Texas Personal Injury Guide
If you have been injured in TX due to the negligent or reckless acts of another, there are immediate steps you can take to obtain the full compensation you deserve and improve the recovery process. The following guide will help you better understand what constitutes a personal injury, how the legal process works, and what you can do to protect your rights and maximize compensation.
In the world of law, the term personal injury refers to physical or emotional harm suffered as a result of another’s negligence. Personal injury law covers a broad range of negligence-based accidents, including slip-and-fall accidents, car crashes, medical malpractice, defective products, dog bites, work injuries, nursing home negligence, and wrongful death. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of accidental injury and death in TX, with a total of 12,897 serious injury crashes and 3,610 traffic fatalities in 2019 alone.
Generally speaking, injury victims can obtain compensation for damages suffered by filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party. Damages may include medical bills, lost wages, property damage expenses, and emotional pain and suffering. But personal injury lawsuits are highly complex and obtaining the full compensation to which you are entitled is largely dependent on having a strong case and skilled legal counsel. Read on for more information.
What We Cover
Seven Types of Texas Personal Injury Cases
As previously mentioned, personal injury is the harm you suffer as the result of the negligent, reckless, or even illegal behavior of another. When negligence played a role, it means that the at-fault party failed to exercise reasonable care—meaning they did not use a “degree of caution and concern an ordinarily rational person would use in similar circumstances.” In contrast, reckless behavior is “totally unreasonable conduct that is a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would do.”
In either case, if it causes harm, you may file a personal injury claim or personal injury lawsuit to be compensated for your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and more.
Typical personal injury cases in Texas include:
Motor vehicle accidents, including passenger cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, as well as larger commercial vehicles, constitute the majority of personal injury claims. Negligent behavior in a car accident may be the result of anything from following too close (tailgating) to failure to maintain the vehicle in proper working order—for instance, failing brakes or non-working headlights. One example of recklessness is speeding in excess of 25 miles per hour above the speed limit. Accidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs may also include criminal charges.
Workers’ compensation is the main resource for anybody suffering an on-the-job injury. Even if you were injured offsite, workers’ comp might still be available if your duties were job-related. However, since it isn’t required in Texas, not every employer has workers’ comp insurance, and workers’ comp does not apply if the injury was sustained while engaging in risky behavior or off-duty activities.
Your employer might be liable for your workplace injury or job-related illness if they failed to follow OSHA regulations. Personal injury claims or lawsuits can be filed in cases where employers do not have workers’ compensation insurance, or for injuries caused by defective equipment, where there was intent to harm, or where the injury was caused by exposure to toxic materials. Claims or suits may also be filed against third parties—non-employees who may have contributed to your illness or injury.
We trust our health, and often our lives, to medical professionals: physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, as well as the institutions in which they operate. When their negligence causes harm, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. Common types of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis- delayed misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose can lead to the advance of a condition that might have become life-threatening (including heart conditions or cancer) had they been correctly or adequately diagnosed.
- Surgical errors can include wrong site or wrong side surgery, or even surgery performed on the wrong patient. Sponges, clamps, adapters, or needles may also have been accidentally left inside the patient during an operation.
- Birth defects, including nerve damage, spinal cord injuries, or cerebral palsy, may occur as the result of errors made during delivery.
Premises liability: slips and falls
Property owners in Texas are responsible for seeing that their property is maintained to ensure the safety of visitors, customers, workers, legal occupants, and others who have permission to be on the property. Property includes not just buildings but all areas that are part of the property, such as parking lots or decks or unattached structures. It also includes machinery or equipment on the premises.
Slips and falls are the types of injury-causing accidents that lead to premises liability claims and lawsuits. While icy sidewalks aren’t common in this part of the country, poorly maintained stairways, unlit parking lots, loose carpeting, malfunctioning escalators, and obstructions are slips, trips, and falls waiting to happen.
Dog owners are negligent if they do not control their dogs. Under the Texas “one-bite rule” owners are also liable if they are aware that their dog has acted aggressively or bitten someone in the past. Children are most often the victims of dog bites as they may not understand the warning signs dogs give when they do not want to be bothered.
From household appliances to commercial machinery, from garden chemicals to baby strollers, and from car tires to toy cars, defective products can fail and cause serious injuries. When they do, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. Government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and others charged with protecting us from dangerous products often issue product recalls when there have been incidents and sufficient evidence to show that a specific item or product poses a health or safety problem. Defective products have led to a number of injuries including:
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Wrongful death
Defamation, also called slander or libel, is the act of destroying one’s reputation by spreading false statements. While it does not cause the kinds of physical injuries most often associated with personal injury, the person or entity who has intentionally spread falsehoods has caused damage and may be held responsible for their actions. Under the “defamation per se” law, it must only be proven that anybody would, or should, know that the statements made would damage a reputation. In order to succeed in a defamation claim, intentional malice must be proven.
