In Texas, punitive damages are known as exemplary damages and are covered by a specific statute, which purports to govern all personal injury claims seeking punishment or punitive damages.
The law is set forth in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 41. The standards for obtaining punitive or punishment damages are more difficult than a normal negligence case against a truck driver or trucking company.
The victim must show by “clear and convincing” proof the elements necessary to be entitled to a claim for exemplary damages. Generally, the claimant must show either Malice or gross negligence.
In the context of a truck accident lawsuit, in order to seek and obtain punishment damages the claimant’s attorney must be able to show by clear and convincing evidence that the truck driver or the trucking company knew of a risk of substantial harm yet preceded forward anyway.
Normal cases such as a truck losing control because of speed, or a rear end a truck accident where the truck driver failed to timely apply his brakes usually do not entitle the claimant to seek exemplary or punitive damages. It is when the defendant’s conduct rises to the level of conduct that offends the community and an example must be made that punitive damages come into play.
It is important to note that bad damages such as a wrongful death do not entitle the family to a punitive damage jury question.
Punishment damages would require a conscious indifference on the part of the defendant and must be directly related to the damages suffered. A truck driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol should be aware that the substance may affect his driving and put the public at extreme risk.
A trucking company that knows its truck is “out of service” but puts it on the roadway anyway might be subjected to punishment damages if the accident was caused because of the out of service condition of the big truck.
While the statute limits the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in Texas, families have found the ability to obtain punishment damages against a truck driver were trucking company is some justice after a serious injury or wrongful death crash.
If you are loved one have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, contact an attorney who handles truck wreck litigation on an everyday basis to discuss your rights and options.