Can You Demand Punitive Damages in Your Houston Auto Accident Case?
There are really only two reasons why somebody would call a Houston auto accident lawyer. Either they want compensation for their injuries, or they want justice. These are not necessarily the same thing. Nobody should have to shoulder the burden of medical bills if they didn’t cause their car accident. At the same time, accident victims want someone to stand up and hold the other person responsible. One way to do that is to file a lawsuit against the other driver and their insurance company.
One of the first questions car accident victims ask their lawyer is – how much is my case worth? It wouldn’t be fair for any Houston auto accident lawyer to give you an exact figure the first time they meet you. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to do that over the phone. There’s no way to know what sort of damages you’re entitled to until your lawyer has thoroughly reviewed your case.
When you go to your free, initial consultation, your attorney will try to answer all of your questions. But they won’t have a good grasp on your case until they’ve time to look into it. They need to see what sort of evidence you have to support your claim. They also need to see what the defendant is saying. After they’ve had a chance to do this, they can give you a better idea of what your case is worth. They can also let you know if you have a shot at getting punitive damages.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Most of the time, car accident victims sue the defendant for compensatory damages. In other words, they want someone to take care of their medical bills and out of pocket expenses. In other cases, the plaintiff can also demand something called punitive damages. These are damages intended to punish the defendant for their behavior. Typically, you can’t demand this sort of damages in a car accident lawsuit. In order to make this kind of demand, your Houston auto accident lawyer is going to have to show one of the following:
- The defendant acted with malice
- The defendant was grossly negligent
- The defendant acted fraudulently
It isn’t easy to prove any of these things. The only time a judge wants to award punitive damages is when they want to send a message. That message is one of two things. Either they want to make sure the defendant is afraid to ever behave that way again. Or they want to let other drivers know that if they act like the defendant, they too may be hit with punitive damages.
Your Houston Auto Accident Lawyer Knows How Rare it is to Be Awarded Punitive Damages
Your Houston car accident lawyer is not going to promise you that you will receive punitive damages. They know how rarely this happens in a car accident case. Some of the situations in which the judge may award you this special type of damages include the following:
- The defendant was high or drunk at the time of the crash
- The defendant was drag racing on a public street and ended up hitting your car
- The defendant was fleeing from the police and hit you while going the wrong way down a one-way street
The good news is that your attorney understands how to prove this sort of case.
Contact a Skilled Houston Auto Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
You may decide early on that you don’t need a car accident attorney in Houston. Maybe your case only involved a few hundred dollars in vehicle damage. Or perhaps the insurance company paid your claim right away. If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky. If, however, your claim is denied, you may need to take legal action. The best way to do that is with a skilled attorney by your side.
What you should do is call and schedule your free, initial consultation right away. Don’t wait too long to do this. You want to give your lawyer enough time to properly prepare your case. They’ll also need time to negotiate a settlement of your claim. You also need to make sure you don’t miss the statute of limitations. In Houston, you only have two (2) years to take legal action. If you miss this deadline, you won’t be able to take any legal action. So, call right away and set up a date and time that works for you. The consultation is free, and you don’t have to pay a dime until your case is resolved.