Understanding Texas’ Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
If you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence, you may decide to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Personal injury cases vary widely, and so does potential compensation. Awards can range from a few thousand to tens-of-millions of dollars, depending on the type and severity of injuries suffered.
Here is a small sample of scenarios in which Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers may be able to help with your personal injury case:
- A drunk driver runs a red light and strikes your car;
- A fatigued 18 wheeler driver changes lanes and strikes your vehicle;
- A tire is manufactured improperly resulting in a tread separation and fatal car crash; or
- A refinery does not properly perform maintenance resulting in an explosion, fires, and death.
Negligence resulting in wrongful death, car accidents, 18 wheeler wrecks, refinery explosions, industrial accidents, product liability, railroad (FELA) incidents, and maritime accidents may result in a personal injury lawsuit. The skilled legal team at Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers has helped countless clients get the compensation they need to heal and get their lives back on track.
How Do I Know If I Have a Case?
To bring a successful injury lawsuit, the following two factors must occur :
- Negligence caused the accident; and
- The negligence caused your injuries.
In the case of an auto accident, negligence means a driver did not drive in a reasonably prudent manner. In other words, the driver didn’t obey the traffic laws or didn’t drive cautiously for the traffic and road conditions.
If an individual was involved in a car accident caused by another person’s carelessness or negligence, he/she has the right to be compensated for any personal injuries and property damage. In most car accident claims, these monetary damages usually cover such costs as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
Texas has a two (2) year statute of limitations governing most personal injury claims. Your case has to be settled or a lawsuit filed before the expiration of two (2) years from the date of your accident.
Steps in a Texas Personal Injury Lawsuit
When a negligent act results in a personal injury, the two most important questions are: who is responsible and what are the injuries. If you have suffered a personal injury, it is extremely important to immediately retain a qualified personal injury attorney. The attorney will have the knowledge and experience to understand the laws applicable to your case, secure the necessary evidence, and pursue your claim against all responsible parties. You can expect the following to occur in a personal injury case:
- Consultation: Your initial consultation is free and confidential. It is an opportunity to explain what occurred, obtain an understanding of the applicable law, confirm the anticipated steps in the legal process, and verify how a contingency fee attorney contract works.
- Case investigation: Evidence is critical to a successful personal injury case. This includes financial records, medical records, photographs, video, and witness testimony. Through case investigation, your attorney evaluates both the liability and damage aspects of your case. You can help gather evidence by documenting as much information as possible. If you have a smartphone at the scene of the accident, photograph the surrounding area and any visible injuries. Ask witnesses for their contact. And seek immediate medical attention; this is essential to your health and safety, and to the success of your injury lawsuit.
- Demand package: When all medical treatment is completed and the investigation has concluded, a demand package will be presented to the insurance company or corporation. The parties will negotiate the claim over a period of time. This phase is when a case will generally settle.
- Litigation: If a case does not settle, a lawsuit may be filed. A lawsuit will involve written discovery and depositions. You can anticipate significant personal involvement during the litigation phase. After the parties have exchanged discovery and completed depositions, a mediation session will occur. Mediation is an opportunity to present the case to a neutral party in an attempt to settle the case. If settlement does not occur, the case will go to trial.
Should You Hire an Attorney For Your Personal Injury Case?
Insurance companies are notorious for offering unreasonably-low settlements to injury victims without legal representation. They know that most victims just want to get the process over with, avoid going to court, and get their settlement check as soon as possible.
Following a personal injury, the only thing you should be doing is healing. At Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers, we will review your case, calculate damages, gather the evidence needed to substantiate your claim, and negotiate with the insurance company. Although we always aim to settle out of court, we are prepared to go to trial and fight aggressively to get you the full compensation you deserve.
Accepting an initial settlement offer can cost you thousands. It is our goal to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Our attorneys know what a case is worth and we will work tirelessly to get you every dime. You’ve been through enough, and this money can go a long way toward getting your life back on track.
If you have been injured in a personal injury accident, we can help. Contact Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
Understanding How Much Your Personal Injury Claim is Worth
Being injured because of the negligence of another party can change your life. Besides the physical pain and anguish of your injury, you may also have to deal with expensive medical bills, ongoing treatment like physical therapy, and missed time from work. The financial burden that an injury can put on you and your family can be very intense, which is why if you are injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your suffering.
