In the last fifteen years the criminal penalties for DWI accidents in Texas have steadily become harsher for the drunk driver. Between legislative changes and a less forgiving judicial arena, the odds of going to jail after a DWI accident where someone is hurt is significant.
Even though the criminal penalties have become stiffer, it seems that the penalties have not done much to deter drunk driving accidents in Texas. If someone becomes seriously injured from a drunk driver not only will the criminal charges be tougher but also the civil penalties have steadily increased with the public attitude toward drinking drivers.
A drunk driver accident case can easily involve punitive or exemplary damages, which are, in effect, punishment damages for the wrongful conduct of the drinking driver. In Texas, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 41 governs punitive damages and their applicability in certain cases. Generally, punitive damages in Texas have been limited by statute and the standard of proof has been raised to a “clear and convincing” burden. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, a drunk driver may find themselves subjected to a punitive damage award that is not limited by statute.
Punitive damage awards are in addition to and separate and apart from “actual damages” which include such things as medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement, physical impairment and pain and suffering. Often, the jury is asked to consider punitive damages only after the actual damages have been awarded in the case. A defendant is allowed to bifurcate the presentation of punitive damages questions apart from actual damages in a drunk driving accident case. Most defense counsel choose such option.
While the entitlement to a punitive damages award can vary from case to case depending on the specific facts of the case, the drunk driving accident seems to be tailor-made for a punitive damage award.
Not only must the defendant be concerned about the criminal charges pending against him or her stemming from a drunk driving accident but also in Texas, punitive damages are very likely to be a part of the justice in the case.
2Greg Baumgartner is a Texas DWI accident attorney and the founder of the Baumgartner law firm, which is dedicated to helping personal injury victims seek civil justice. If you would like to speak with a DUI accident lawyer call the Baumgartner firm.
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