In a previous article on our web site, we discussed just how deadly alcohol-related car accidents are throughout the state of Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, as many as 1,089 individuals lost their lives in 2013 as a result of drinking and driving motor vehicle accidents. That number is rather staggering when you consider that during that same year, the number of all fatal motor vehicle accidents totaled 3,377 deaths.
Texas has long realized that alcohol impaired drivers pose a particularly dangerous risk to other motorists throughout the state. The Texas state legislature has responded to that threat by increasing both criminal and civil penalties for irresponsible motorists who engage in drunk driving.
Today, a motorist who is injured as a result of a drunk driver is allowed to seek enhanced damages in cases where a defendant engaged in gross negligence such as assaulting someone with his or her vehicle while drinking and driving. In some states, this form of compensation is called punitive damages. Here in Texas, the term "exemplary damages" applies to special compensation awarded to injured plaintiffs as a way to punish a drunk driver for his or her bad behavior.
Currently, a Texas plaintiff who is seeking exemplary damages from a drunk driver is limited to recovering a specific amount of money. In cases involving gross negligence, a plaintiff can receive as much as two times the amount of the economic damages awarded by the court, but must not exceed a total of $750,000. Additionally, a plaintiff injured through gross negligence can also receive exemplary damage compensation in an amount equal to their non-economic injuries but not exceeding $200,000 total.
Economic damages are generally referred to as compensation for a plaintiff's specific costs such as medical bills or lost wages. Whereas non-economic damages address a plaintiff's compensation for pain and suffering.
If you have been injured by a drunk driver while driving in Texas, you may be entitled to recover exemplary damages. Your Texas personal injury attorney can prove helpful in assisting you with determining whether your case merits exemplary damage awards.
Source: Texas State Legislature- Statutes, "Civil Practice and Remedies Code- Damages" Nov. 12, 2014