In Texas, personal injury damages are generally fall into two categories:
1. Economic damages (those that have intrinsic monetary value)
2. Non-economic damages (those that do not have a clear monetary value)
However, if your injuries were the result of especially reckless or malicious behavior by the defendant, you may be eligible for a third type of damage called punitive damages. While economic and noneconomic damages are awarded with the goal to “make the plaintiff whole,” the sole purpose of punitive damages is to make an example out of a defendant and show society that the conduct displayed by the defendant will not be tolerated.
A. What are Examples of Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The two most common examples of economic damages sought in a personal injury case are medical expenses and lost wages.
When seeking medical expenses in a personal injury lawsuit, you are entitled to reimbursement for procedures and services, including:
- Doctor visits
- Hospital stays
- Emergency room treatment
- Ambulance fees
- Nursing services
- Medication costs
- MRIs, x-rays, and other scans
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
In order to be awarded medical expenses, you must demonstrate that the expenses are related to medical conditions resulting from the accident or injuries alleged in your personal injury lawsuit. You may also be entitled to future medical expenses provided your injuries will need ongoing treatment. Lost wages represent the amount of money you would have earned from the time of an injury to the date of settlement. You can also recover loss of earning capacity if you have sustained a long-term disability and will be unable to make as much money as you did before your accident as well as damages for lost opportunities such as an interview or promotion you missed out on while you were recovering.
Aside from basic wage calculations (how much direct pay you lost), you are also able to claim:
- Money that reflects a promotion or wage increase provided you were due for a wage increase or promotion while out of work.
- Loss of commissions on sales.
- Bonuses that you were paid in the past and were on track to receive prior to your injury.
- Loss of fringe benefits.
- Loss of pension benefits.
You can even recoup damages for the vacation or sick leave you used while recovering from your injury.
B. What Are Examples of Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Non-economic damages are any damages that do not have a clear monetary value connected to them.Because there is no “paper trail” to base the value on, non-economic damages can be very difficult to quantify, and it can be even more of a challenge to demonstrate their value to a jury.
Some common examples of non-economic damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits include:
Pain and suffering – If your injury has resulted in pain or serious discomfort, you may be entitled to pain and suffering damages. This can include pain experienced when an injury was caused, pain experienced immediately after an injury was caused, and any ongoing pain that can be attributed to the injury or accident.
Loss of enjoyment – These damages attempt to quantify loss of enjoyment in day-to-day pursuits like hobbies, exercise, and other recreational activities.
Emotional distress – Not all injuries are physical. If your accident or injury has had a psychological impact and has resulted in things like anxiety, depression, or sleep loss, you may be entitled to emotional distress damages.
Loss of consortium – Typically applied to wrongful death lawsuits, loss of consortium damages can also be sought when a severe injury has resulted in a loss of companionship or an inability to maintain a sexual relationship with a spouse. Children may also sue for loss of consortium if the injuries have significantly hampered the victim’s ability to provide care, nurturing, or comfort.
C. How are Punitive Damages Awarded in a Texas Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In order for punitive damages to be awarded, there must first be actual damages. Actual damages include medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of wages. Without actual damages, punitive damages cannot ocur.
Second, you must be able to demonstrate that the defendant acted with gross negligence. This means showing:
- That a reasonable person in the same situation as the defendant would have known that their behavior or conduct involved an extreme degree of risk.
- That the defendant knew of the risk but acted with disregard.
The most common example of gross negligence in an auto accident is when a person is injured or killed by a drunk driver. When a drunk driver gets behind the wheel, they have made a deliberate choice to ignore the obvious risk they could pose to others.