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What Are Punitive Damages In A Texas Personal Injury Case?


If you have any type of personal injury case—whether it stems from a car crash, truck accident, or oil field accident—it’s critical to understand all of the potential damages you can seek.

blocks spelling punishment under a magnifying glass
In a Texas personal injury case, punitive damages are meant to punish the at faulty party responsible for your accident and injuries.

Punitive damages have nothing to do with your physical and emotional injuries from the accident. These damages are a monetary award given to the victim as a means of punishing the at-fault defendant for their negligent behavior that caused the accident.

This award also helps to discourage other people in society from engaging in similarly negligent behavior in the future, and thus helps prevent similar accidents from happening.

So while punitive damages can result in additional compensation for you in a Texas personal injury case, they’re specifically designed to punish the person who caused the accident.

Our Corpus Christi personal injury lawyers explain when these types of damages could be available and how much you can receive.

Gross negligence and examples of punitive damages

In order to receive punitive damages, you must be able to prove the at-fault party’s “gross negligence.” Gross negligence differs from ordinary negligence in that it involves the defendant behaving in a conscious and willful disregard for other people’s safety.

Examples of gross negligence behavior include drunk or distracted driving. In both cases, the defendant made a conscious decision – as opposed to a careless mistake – to engage in a type of risky behavior that could easily cause harm to others such as yourself.

In these cases, your personal injury attorney would help prove gross negligence by collecting evidence such as a police report showing the defendant was arrested for a DUI after the accident, or blood results that show a high blood alcohol content (BAC).

If the Texas court decides in your favor, you can receive a punitive damages award in additional to  regular compensatory damages. But how does the court decide what is a good award amount to give you?

How are punitive damages calculated in Texas?

While this is a question for your Corpus Christi personal injury attorney, it never hurts to have a better understanding of the basic details associated with the damages you’re seeking.

Here are some basic guidelines explaining how punitive damages are calculated in a Texas personal injury case:

  • Punitive damages are rarely awarded on their own. Instead, these damages are issued alongside compensatory damages, such as those for paying medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent disability.
  • Punitive damages should be “relatively proportionate” to compensatory damages. In most cases, punitive damages are subject to caps determined by the state.

Like many states, Texas has a dollar limit or “cap” on how much punitive damages can be awarded. The award amount is not to exceed the greater of:

  • $200,000; or
  • Two times the amount of compensatory damages (medical bills, lost income, car repairs) plus the amount of non-economic damages (pain and suffering) up to a max of $750,000.

In addition to the above restrictions, your Corpus Christi injury lawyer will also make you aware that punitive damages awarded in a personal injury case are taxable.

Here’s what the IRS has to say:

Punitive damages are taxable and should be reported as “Other Income” on line 21 of Form 1040, Schedule 1, even if the punitive damages were received in a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness.

With this in mind, it’s important to consult with an experienced injury attorney who can accurately calculate the full value of your accident’s compensatory damages, both economic and non-economic.  As outlined above, these compensatory damages will form the basis of how much money you can expect to receive in a punitive damages award.

Our Corpus Christi injury lawyers will seek compensation for all of your damages

As you recover from your injuries and begin to seek legal options after your accident, consult with an experienced injury attorney who can explain all the types of compensation available to you.

If your attorney feels that gross negligence resulted in your accident, he or she won’t hesitate to seek punitive damages in addition to your compensatory damages. Ultimately, this will help you maximize your claim, which hopefully aids in your full financial and physical recovery.

Established in 1960, The Burkett Law Firm has three generations of Corpus Christi injury lawyers and decades of experience representing injured Texans like you after an accident.

Every case is personal at The Burkett Law Firm and we’ll aggressively pursue full compensation for all the damages you may be entitled to. Give us a call today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.


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