Houston Woman Killed in Drunken Hit and Run
In Houston, Texas, a suspected underage drunken driver was arrested after he allegedly fled from the scene after he struck a woman with his car and killed her. The accident occurred at around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22. Sadly, in Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Lubbock and all throughout Texas, citizens get behind the wheel drunk every day. Should the family of the slain woman decide to sue the drunken driver for the woman’s wrongful death, the will likely be eligible for actual and exemplary damages.
What is the difference between actual and exemplary damages?
We have discussed in previous posts the definition of actual damages. As a reminder, actual damages cover the direct cost of an injury. Injuries are not just physical, but emotional and psychological as well. Actual damages are a way of attempting to make someone “whole again.” That is, to right the wrong so that the scales of justice are balanced again. Actual damages work well when an accident is the result of simple negligence. Negligence occurs when someone does not take reasonable, proper care. Usually, this negligence is not the result of maliciousness or callousness. For example, someone who changes lanes and does not properly check their blind spot is probably guilty of being negligent. While they are at fault if they run into someone and should be held responsible, they did not act with any ill will or callous disregard for safety. It is a common, human error.
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The trier-of-fact awards actual damages to a plaintiff if the plaintiff proves the elements of a tort offense by a preponderance of the evidence. “Preponderance of the evidence” is a legal term that basically translates to “more likely than not.” Therefore, if a plaintiff shows that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused his or her injuries, then he or she is entitled to actual damages.
Exemplary damages, also known as “punitive damages”, are not designed to make a victim whole. Instead, they are designed to punish the wrongdoer. Exemplary damages are awarded in addition to actual damages. In our tort system, we only want to punish the wrongdoer when they engage in outrageous or malicious conduct. Texas law defines “malice” as either a) a specific intent to substantially injure or b) an act or omission that involves a conscious indifference to an extreme degree of risk. What this means is that you can get exemplary damages if someone purposefully sets out to hurt you with ill will, out of spite, an evil motive, or just to purposefully hurt you, or you can get exemplary damages if, viewed objectively from the defendant’s standpoint, the defendant was aware that his actions were risky and took those actions anyway without concern for the risks involved or for the safety or welfare of others.
Because exemplary damages are a punishment, a plaintiff must prove with clear and convincing evidence that they are warranted. Clear and convincing evidence is stronger that “more likely than not” evidence.
If you or a loved one has been injured, please contact one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys for a free consultation.
See Related Blog Post:
Why Do I Need an Attorney?http://www.brianloncar.com/need-attorney
McAllen Woman Sues Texas Roadhouse http://www.brianloncar.com/roadhouse-in-mcallen-sued
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