Texas Injury Damage Caps and Tort Reform: How They Affect Your Recovery
As the victim of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to certain rights during your recovery, in order to get you back on your feet. One of these is the right to sue the liable party for adequate compensation for your injuries.
In Texas, as with all other states, you currently have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit following an injurious accident. However, having the right to file doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re guaranteed a fair settlement—especially when you must follow the present Texas maximum damage cap laws.
Texas places limits on the amount of economic and non-economic damages one can receive for certain personal injury cases, as well as placing restrictions on the maximum punitive damages that can be awarded. Damage caps could affect the outcome of your personal injury case—or your ability to make a claim at all.
- Medical malpractice non-economic damage caps. In Texas, you have the right to sue for economic damages in cases of medical malpractice. However, there is a cap—a limit to the maximum amount that can be awarded—in place for non-economic damages. The law states that you may not sue doctors or other individual health care providers for more than $250,000, and your non-economic damages award may not exceed $500,000 in cases with multiple liable parties. Therefore, the maximum amount you may receive for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit is $750,000.
- Government liability damage caps. In Texas, government organizations and entities are protected against liability in personal injury lawsuits. However, depending on the circumstances, there are cases where a government body may have limited liability where you can sue for up to $500,000. The law states that if you suffer an injury due to the negligence of a government employee or municipality, the individual damage cap for every person involved is $250,000, with a maximum total cap of $500,000 for a single incident.
- Punitive damage caps. In Texas, punitive damages may not exceed more than twice the amount of awarded economic damages plus the awarded non-economic damages (which can’t exceed $200,000). Furthermore, punitive damages cannot exceed $750,000, unless the non-economic damages are worth the maximum $200,000. For example, if you’re awarded $300,000 in economic damages and $200,000 in non-economic damages, you may be able to receive $800,000 in punitive damages (twice $300,000 + $200,000). However, if you were awarded or $400,000 in economic damages but only $1,000 in non-economic damages, then your maximum punitive damages awarded cannot exceed $750,000.
If a jury awards damages that exceed the maximum allowed by Texas law, the award will be trimmed back. That’s the outrageous part about damage caps: a fair jury has decided you need and deserve a certain level of compensation, but state law refuses to let you have the full amount.
Recent Tort Reform
The latest drive in state government has been toward restricting not only the amount a victim can receive but also his ability to recover compensation altogether. Earlier in 2017, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1774. This “tort reform” bill was signed into law by Gov. Abbott in May, and it takes full effect on September 1, 2017. Unfortunately, this legislation is all about restricting the right to sue insurance carriers.
The law specifically addresses the following when dealing with weather-related accidents:
- Limiting the right for victims to sue insurance companies. Under this bill, property damage caused by bad weather or “acts of God” will not be covered under insurance liability. Therefore, victims of such incidents cannot sue their insurance companies for compensation, nor can these acts be used as the subject of an insurance claim.
- Decreasing insurance company penalty amounts. HB 1774 will also limit the consequences that insurance companies face when sued. For example, if passed, insurance companies may not be responsible for paying plaintiff attorney fees or extra punitive damages awarded by a jury.
- Protecting insurance agents over victims. The bill will also limit a policy holder’s right to personally sue an agent, thus protecting the agent from negative consequences such as a lowered credit score.
This law can be seen as completely unfair to those who must already suffer the aftermath of an injury. As a victim, your rights will be considered far less important than the rights of the insurance company.
For more information on protecting your rights as an accident victim, contact our office today to schedule your FREE consultation. At the offices of Steve Lee, Attorney at Law, we feel that you deserve to be treated better than a big business insurance company. Even though your injuries may seem small in the eyes of an insurance adjuster, we know that even a minor injury can have catastrophic effects on your family.
Don't allow the insurance company to convince you that you and your injuries are worth less than they are. Call us today and allow us to show you that you’re worth fighting for.