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How Texas courts determine exemplary damages

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2022 | Wrongful Death

In any personal injury case in Texas, the court may award the plaintiff damages to compensate for losses suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. These damages may include compensatory (economic and non-economic) damages and punitive damages, which are otherwise known as exemplary damages. If the judge thinks it’s necessary to award exemplary damages, there’s a set of criteria that they must follow to determine the amount.

Understanding exemplary damage

According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, exemplary damages are an amount of money awarded to a plaintiff beyond the regular compensatory. The courts award exemplary damages to punish a defendant for malicious conduct or extreme negligence and deter them from similar behavior in the future.

Determining Exemplary Damages

First, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed their actions with malice, fraud, gross negligence, oppression or wantonness. Second, the jury must determine that such misconduct deserves punishment. Finally, the court must determine the extent of punishment the defendant should receive.

Other factors that may play a role in this decision include:
• The degree of culpability of the wrongdoer
• The extent to which the wrongdoing affects the plaintiff or the public in general
• The net worth of the defendant
• The situation and sensibilities of the parties concerned

The award of exemplary damages is subject to a cap in Texas, which cannot exceed more than two times the amount of economic and the maximum limit of non-economic damages combined. For example, if you were filing a wrongful death claim against a company and the court awarded you $1 million to cover economic losses and $2 million for non-economic loss, the total amount possible for exemplary damages would be $2,750,000. The $2 million comes from double the non-economic limit, and the extra $750,000 is the cap for non-economic compensation.

If you have suffered losses as a result of another party’s misconduct and think exemplary damages may be applicable in your case, it is important to understand your rights and options to ensure that you take all avenues for compensation into account. This may help you maximize your chances of receiving the maximum compensation possible from the court.