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Can I Get Punitive Damages After a Car Accident in San Antonio?

Posted in Car Accidents on March 22, 2021

Damages are the financial compensation you can receive for your economic and noneconomic losses after an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, such as a car accident in San Antonio. There are two main types of damages available: compensatory and punitive. Most car accident claims result in compensatory damages; punitive damages are much more rare.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Compensatory damages make a victim whole again by restoring him or her to the state he or she would have been in had the accident never happened. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish a defendant for his or her wrongful actions. The goal of punitive damages is to dissuade the defendant and others from committing the same type of wrongdoing in the future. They act as a warning against similar negligence in the community.

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded in a Car Accident Case?

Although most successful personal injury claims will result in compensatory damages for a victim’s tangible and/or intangible losses, not all claims will result in punitive damages. The laws regarding punitive damages differ from state to state. These damages are not available in some states. In Texas, punitive damages are only awarded by a judge in special cases to punish the defendant for gross negligence, fraud or malice. If a defendant is guilty of egregious wrongdoing, severe carelessness, a wanton disregard for the safety of others or a malicious intent to harm, the injured victim may receive punitive damages to penalize the defendant. To recover punitive damages, a plaintiff in Texas must specifically request these damages and prove the severe nature of the defendant’s tort. The plaintiff may need a lawyer’s assistance with this burden of proof.

What Types of Car Accident Cases Are Most Likely to Receive Punitive Damages?

A judge will award punitive damages on a case-by-case basis. Whether or not a victim receives this type of award depends on the unique factors of the case. For a car accident case in San Antonio to result in punitive damages, the defendant must be guilty of extreme negligence or recklessness. Common examples of car accident cases that may receive punitive damages in Texas are:
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Road rage or aggressive driving
  • Excessive speeding or racing
  • Driving while distracted
  • Hit-and-run accident
  • Driving with a revoked or suspended license
  • A bus driver texting and driving
  • A manufacturer concealing known auto defects
A plaintiff’s eligibility for punitive damages in San Antonio will depend on the specific situation. Punitive damages will depend on factors such as the defendant’s actions in causing the accident, how much the defendant’s tort affects the sense of justice in the community and the defendant’s ability to pay punitive damages.

Texas’ Punitive Damages Cap

Like many states, Texas has a cap on punitive damages available in a personal injury case. There is a limit to how much you can receive in punitive damages as a plaintiff during a car accident lawsuit in San Antonio. A jury in Texas cannot order a defendant to pay more than $200,000 in punitive damages if you did not receive an award in economic damages. If you did receive an economic award, the punitive damage cap increases to twice the amount of your economic damages plus an equal amount in noneconomic damages, up to a maximum of $750,000.

When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in San Antonio

If you believe the person or party who caused your car accident in San Antonio is guilty of extreme negligence, malice or a wanton carelessness for the safety of others, consult with a car accident lawyer for assistance with your claim. A lawyer can help you request punitive damages and prove your eligibility for this type of compensation using evidence such as eyewitness statements, a police report and any citations given to the driver. The best way to secure the compensation you deserve, including a punitive damage award, is by hiring a lawyer to represent you.