Punitive damages are damages awarded against a defendant as punishment for conduct such as fraud, malice or gross negligence. Occasionally, the news media publishes stories about large punitive damage verdicts. What is often not mentioned in these stories is the reduction of punitive damages by judges pursuant to state law. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 41 caps punitive damages to the greater of: (1) two times economic damages plus an amount equal to noneconomic damages found by the jury not to exceed $750,000; or (2) $200,000. Economic damages are compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. Noneconomic damages are compensation for items such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, impairment and mental anguish.
In addition to placing caps on exemplary damages, Texas Law requires a higher burden of proof and a unanimous decision to award punitive damages. Civil law requires the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the plaintiff must prove punitive damages are warranted by clear and convincing evidence. This is a standard between beyond a reasonable doubt and preponderance of the evidence. Convincing a jury to award punitive damages is not easy, and judges often reduce the exemplary damages even when they are awarded.
If you have been injured as a result of negligence or gross negligence, contact the O’Hara Law Firm to learn about your rights regarding compensation. Attorney O’Hara has experience representing victims of catastrophic injuries. The O’Hara Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis, so we do not get paid unless we recover compensation for you.