FAQ: What are Punitive Damages?

As opposed to  Compensatory Damages, which aim to make an injured party whole, Punitive Damages are intended to punish a defendant and serve as a deterrence to others. Such damages are not always awarded, but are most often granted in cases of gross negligence, extreme recklessness or malicious motives.

In Texas, punitive damages are only available in cases where the plaintiff can provide clear and convincing evidence that the injury was caused by gross negligence, malice or fraud.

Before a Texas jury can even consider punitive damages, they must reach a unanimous decision that the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injury. Then, they must unanimously agree to the punitive damage amount.

The evidence considered when determining a punitive damage amount may include: 

  • The nature of the wrong
  • The character of the conduct by the defendant
  • The degree of the culpability of the defendant
  • The sensibilities and situation of the parties concerned
  • The extent to which the conduct offends a public sense of decency and justice

In Texas, punitive damages cannot be awarded for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, violations of the Texas Insurance Code, Antitrust Code violations, or criminal Medicare Fraud.