Claiming Punitive Damages in Austin: When Should You Seek Them and Why?

Punitive damages, otherwise known as exemplary damages, are awarded to defendants in order to punish them or help them reform if they have been unusually malicious or reckless in their conduct.

Austin follows the same punitive damage laws as the rest of the country, except with a cap on the damages. Hiring Austin personal injury lawyers who are well-versed in the law will give you a better chance of claiming punitive damages.

When are you entitled to seek punitive damages?

You’re allowed to seek damages for any personal injury or wrongful death. Personal injury includes damages from car accidents, falls due to inadequate safety at a workplace, etc. 

If someone you love was killed due to the negligent actions of another person, you can file for punitive damages under wrongful death claims.

Punitive damages are also called exemplary damages, as they are awarded in addition to compensatory damages for injuries or other damages incurred. 

The definition of harm under this law includes fraud, injury, or death caused to other people. The degree to which the defendant was negligent also influences the case.

Different states have different caps on the damages you can be awarded. Punitive damages cannot be awarded on their own. They can only be granted in addition to other damages, like car accident claims. 

Punitive damages can also be claimed for medical malpractice cases.

Proving negligence

In order to claim such damages, you have to prove that the person who caused the injury did so intentionally or with a degree of awareness that indicates negligence. 

Different states define gross negligence differently. For example, in Texas, the defendant is required to have actual awareness that their actions will cause harm and behave with conscious indifference towards those around them.

An example of gross negligence is driving dangerously over the speed limit. Drunk drivers also fall under this category.

Proving fault is done by gathering witness testimony, medical records, proving the defendant’s intentions, etc.

Even if the victim signed a waiver saying they would not sue an establishment, such as a hotel, for negligence, if the degree of negligence was really high, the court would ignore the waiver.

Cap on damages

The amount of damages awarded depends on 

  • The nature of the defendant’s conduct
  • The assets the defendant owns
  • The harm the victim suffered due to the defendant’s actions
  • The degree to which other victims might suffer if the defendant is not punished

Some states have a cap on the amount of punitive damages that are awarded. In Texas, that amount is $200,000 or two times the damages suffered by the defendant, plus non-economic damages not exceeding $750,000.

The cap does not apply to felonies such as murder, sexual assault, or fraud. 

Punitive Damages – an example

Claiming Punitive Damages in Austin: When Should You Seek Them and Why?

The most famous damage claims case was against McDonald’s in 1992 when an elderly woman was scalded by hot coffee from McDonald’s. She suffered third-degree burns after accidentally spilling coffee on her lap while trying to add some cream and sugar. 

She was awarded $200,000 in damages, which was reduced to $160,000, and an additional $2.7 million, which was equivalent to two days of coffee sales. 

Accidents can be painful and expensive. You have the right to seek damages for your suffering. Having competent attorneys assisting you can help you win fair damages.

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