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Can I Get Punitive Damages If I Am Hurt by a Drunk Driver?

Whether you can get punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, when you’re hurt by a drunk driver depends on:

  • The severity of the crash
  • The nature of your subsequent injuries
  • How grossly negligent or malicious the drunk driver was when they caused the crash

A Dallas car accident lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for punitive damages and/or other forms of compensation.

What Is the Texas Punitive Damages Law?

Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003, punitive damages are not readily available in civil claims, because they do not account for economic and non-economic damages. As such, they are meant to penalize the defendant.

For victims to recover punitive damages, the jury must unanimously agree to award them. Generally, this is the outcome when the court finds the defendant’s actions to be grossly negligent or malicious. Individuals who have suffered critical injuries due to a drunk driver may be entitled to collect punitive damages as part of their civil claim.

Who Is Responsible for DUI Car Accidents in Texas?

If you have suffered severe injuries in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be ready to hold the drunk driver accountable for their negligence. The drunk driver should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Because drunk driving is illegal, the drunk driver may be criminally charged. If convicted, this verdict will not automatically grant you punitive or compensatory damages, as civil cases are separate. Nevertheless, a “guilty” verdict may help bolster your case.

There are other parties who could also share liability for your injuries. Under Texas dram shop liability law, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code § 2.03, if an establishment over-served or sold alcohol to someone they knew was already under the influence and likely to be driving, this party can also be held accountable for a victim’s injuries and losses.

Proving Punitive Damages Are Appropriate in Your Case

To win your DUI car accident case, your lawyer will need to establish that another party’s negligence caused your injuries. For drunk driving cases, this task should be relatively simple, as the driver breached their duty of care when they chose to get behind the wheel while under the influence, thereby causing you significant injury and damages.

To prove that you have the right to punitive damages, your lawyer will also need to show that the drunk driver acted in fraud, malice, or gross negligence. Some types of evidence they can use to support this claim includes:

  • The police report
  • Breathalyzer test results and other toxicology reports
  • Your medical records
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Photographs of the damaged vehicles, the scene of the crash, and the road conditions
  • Traffic camera surveillance that captured the accident
  • Traffic citations

Usually, the cap for punitive damages is $750,000 or double the amount of economic damages. However, under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.008, there may be exceptions to the limitations of the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded when criminal laws have been violated.

What Other Damages Can You Recover in a DUI Car Accident Claim?

Punitive damages are different from the compensatory damages you are entitled to recover. When a drunk driver causes your car accident, you have the right to be reimbursed for every loss. This includes compensation for one or more of the following economic and non-economic damages:

  • Pain and suffering and inconvenience
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of income
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Hospital bills
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Loss of society and advice
  • Loss of guidance and support
  • Costs of physical therapy
  • Prescription medication costs
  • Costs of ongoing medical care
  • Cost of household maintenance and upkeep
  • Unexpected child care expenses
  • Property damage costs
  • Emotional distress
  • Funeral and burial expenses

A car accident attorney can help you find out what your DUI car accident claim could be worth, including your economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.

Get Help from a Texas Car Accident Attorney with Loncar Lyon Jenkins Today

Drunk drivers should be held accountable for their actions, especially when they cause severe accidents. If you have suffered serious injuries in a car accident due to a drunk driver, call in the Strong Arm with Loncar Lyon Jenkins. One of our injury attorneys can gather evidence, speak on your behalf, and seek the financial recovery you need to rebuild your life—whether that includes punitive damages.

Find out what your case could be worth when you contact our office at (800) 285-4878 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our firm will also serve you on a contingency-fee basis. Under this payment structure, we will not charge you any fees or costs unless and until we reach a financial outcome for you.

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Ted Lyon

Born in Terrell, Texas, Attorney Ted Lyon, a partner of Loncar Lyon Jenkins, attended East texas State University, now Texas A&M at Commerce, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in political science. Working as a police officer, Attorney Lyon paid his way through undergraduate school, followed by attendance at the Southern Methodist University School of Law. Learn More


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