After an injury accident, there are essentially two types of damages that plaintiffs (victims) can pursue: compensatory and punitive. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may have the right to recover these types of compensation, if negligence and causation are established. Understanding the difference between them is important to your personal injury claim, especially since not every case qualifies for punitive damages.
The purpose of these damages is to make the injured party whole, by compensating them for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses can include:
- Property damage
- Past, current, and future medical bills and expenses
- Past, current, and future lost wages
- Legal fees
On the other hand, non-economic losses are those that cannot be proven outright or calculated with a receipt. They are damages that you have suffered because of the other party’s negligence. Those can include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium or damage to a relationship with spouse or children
Compensatory damages (both economic and non-economic) are the most commonly awarded type of compensation. To obtain a fair amount, it is imperative to calculate your losses accurately, so that no expenses are overlooked. The task of calculating future costs may require testimony from medical and accounting experts.
Punitive damages are not as common and are intended to punish the defendant. They are awarded when the court feels that the negligent party committed an egregious act or demonstrated a willful disregard for the health and safety of others. With the hope that the punishment will deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are often awarded in car accident cases involving a drunk driver. Since driving while under the influence of alcohol is illegal, a driver might pay punitive damages as their penalty for consciously deciding to engage in harmful behavior, in addition to compensatory damages. The amount of punitive damages will not be based on your losses, but rather the amount that the court deems as adequate enough punishment.
Caps on Damages
Many states place caps, or limits, on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. Under Texas law, compensatory damages are not capped in most personal injury lawsuits, unless it is filed against a government entity or it is a medical malpractice lawsuit. That means many victims are entitled to pursue and may receive full compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. However, punitive damages are capped. They cannot exceed:
- Two times the amount of economic damages awarded plus the amount equal to their non-economic damages award (up to $750,000); or,
- $200,000 in cases where no economic damages are awarded.
As an example, a victim is awarded $50,000 in economic damages and $25,000 in non-economic damages. If punitive damages are available, they would be capped at $125,000 (two times $50,000 plus the $25,000 in non-economic damages).
Speak to a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Compensation
The circumstances and losses specific to your case will determine its worth. Explore your legal options and discuss your claim’s value with an experienced Houston personal injury lawyer at the Milano Legal Group PLLC. Contact us online or call (713) 489-4270 to schedule a free consultation.