In some circumstances, an injury victim can seek damages that are not designed to compensate the victim for their losses. Instead, these damages, called punitive damages, are a civil penalty designed to punish the wrongdoer for their conduct. Because the law does not take civil penalties lightly, presenting a case for punitive damages requires the injury victim to prove the wrongdoer was engaged in some type of egregious or reckless conduct when the wrongdoer caused the injury. Drunk or intoxicated driving, as well as texting while driving, are probably the two most common types of egregious conduct that result in the assessment of punitive damages for Texas personal injury victims.
Obtaining the evidence necessary to prove egregious conduct can be time consuming and challenging. Even when the wrongdoer was arrested in connection with the injury-causing event, the government and the wrongdoer will often attempt to roadblock the victim’s access to pertinent information while the crime is being investigated. Additionally, in our experience, law enforcement has done a very poor job investigating cell phone usage in car crashes, making it very difficult (but not impossible) to prove after the fact.
Even when the personal injury victim is able to successfully prove the egregious conduct, the law in Texas caps the amount the wrongdoer has to pay as a civil penalty. However even with the caps, proving egregious conduct that allows for recovery of punitive damages can dramatically increase the overall value of a case.