Q: Am I entitled to receive punitive damages when I’m injured by a drunk driver in Texas?
Victims of drunk driving collisions are routinely compensated for their economic and emotional losses, and they're sometimes awarded punitive damages as well. You may be entitled to receive punitive damages if you can prove the driver who caused your injuries is guilty of gross negligence.
Intoxicated drivers aren’t just risking their own lives—they're also endangering the safety of everyone else on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 13,000 Texans died due to drunk driving accidents between 2003 and 2012. When someone is injured or killed due to the irresponsible actions of a drunk driver, punitive damages may apply.
Unlike economic damages, punitive damages aren't awarded to compensate the accident victim. Instead, they're intended to punish the intoxicated driver for his grossly negligent or malicious behavior, and to discourage additional drunk driving. In Texas, punitive damages are capped at:
- Double the amount of economic damages; plus
- Either your noneconomic damages up to $750,000, or $200,000, whichever is greater.
Establishing Gross Negligence
A drunk driving accident victim will only receive punitive damages if his attorney establishes that the at-fault driver is guilty of gross negligence.
Gross negligence is more than just a momentary lapse of judgement. Rather, it means the guilty driver demonstrated a conscious indifference to the safety and welfare of the injury victim. In other words, the intoxicated driver knew his behavior was extremely risky, but he chose to disregard this risk, or he simply didn’t care.
Receiving Punitive Damages
Punitive damages will only be awarded when there is unanimous agreement by members of a jury. This is difficult to achieve, since it requires full documentation of your economic and non-economic damages; a well-developed theory of gross negligence; and clear and convincing evidence that supports your claim.
Therefore, you need a skilled personal injury attorney to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To discuss your claim, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by using the form on this page.