Does Texas Have Damage Caps?
Damage caps are laws that limit the amount of money a plaintiff (victim) can receive in certain types of cases. If you are involved in a personal injury claim in Texas, it is vital to understand how these caps might affect your potential compensation.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Economic and non-economic damages are two main categories of compensation awarded in personal injury cases. Economic damages refer to quantifiable financial losses that directly result from the injury, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, non-economic damages encompass the intangible, subjective losses experienced by the plaintiff, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-monetary hardships. Texas does not place a cap on economic damages and only limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Caps on Medical Malpractice Cases
The specific cap on non-economic damages in Texas medical malpractice cases is as follows:
- $250,000 for individual healthcare providers: This means that regardless of the severity of the injury or the extent of the emotional distress, a plaintiff cannot be awarded more than $250,000 in non-economic damages against an individual healthcare provider (e.g., a single doctor), even if the case involves multiple defendants.
- $250,000 or $500,000 total for medical institutions: If the medical malpractice case is against a medical institution (such as a hospital or clinic), the cap for non-economic damages is $250,000 from a single healthcare facility and increases to $500,000 if multiple medical facilities are involved.
- $750,000 total cap in cases with multiple and diverse defendants: In cases with multiple defendants and a combination of individual healthcare providers and medical institutions, the total non-economic damages cannot exceed $750,000.
Caps on Punitive Damages
To be awarded punitive damages in Texas, a plaintiff must show clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions were fraudulent, grossly negligent, or malicious. This is a higher burden of proof than the standard “preponderance of the evidence” required for most civil claims. In addition, they will only be awarded if the victim also recovers other damages. In that case, punitive damages will be capped at the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages (e.g., medical bills, lost income, property damage) plus the amount equal to non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering) up to $750,000.
As an example, suppose you are involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver and suffer a spinal cord injury. A jury awards you $3 million for your economic losses and $2 million for your non-economic losses. The total amount possible for punitive damages is $6,750,000 (two times $3 million plus the $750,000).
However, if the at-fault party is charged with a felony, the punitive damages cap does not apply.
Caps on Government Claims
While certain claims are permitted against the government, Texas also imposes caps on the amount of damages that can be recovered:
- Negligent actions of an employee of the state or a municipality: The cap for every person involved is $250,000, and cannot exceed $500,000 total for a single event.
For example, suppose a city vehicle crashes into your car because the driver was not paying attention, and you and two passengers were injured. In that case, the total damages cannot go over $250,000 per person and $500,000 total even though three of you were hurt.