Punitive damages are available in motorcycle accident cases under certain, very specific conditions. These conditions include:
- Living in a state that allows punitive damages to be awarded
- Being the victim of extreme malice or negligence
- Finding evidence of the liable party’s extreme malice or negligence (or hiring a Dallas motorcycle accident lawyer to find this evidence for you)
Punitive Damages, Motorcycle Accidents, and State Laws
Laws governing when and how a person can pursue a personal injury case are different in each state. Your location could influence:
- How long you have to begin a case
- Who you can sue after a motorcycle accident
- What types of damages you can ask for as part of the motorcycle accident compensation you can claim
- How much money you are allowed to collect for certain damages
- When you have the right to file a wrongful death suit on a loved one’s behalf
Using Texas as an example, punitive damages are available in motorcycle accident cases in this state. According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003:
- “Punitive damages” are typically referred to as “exemplary damages” in this state
- Exemplary damages will only be awarded if a jury unanimously agrees that they are warranted
- Exemplary damages will only be awarded if the plaintiff can prove “fraud,” “malice,” or “gross negligence” played a role in their motorcycle crash
As a Texas plaintiff, you would also have to work within the state’s two-year statute of limitations, found in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003. To recover any compensation at all, punitive or otherwise, you must make sure to start your case within this deadline.
A motorcycle accident law firm in your state can help you navigate and understand the local laws that pertain to your situation.
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What Is Gross Negligence in Motorcycle Accident Cases?
Many motorcycle accidents are caused by negligence, but most of the plaintiffs in such cases will not qualify for exemplary damages. Why? It is easier to answer this question by looking at examples of ordinary negligence and gross negligence.
Ordinary negligence includes actions like:
- Driving over the speed limit
- Running a red light
- Texting and driving
- Selling a faulty motorcycle part
Such actions could entitle the accident survivors—or the relatives of accident victims—to compensatory damages. These damages include direct compensation for economic and non-economic losses, including medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of wages, disability, and reduced quality of life.
By contrast, gross negligence is behavior that goes well beyond what any reasonable person would consider safe and justifiable. The following scenarios could constitute gross negligence:
- A driver allows road rage to get the better of them and starts chasing you down the highway at a very high speed.
- A motorcycle manufacturer continues selling a product they know is dangerous while refusing to issue a recall and repeatedly claiming the product is safe.
- A driver commits multiple crimes during the accident, e.g., they were drinking and drag racing, and they left the scene without stopping to help you (hit and run).
While rare, scenarios like these do happen. Anyone who was injured by such gross negligence may be entitled to collect punitive damages.
Proving You Deserve Exemplary Damages After a Motorcycle Accident
As the plaintiff, it is your job to prove to a jury of your peers that you deserve punitive damages. A motorcycle accident attorney can help you do this by collecting evidence against whoever is at fault in your motorcycle crash. Evidence could include:
- Audiovisual footage: If any nearby cameras (e.g., traffic cams) caught the accident on film, your lawyer can use the footage to show how the liable party’s actions constitute gross negligence.
- Witness testimony: Oral testimony or written statements from any third parties who witnessed the crash can speak to the at-fault party’s actions.
- Accident reports: When the police respond to motorcycle accidents, they collect evidence, speak to involved parties, and file a report detailing their findings. This report may contain valuable material for you to use in your lawsuit.
- Expert testimony: This involves asking a professional with relevant expertise to comment on your case. For instance, an accident reconstructionist could confirm that only gross negligence would have resulted in the damage and injuries you suffered.
- Company records: If you plan to sue a corporation, like a motorcycle manufacturer, your personal injury lawyer can seek access to their records. These documents can show when the manufacturer knew about the product’s faults and what they did (or did not) do to address the issue.
The more evidence your lawyer can find, the stronger your case for punitive damages may become.
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What if Punitive Damages Are Unavailable in Your Case?
As previously mentioned, exemplary damages are only awarded in the most extraordinary circumstances. There is a chance that your motorcycle accident lawyer will investigate your case and conclude that you are not eligible for such damages.
You do not have to let this stop you from pursuing a legal case. Even if it turns out you are ineligible for punitive damages, you could still have a strong personal injury case. Your motorcycle accident law firm can help you fight for all of the damages you qualify for by:
- Assessing your case’s merits
- Calculating how much you should seek in compensatory damages
- Building up your casefile with all available evidence
- Pursuing the money you need via negotiations and/or a trial
- Speaking with all involved parties on your behalf
- Dealing with all paperwork and other materials
You may face many obstacles to recovering compensatory and/or exemplary damages. Your law firm can help you meet those challenges and give you more time to focus on recovering from your injuries.
Fighting for Punitive Damages in Your Motorcycle Accident Case
At Loncar Lyon Jenkins, it is part of our job to determine if punitive damages are available in motorcycle accident cases brought to us by clients. Contact us today so a member of our team can evaluate your case at no charge. If you cannot come to our offices right away, we can begin your case virtually.