In Texas, a personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed to recover damages stemming from a physical or emotional injury. Personal injury lawsuits emerge from many different scenarios and situations. Still, the most common include car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, premises liability, and wrongful death suits, to name a few.
If you are party to a personal injury lawsuit, you are likely hurt and undergoing a great hardship in your life. It is essential to mention that as an injured party, you have the right to recover for your injuries, lost income, and other various associated expenses that stemmed from the incident in question.
How to Recover for Your Injuries in Texas
To recover for your injuries, you must first start a lawsuit and establish that the other party is legally answerable or “at fault.” Typically, a person is deemed “at fault” when they have failed to act with reasonable care or acted negligently.
In many personal injury cases, the defendant to the suit, the business or individual you are filing the claim against, will likely claim that you are entirely or at least somewhat “at fault” for the incident that led to your injuries.
Because Texas follows a modified comparative fault rule, the amount of compensation you are entitled to recover will be decreased by an amount equal to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. For instance, in a car accident claim where you suffered $100,000 damages, and the judge or jury finds you 25% at fault for the incident, your total recovery would be lowered to $75,000.
Nevertheless, under Texas’ modified comparative fault rule, suppose the judge or jury finds that you are more than 50% at fault for the incident that caused your injuries. In that case, you are barred from collecting from the other at-fault parties.
Although Texas courts are bound to follow the modified comparative fault rule approach when calculating damages at trial, most personal injury lawsuits do not proceed to trial and instead settle well before trial.
When the opposing party’s fault is relatively certain, the defendant’s insurance company often aims to settle and jointly dismiss the lawsuit before trial. Settlement negotiations are an essential part of every personal injury lawsuit, and plaintiffs should be cautious about ensuring they are not being taken advantage of by defendant insurance adjusters or legal representatives.
Personal injury damages are usually estimated by totaling the amount of past and future medical bills, property damage, past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of income.
There are two ways to compute the amount of past recoverable medical bills in Texas:
- Calculate the total billed amount of medical bills minus the amount of bills written off by the medical provider; or
- Compute the total of bills paid by the plaintiff to the medical provider plus the number of bills outstanding.
For instance, if the hospital billed $250,000 for your care and stay at the hospital but wrote off $175,000 of the charges, the plaintiff is confined to recovering $75,000 in past medical bills, not the total amount billed of $250,000. These two calculations should equal one another.
What Is Negligence?
In the United States, civil tort law typically splits causes of action into two major categories: intentional (e.g., assault, battery, etc.) and unintentional. There is also a category for strict liability torts, but those are for more specific causes of action. Within the category of unintentional torts, negligence is one of the most typical causes of action. It is often cited as the basis of many personal injury cases.
Examples of circumstances where negligence may be used as the basis of a claim include slip and fall accidents, dog bite cases, medical malpractice, and motor vehicle crashes. As may be evident from this list, the components of negligence can be applied to various circumstances.
Further, while each state may define the prima facie case for negligence slightly differently, almost all jurisdictions in the U.S. require the plaintiff to demonstrate four essential elements to establish negligence.
The first element that a plaintiff must establish is that the defendant owed them a duty of care. The plaintiff’s second element to establish is that the defendant has breached this duty. The third element involves demonstrating that the defendant was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Lastly, the fourth and final element to establish negligence is that the plaintiff must show that they suffered actual damages due to the defendant’s negligent actions.
Are There Time Limits on Recovering for Personal Injuries in Texas?
In Texas, the law only gives plaintiff’s a certain amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for their injuries. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations, typically expressed in terms of years, and the deadline varies depending on the type of suit being filed. For a personal injury lawsuit, the statute of limitations is two years.
If you were involved in a car accident on January 1, 2022, you have to file your lawsuit until January 1, 2024. Personal injury lawsuits filed after the injury happened will not be heard in Texas courts and will result in the loss of your right to recovery.
It is essential to pay attention to this deadline. Suppose you feel like you are approaching the second anniversary of the incident that caused your injuries. In that case, you should immediately seek the help of a well-qualified personal injury attorney to initiate your claim.
What to Expect From Your Civil Attorney
Once you have retained a civil lawyer, they will manage all significant aspects of your lawsuit.
For instance, your lawyer will:
- Interview you and other witnesses/parties to build your case
- Prepare for and conduct depositions of you and other witnesses/parties to be used as testimonial evidence
- Manage all correspondence with the other party’s attorneys and the court
- File motions, briefs, and other documents with the court
- Make a discovery plan and serve discovery requests to the other party
- Hire expert witnesses to testify about any technical or medical issues that concern your case
- Engage in settlement negotiations with the other party’s lawyers
- Present your case before a jury or judge
It is necessary to remember that you have ultimate control over your lawsuit—you decide who to sue, when to file suit, and when to settle. However, it is best to defer to your attorney’s judgment in all legal decisions and to heed any guidance about the overall strategy of your lawsuit.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
If you were hurt by the acts or omissions of another individual, you should consult a skilled and local Texas personal injury lawyer. As an injured individual, you may not be in the right mindset to be able to bargain with a hostile insurance adjuster, manage your property damage claim, or negotiate with your own insurance company, all while trying to recover from your injuries.
The personal injury lawsuit road is a hard road to navigate alone; a licensed lawyer can assist you in figuring out what legal theory to sue upon, help you with settlement negotiations, manage complex legal case discovery, help preserve your various records, and represent you in court if trial becomes necessary.
The vast majority of personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. They will foot the court costs associated with filing and maintaining your personal injury claim. They will only take a percentage of your net recovery as payment for their legal services. This means that cost should not be a barrier to obtaining legal counsel and aid in navigating the road to your recovery.
If you were the cause of someone else’s injuries or suspected you might be mainly at fault, you should immediately contact your insurance company. Your insurance company will find you legal representation, defend you, and settle your claim with the plaintiff.