What Are Punitive Damages

Different types of damages are available in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one have been injured, understanding the different types of damages is essential. 

Damages are broadly classified into two categories: compensatory and punitive. Each type serves a distinct purpose. The Law Office of Lino H. Ochoa, led by award-winning personal injury attorney Lino Ochoa, can help you recover the damages available in your case.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are fundamental in personal injury claims. They aim to make you “whole” again through monetary compensation. They encompass:

  • Economic Damages: These damages are tangible and quantifiable. They cover direct financial losses for medical bills, rehab costs, lost earnings, and future loss of income. Economic damages are straightforward to calculate. They are usually based on bills and receipts.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These damages are subjective. They compensate you for intangible losses, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and the injury’s impact on your relationships. Determining the value of these damages may involve complex assessments by psychologists or therapists.

While relatively straightforward, the concept of compensatory damages sets the stage for punitive damages. These are more nuanced in personal injury claims. They also have a distinct purpose for punishing defendants and determining future harm.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are different than compensatory damages. While compensatory damages primarily aim to address your losses and compensate you for medical expenses, lost wages, or emotional distress, punitive damages serve a different purpose. 

Their goal is to punish the defendant for egregious conduct and to serve as a deterrent. Punitive damages are meant to deter the defendant, and society at large, from engaging in similar behavior in the future.

When Might I Be Awarded Punitive Damages in McAllen, TX?

Analyzing past personal injury cases in Texas provides insight into how courts have awarded damages. Punitive damages are typically considered in cases where the defendant’s actions go beyond ordinary negligence

For these punitive damages to be awarded under Texas law, the defendant’s behavior must be proven to be willfully reckless, malicious, or extraordinarily negligent. This ensures punitive damages are reserved for only the most severe and unacceptable conduct.

How Much Are Punitive Damages Worth in McAllen, TX?

Determining the amount of punitive damages is a complex process. Courts often consider various factors when valuing them. The primary considerations include:

  • Severity of Wrongdoing: One of the primary considerations is the severity of the defendant’s actions. This requires examining the harm caused, whether physical, emotional, or financial. The more severe the harm, the higher the potential punitive damages.
  • Degree of Egregiousness: The court will also consider how far the defendant’s behavior deviated from acceptable standards of conduct. Extreme deviations, such as intentional harm or gross negligence, will likely result in higher punitive damages.
  • Intent and Malice: Intent or malice is another significant factor. When a defendant’s actions are found to be intentional or malicious, punitive damages are more likely to be substantial.
  • Previous Conduct: The defendant’s history of similar misconduct is also relevant. A history of reckless or harmful behavior can lead to higher punitive damages. This usually demonstrates a pattern of disregard for the safety and well-being of others.
  • Impact on the Victims: The court may also consider the effect of the misconduct. Punitive damages may be increased to reflect the seriousness of the harm caused, especially if you have suffered life-altering injuries.

Estimating the value of punitive damages in your case is complicated. You must carefully balance multiple factors. Schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in McAllen, TX to see whether punitive damages may be available in your case.

Are There Limits on the Punitive Damages I Can Receive in Texas?

Different jurisdictions have varying laws and regulations concerning punitive damages. In Texas, state statutes explicitly outline the framework for awarding punitive damages. One of the most notable constraints is the imposition of limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. These caps are in place to prevent extraordinarily high or disproportionate awards.

In Texas, punitive damages are capped at the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages, plus an amount equal to any non-economic damages found by the jury. The amount cannot exceed $750,000 in total. Consult a McAllen personal injury lawyer to see how this cap may affect your case.

Punitive damages are a critical component of the legal system. They extend beyond mere compensation to punish and deter egregious behavior. If someone else’s negligence has injured you or a loved one, such as in a car accident or slip and fall accident, it is important to understand the role punitive damages may have in your case. 

A McAllen personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate all the damages available in your case, including punitive ones. Schedule a free consultation today.

Contact ​​our attorneys at The Law Office of Lino H. Ochoa. Call us at (956) 436-5405 today to take advantage of a free consultation with our McAllen car accident lawyer. We can explain how we can help with your car accident case.