While there is no way to determine the exact amount your claim is worth, there are a variety of factors that jurors will look at to decide the value of your claim. Two of the most important factors that shape the value of your claim include the degree of damage you incurred and how well you can prove your injury was the fault of another.
Other factors that determine the value of a personal injury claim
Listed below are some of the most important factors used to determine the value of a personal injury claim:
- Insurance policies. Most insurance companies use a formula to calculate the value of claims. The formula usually involves taking the total medical expenses incurred (special damages) and adding that dollar amount to the general damages, which can include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other more subjective effects of the injury.
- Property damage. You can expect to be compensated for the cost of damaged property. If the property was destroyed, you should receive the market value for your property.
- Medical compensation. All hospital and medical bills you incurred to treat the injury will be added to the claim amount. Emergency transportation and treatment such as medication or ongoing physical therapy should also be covered. For this reason, it’s important to save all of your medical bills.
- Loss of work. If the accident or time you spent recovering caused you to miss work, you’re entitled to recover lost wages. For people who are self-employed, it can be more difficult to recover wages and a lawyer is recommended.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. When someone suffers very serious or permanent injuries, it can detract from their overall quality and enjoyment of life. In such cases, the courts will consider compensating the victim for the physical and emotional damage that’s led to their loss of enjoyment in life.
When trying to value your claim, it’s important to stay realistic and remember that you must prove your damages to the court. The more evidence you can provide, such as medical bills, records, photos, important documents and journal accounts documenting the effects of your accident, the better your chance of receiving a just settlement.
How to Know Whether You Should Negotiate a Personal Injury Claim or File a Lawsuit
If you have been injured in a car accident, the first thing you should do is get each driver’s information and the names and information of any witnesses and seek medical attention. The second thing you should do is contact your own insurance company, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
The reason: your insurance company will be on your side since they want the negligent driver’s insurance to pay you. They also have experience in helping to build a case against the other driver. Do you have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company? It is best left up to your own insurance company and your personal injury attorney, since they are there to protect your interests.
If you do speak to the other party’s insurance adjuster, make sure to state that you do not want the conversation to be recorded as they will try to use anything you say against you.
So, should you negotiate the claim or do you need to file a personal injury lawsuit?
The difference between a claim and a lawsuit
You may hear these terms used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A personal injury claim is a negotiation with the negligent party’s insurance company to reach a settlement that is fair and reasonable. The “pro” of negotiating a settlement is that it is kept out of the judicial system and is less risky than leaving the decision up to a jury.
However, insurance companies are for-profit businesses and will undervalue your claim and try to low-ball the settlement. If a negotiated agreement cannot be reached, then you may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit. Like any type of lawsuit, this is a legal proceeding that will be heard in front of a judge in court.
Initiating a personal injury claim
Once you have all the information you need, including police reports, medical records, and anything else that documents the accident and your injury, you should consider contacting a Texas personal injury attorney who can help guide you through the process and make sure your best interests are protected. One thing you and your attorney will look into is whether you (and the other driver) have PIP as part of your policy.
In Texas, every insurance company is required to offer their insureds PIP, or Personal Injury Protection. It is included unless the insured signs a waiver rejecting coverage. The purpose of PIP is to cover expenses arising from the accident, including medical bills, lost wages, or necessary expenses.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit in Texas
If you are unable to reach a fair settlement that covers all your damages, you and your lawyer can discuss filing a lawsuit. The statute of limitations in Texas mandates that a lawsuit be filed within two years of the injury. There are several steps in a lawsuit:
- Your attorney will file a Petition with the appropriate court. The petition lays out the essential information, including what damages are being sought.
- Next, the defendant (the person whom you are suing) will be informed of the lawsuit. Through service of citation, the defendant will be notified that you have filed a case.
- Once the defendant has been served, they answer the complaint. If they fail to do so, you may win the lawsuit by default.
- All the information needed to present your case will be gathered. You may gather information from the defendant through a process called “discovery,” and they may also request information, witness testimony, and other pertinent information from you.
- A pre-trial motion is one in which lawyers present information to the judge, who will then decide if the issues warrant the case going to a jury.
- Once (and if) the case goes to trial, your lawyer may decide that it’s in your best interest to have the judge decide the case, rather than having it tried before a jury.
Consult with an Experienced Texas Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been injured due to the negligent, careless, or reckless actions of another, the skilled legal team at Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers can help. Whether you suffered a bone fracture or brain injury in a slip-and-fall accident, or a back injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a motor vehicle collision, our experienced TX injury lawyers can help you obtain the maximum compensation available to you in a timely, economical manner. Contact Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers today through our website for a free and confidential consultation about your case.