Like many states, the state of Texas places limits on the amount of financial compensation that a plaintiff can obtain from a personal injury case. Whether it be a car accident, medical malpractice or some other type of personal injury, the court will only award damages up to a set limit. In certain circumstances damage caps can make it more difficult to move forward with a case, so it is important for injury victims to be aware of damage caps and how they apply to their individual circumstances.
Types of Damages
There are several different categorizes of damages that pertain to personal injury cases. These include:
- Economic Damages – includes lost wages and medical bills
- Non-Economic Damages – includes pain and suffering, mental anguish, and physical impairment
- Punitive Damages – extra damages imposed by the judge or jury to punish the defendant for wrongdoing
Some types of damages, including non-economic and punitive, are limited in Texas. However, there are no caps on economic damages in Texas.
Texas Personal Injury Caps
Texas has caps for personal injury cases under certain circumstances. These include:
It is common for a court to award punitive damages in personal injury cases as a form of punishment and deterrent. If the actions of the defendant were deserving of punishment, the court may decide the plaintiff deserves extra compensation in the form of punitive damages. The extra cost to the defendant is intended to punish and to set an example to discourage similar behaviors by both the defendant and others in the future.
Texas law states that punitive damages cannot be greater than $200,000 or double the total of economic and non-economic damages up to $750,000.
In most cases government entities are immune from liability, but there are exceptions. In a situation where a government entity does have liability, Texas law puts a cap on the damages that can be awarded in the lawsuit. In cases involving the state, such as a case where a police officer is accused of wrongdoing, the plaintiff can only obtain up to $250,000 in damages. If there is more than one plaintiff, the plaintiffs can only be awarded up to $500,000 in total.
For government entities other than the state, such as an emergency service, the cap is set at $100,000 for an individual and $300,000 for a group involved in a single occurrence.
Texas Medical Malpractice Caps
In a medical malpractice case, the two main types of damages are economic and non-economic. In Texas there are caps on the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff can be awarded by the court based on what category the defendant falls into.
Healthcare Provider Caps
Cases against physicians and other healthcare providers are limited to $250,000 in non-economic damages per claimant.
Single Healthcare Institution
If the defendant is a single healthcare institution, Texas law limits damages to $250,000 per claimant.
Multiple Healthcare Institutions
For cases where the claimant is pursuing non-economic damages from more than one healthcare institution, the law limits damages to $250,000 per institution. There is also a $500,000 cap on total damages that a claimant can collect from multiple institutions.
Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Caps
Wrongful death cases – where an individual dies in relation to negligence – are treated somewhat differently than other medical malpractice cases in Texas. Unlike the caps for non-economic damages for other types of medical malpractice, the damage caps for wrongful death cases is adjusted based on inflation. The total amount of non-economic damages a claimant can collect in a wrongful death case is $500,000 in 1977 dollars – which today amounts to almost $2 million.
Understanding How Damage Caps Apply to Your Case
If you or someone you love is a victim of personal injury or medical malpractice caused by negligence, it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney about your case. Texas damage caps can make pursuing a case more challenging, but there is still a strong chance that you can collect enough damages to make legal action worthwhile.