seek compensation for that lost time. 
  • Lost Earning Capacity: If your injuries have left you with permanent side effects to your career, such as disability, then you can also ask for lost earning capacity damages. These are essentially to make up for what you would have made if not for the accident. This can apply if you can no longer work any job due to your injuries or if you must switch to a different profession after the car accident. For instance, if you worked a physically demanding job before the accident, but injuries make this impossible for you to do in future. 
  • Property Damage: In most car accident cases, there will be some type of property damage, such as to your car. You can seek Houston auto accident compensation for property damage to repair or replace your damaged property. 
  • Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a type of non-economic damage. You don’t receive a bill for pain and suffering, but it’s certainly real. You can typically seek compensation for pain and suffering due to your injuries. For instance, if an injury to your back during the accident causes lifelong pain, or if you suffer psychological trauma after the accident. 

What are Punitive Damages?

The above damages are known as compensatory damages. This is because they are meant to compensate you for issues stemming from the accident. However, there is another type of damage that you may be able to seek for your car accident case. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are non-compensatory. This means they’re not meant to reimburse you or balance out your losses from the accident. Instead, they are meant to punish the at-fault driver. Even so, when awarded, this form of Houston auto accident compensation goes to the victim. 

The idea behind punitive damages is that they are meant to punish the defendant (the person who caused the accident). They are to help deter the at-fault driver and others from acting similarly in future. Basically, making them pay more money for an accident may make them and other drivers think twice before doing something risky on the roads. However, keep in mind that punitive damages are not always available. In fact, they are relatively rare for car accident cases. 

When are Punitive Damages Available for Houston Auto Accident Compensation?

Texas law restricts when you can seek punitive damages in a personal injury case. They are only available when the plaintiff causes injuries through fraud, malice, or gross negligence. In most cases, if you’re seeking punitive damages in a car accident case, it’s because you believe the other driver acted with gross negligence. However, malice may also be at play if their actions were intentional. 

Gross negligence is basically acting in a way that you know (or should know) will likely cause harm. It’s far beyond normal negligence, like not looking thoroughly before backing up your car into someone else’s or not stopping in time before a crash. Each case is different, but gross negligence may apply in drunk driving cases or in Houston reckless driver accident cases, such as street racing, playing “chicken,” or driving significantly over the speed limit. It may also apply if someone takes a prescribed medication they know can affect their driving and decides to drive anyway. 

For malice to apply, the driver has to intend or desire to do harm. For instance, intentionally swerving toward a pedestrian or forcing another car off the road into a ditch during a road rage situation might be considered malice by the law. 

How to Calculate Punitive Damages for Houston Auto Accident Compensation

If you think punitive damages may be available for your car accident case, talk to your attorney about how to calculate total Houston auto accident compensation for your case. Usually, the amount is based on the other damages you’re seeking. 

In Texas, there is a cap on the amount of punitive damages you can receive. This amount is either $200,000 or two times your economic damages plus the amount of your non-economic damages (or up to $750,000), whichever is more. This can be a little confusing, so let’s look at an example: 

You are in a car accident with a drunk driver. Your economic damages (lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, and property damage) total $2 million. Your non-economic damages are worth $1 million. In this case, you may be able to seek a maximum of $4,750,000. This is twice the $2 million in economic damages plus the maximum equivalent of the non-economic damages ($750,000). 

Can You Get Punitive Damages from Houston Traffic Accident Insurance Claims?

Most car accident victims choose to go through the Houston traffic accident insurance claims process. Therefore, you might be wondering if you can ask for punitive damages from the other driver’s auto insurance company. It’s important to keep in mind that most auto insurance policies exclude punitive damages from their coverage. Also, if you take a settlement for the car accident claim, you usually sign a form saying you will not go after the insurance or the driver for additional Houston auto accident compensation. Therefore, it’s important to know if you want to seek punitive damages. This way you can speak to your lawyer about how to proceed with your case. In many cases, you will need to file a lawsuit to get punitive damages.

Work with a Lawyer to Seek Punitive Damages in Court for Houston Auto Accident Compensation

Hiring an attorney for your car accident in Houston can help you through the legal processes for your personal injury case. Your lawyer can help you determine the value of your case, gather evidence, and build a strong case against the other driver. If you’re seeking punitive damages, then you will need to provide evidence of the driver’s gross negligence or malice. This can be tricky in many cases, so it helps to have an attorney on your side gathering evidence and arguing your case in court. They can also help you understand your rights and avoid taking a low ball settlement and signing the insurance company’s liability release form until you’re ready and are happy with the amount of your Houston auto accident compensation. 

DeSimone Law Office – Your Lawyer for Car Accidents in Houston

Get the legal advice you need after a car accident from our lawyers at DeSimone Law Office. We offer experienced legal counsel for car accident cases of all types. Our lawyers are here to help you build your case, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and even represent you in court for your case. Get in touch now for a free case evaluation with our legal professionals.

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