Given Texas’ wide-open spaces and numerous roads, streets, highways, and freeways, car accidents are unfortunately incredibly common. If you were injured by an at-fault driver in a car accident, you may be wondering what compensation can you recover?
Texas law allows the injured party to pursue financial compensation from those that caused their damages in a personal injury lawsuit. If you’ve not heard the terminology before, “damages” is a term that describes how the injured party was harmed or lost money in a personal injury or wrongful death matter.
If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence – for example, someone else was at fault for your car accident – you may have suffered damages in the form of property damage and medical bills, among other potential economic and non-economic losses.
But what types of damages are available?
Types of Car Accident Damages Available
There are many different ways to categorize damages under Texas law, but the two main classifications are actual damages and exemplary damages. The actual damages or compensatory damages category is where most of your car accident recovery will take place – it includes both economic and non-economic damages that serve to compensate the victim and at times their loved ones. Exemplary damages – which are also called punitive damages – are designed to punish a bad actor as opposed to compensate a victim.
Compensatory Economic Damages
Economic Damages are intended to compensate the victim or victims for actual economic or pecuniary loss that can be measured in monetary terms. These damages are detailed in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 41. The economic damages you can recover in a car accident case in Texas often include the following:
- Medical expenses: Any medical bills for injuries from the car accident, including but not limited to ambulance bills, doctor’s visits, parking fees at treatment facilities, physical therapy, medications, assistive devices, and even medical costs for catastrophic injuries or in fatal car accidents. This category includes both past and future medical costs.
- Property damage: Damage to your vehicle and its contents, such as a phone or eyeglasses, are recoverable in a car crash case.
- Lost wages: If you missed work due to the car accident, you can seek reimbursement for your lost wages, including any vacation or paid leave you used while receiving treatment for your injuries and/or time you took off to get your vehicle repaired.
- Loss of earning capacity: If the injuries you suffered in your accident will impact your life long-term, they can very likely also diminish your earning potential. You can seek and recover these types of damages in a car accident case as well.
Other potential economic damages you may be able to recover in a car accident case include towing and storage fees if your vehicle was towed and stored after the collision, funds for the loss of use of your vehicle or other property contained therein if these items would have helped you generate revenue, loss of services if you can no longer help relatives around the house or elsewhere as you did before the crash, and more.
Compensatory Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are not pecuniary and thus not as easy to quantify. This is yet another area where an experienced personal injury attorney can bolster your case and help you recover more money. The most common types of non-economic damages you can recover in a case accident case include but are not limited to:
- Pain and suffering damages
- Mental anguish
- Amputation or loss of a body part
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship for your loved ones
- Loss of consortium for your significant other, a child, or another loved one
It’s important to note that there are no caps on the amount of economic and/or non-economic damages in a Texas car accident case, except where the other driver was a government official or employed by a government entity.
While less commonly awarded, punitive damages are an important deterrent to bad driving behavior and negligent truck driver hiring practices, among other bad behaviors. These damages serve to punish the responsible party for reckless, egregious, dangerous, and/or callous behavior by awarding additional damages to the injured party beyond actual damages. For your case to qualify for punitive damages, you must have suffered “actual” damages, and then your car accident attorney must prove the at-fault party’s actions were grossly negligent.
While actual damages are not capped under Texas law except in cases involving the government, punitive damages are capped. Texas law caps punitive damages for car accidents at the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages, but only up to $750,000.
What About Pain and Suffering?
Texas courts most commonly award injury victims financial compensation for medical expenses (past, present, and future), loss of income due to missing work because of the injury, property damage, and “pain and suffering.” Pain and suffering refers to noneconomic damages an individual may be entitled to if he or she is hurt in a personal injury accident. Depending on the incident, Texas law has certain restrictions regarding pain and suffering awards.
Texas law categorizes pain and suffering under “noneconomic damages,” also known as “quality of life damages.” Noneconomic damages allow a personal injury victim to recover damages for the incident’s impact on their everyday life. Texas recognizes emotional, mental, and physical pain as compensable damages that can be recovered as a result of an accident.
Conveying the experience of the accident and how the injuries sustained affect a person’s life is crucial for a successful pain and suffering claim. It’s common for victims to become overwhelmed when recounting an accident and most don’t know what qualifies as a pain and suffering claim. For this reason, it’s important that victims hire an experienced Lubbock personal injury lawyer with a proven track record. Legal representation is crucial to effectively communicating a victim’s experience, so they are awarded the compensation they deserve.
Under Texas law, any of the following can qualify as noneconomic damages – whether or not they are compensable depends on a variety of other factors your lawyer must prove in court:
- Chronic pain and discomfort
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of services
- Mental anguish
- Pain from medical treatment
- Permanent disability, scarring, or disfigurement
- Permanent loss of important bodily function(s)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Psychological trauma
Pain and suffering damages can include any one or a combination of the above. Just as every case is unique, the experience and trauma endured by each victim varies, as does the amount of money victims are awarded.
If you’ve been injured or a loved one was killed in a car accident, seek out the counsel of an experienced Texas car accident lawyer. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can give your case every advantage in seeking the maximum possible financial compensation for all of the damages available under Texas law, including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.