If you experienced injury or loss due to the negligence of someone else, you may be entitled to compensation. The compensation should not only set you back to the financial position you were in before the injury or loss but should also make up for everything you went through.
In a personal injury case, it is possible to receive punitive and compensatory damages.
What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
The amount you are owed should be a combination of the actual expenses you have incurred because of the loss or injury and the quantified amount of damages as they relate to stress, inconvenience, and other factors.
Texas follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This takes into consideration any partial fault on your part and assigns a liability percentage to you and the other party. The amount of compensation you are owed will be reduced by the percentage by which you were responsible for the loss or injury. As long as you are not more than 50% at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation for your personal injury claim.
Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages
There are two different types of damages that you may be eligible to receive in your Texas personal injury case. Generally, you are entitled to compensation for all expenses incurred because of another person’s negligence. Compensatory damages also include non-economic (not monetary) compensation for what you have gone through. Though this sounds pretty straightforward, it can be complicated.
Punitive damages are easier to understand if you know that the word “punitive” is derived from “punishment.” Though they can be a large part of your relief, they are more about preventing the other party from continuing to act in the way that caused the damage.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are a type of relief that is available when some sort of loss or injury has occurred as a result of a negligent action. This compensation covers the actual cost of the injury or loss.
Types of Compensatory Damages
There are two different types of compensatory damages that you may be eligible to recover, depending on your circumstances.
Special damages or economic damages are a type of compensatory damage that serves to provide financial relief. Economic damages cover all expenses that you would not have incurred had it not been for the negligence that caused the injury or loss.
These can include:
- Property damage;
- Medical expenses, such as hospitalization or surgical procedures;
- Ongoing treatment costs for injuries;
- Increased living expenses;
- Lost wages if you are unable to work; and
- Reduced earning capacity due to permanent injury.
These are all expenses that you can put a price tag on. It is important to keep a detailed record of all costs you have incurred involving your injury or loss. Accurate records will help you achieve fair compensation.
General damage or non-economic damages include compensation that does not involve monetary losses. This makes non-economic damages harder to define and prove.
These may include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Mental anguish,
- Post-traumatic stress,
- Emotional and psychological distress,
- Loss of enjoyment of life, and
- Loss of consortium.
These damages are generally ongoing and impact life in ways that extend beyond finances. Just because you have been financially compensated for expenses you would not have otherwise incurred, does not mean that your life has been or will ever be restored back to order.
Though no amount of money can completely restore the damages that non-economic compensation addresses, it is certainly relevant to your claim and well deserved.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages in Texas are also called “exemplary damages.” They are designed to prevent others from being hurt by the same or similar activities through a financial deterrent. Punitive damages also serve as a warning to others who may engage in similar conduct. They are not limited to personal injury cases.
Examples of Punitive Damages Cases
There are a number of ways punitive damages are applied. Some examples of cases where punitive damages may be appropriate include:
- A manufacturer continuing to sell a known dangerous product to keep making a profit;
- A nursing home engaging in elder abuse;
- Reckless driving that constitutes extreme negligence; and
- Drunk driving.
Relief for punitive damages in Texas is not easy to acquire, but the help of an experienced attorney will increase your chances of a successful case.
To be eligible for punitive damages in Texas, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant caused the damage through:
- Malice, or
- Gross negligence.
The standard of proof is high. Punitive damages are not awarded for ordinary negligence. Gross negligence includes an extreme and probable risk of harm that the defendant was subjectively aware of. Texas does place limits on certain punitive damages.
What to Do If You Are Negligently Harmed
If you have sustained serious injury or loss because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which means you should act as soon as possible to have the best chance of success with your case.
The experienced team at Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C., can help you evaluate your chances of receiving punitive vs compensatory damages and prepare the best strategy for your unique case. We have over 85 years of combined experience in representing the personal injury interests of central Texans.
We understand that your financial situation and livelihood may depend on our effective representation, and we will strive to get you the most compensation possible for your case.