Can You Get Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?


Following an accident with a negligent driver, here’s something you may be wondering — can you get punitive damages in a car accident case? While your first concern is the health and safety of yourself and those you love, at some point you may want to consider pursuing those punitive damages in addition to damages for injury and property.

Being in a vehicle accident can be devastating. Whether you or those you love suffer serious injuries, or you feel fortunate to walk away with only minor scrapes, it’s essential to know what your options are. All too often, the cause of the accident is a negligent driver, and when this happens, you may be able to seek punitive damages.


Punitive damages, recognized as exemplary damages in Texas, are distinctive damages awarded for the extreme misconduct or gross negligence of the other driver. This penalty for such reckless behavior is intended to punish and possibly shame the negligent driver. It also provides a way to deter other drivers from behaving in a similar manner while on the roadways.

Overall, the answer to “Can you get punitive damages in a car accident case?” depends upon the state where the accident occurs. A few states do not allow for punitive damages in any civil action, while others have no limitation on such damages.

Other states, including Texas, do allow for punitive damages but place limits on how much you can be awarded. These awards also come with stringent requirements for a successful outcome.

All drivers have a requirement to practice a duty of care to the other drivers on the roadways. This duty is to avoid behavior that could potentially harm another. For example, drivers are expected to follow all road rules, such as posted speed limits, and to adhere to roadway signage instructions and signals.

Examples of behavior leading to potential punitive damages include:

  • forcing another car off the road
  • excessive speeding, or racing
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances
  • leaving the scene of a hit and run with injuries
  • knowingly driving a car which is unfit for the roadway due to poor maintenance or malfunctioning parts (such as brakes).

This list is not exhaustive, by any means, so seek the advice of an experienced car accident attorney to determine your eligibility to sue for punitive damages.


Punitive damages will not always be awarded in car accident cases. Much will depend on the level of negligent behavior on the part of the other driver. For this reason, your case will need to provide proof that such egregious behavior actually occurred and to what extent.

Essentially, you will need to show that the driver acted extremely negligently and that he or she should have been aware of the potential danger of their actions. In other words, they knew or reasonably should have known that their negligent actions could lead to a high risk for another’s safety.

How do you get punitive damages after an accident? Working with your legal team, you’ll need to compile convincing evidence that the other driver . . .

  • was aware of the threat or risk to you, knowing potential harm could result, and
  • acted regardless of knowing such risk existed or was motivated by a clear intent to harm.

Convincing evidence is crucial to the outcome of your case when it comes to the award of punitive damages. You will need to provide:

  • all accident details, including police reports, witness statements, photographs, and videos
  • proof of sustained injuries, including medical records and bills.

From there, your attorney will build a case, establishing convincing evidence that gross negligence or malice on the part of the other driver occurred.


While states differ in how punitive damages are awarded, Texas limits the amount you can receive. This cap on punitive damages follows the Texas law on damages, which is provided for in the state statutes.

So, how much do you get for punitive damages in a car crash?

The calculation starts with the amount of economic and non-economic damages you receive due to the accident:

  • Economic Damages: Economic damages include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and future earning capacity.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages are for such things as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and damages for loss of companionship.

Even if you don’t receive economic or non-economic damages, you may still be able to recover amounts for punitive damages.

The guidelines for punitive damages allowable in Texas are:

  • up to $200,000, if no economic damages are awarded in your case, or
  • two times the awarded amount of economic damages plus the equal amount of non-economic damages, with a limit or maximum of up to $750,000.

Whichever of these two amounts is greater, that amount will be awarded.

Punitive damages in a car wreck are often difficult to prove, however. To ensure you are successful, team up with an experienced personal injury lawyer confident in cases involving gross negligence and maliciousness.


Being involved in a car accident of any kind can be devastating, and knowing the answer to how do you get punitive damages after an accident may be essential to your claim.

At Hanna Allen, PLLC, we use our experience to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. We start with obtaining any economic and non-economic damages you need and continue examining all possibilities when it comes to seeking punitive damages as well.

Call 432-220-2649 today, and our staff will schedule a consultation for you with a car accident lawyer in Abilene, TX.