What is a personal injury accident?
A personal injury accident occurs anytime one person suffers some harm, whether it be physical or emotional, due to the negligence, recklessness or carelessness of someone else. Though many people think of personal injury cases as those involving physical harm, the reality is that they can encompass a wide range of injury. Pain and suffering as well as severe emotional distress are valid grounds for filing and winning a Texas personal injury lawsuit.
Types of personal injury accidents
There are a nearly unlimited number of ways that a person can be injured and it would be fruitless to try and list every possibility. That being said, the bulk of personal injury lawsuits generally fall in one of several broad categories. The first is car accidents. Those who have been struck by another vehicle could suffer injuries ranging from whiplash to paralysis and everything in between. The sheer number of car accidents that occur every year explain why so many personal injury lawsuits involve auto accidents.
Another broad category of personal injury suits are those related to premises liability. This includes anyone who was injured on another person’s property, such a slipping at grocery store, being injured at a neighbor’s house, falling in a parking garage, etc. In these cases, the injured person sues to hold the owner of the property liable for the damages suffered as a result of the owner’s carelessness or recklessness.
A final broad category of personal injury claims are those that result from work or construction accidents. Employers owe a duty of care to their employees, and workplaces, no matter what kind, ought to be as safe as practicably possible. Those who slip and fall at work, are crushed by heavy machinery, hit with falling objects or fall off of a roof, all have potential personal injury claims.
Why hire a San Antonio personal injury attorney?
This is a common question, especially in cases where it is clear the other person is at fault. If it’s so obvious that another person is responsible for your injuries, why pay for a lawyer to handle what should be an open and shut case? The reason is that personal injury claims are quite complex and involve a detailed understanding of the law, court rules and procedures and settlement negotiations. Though guilt may appear obvious to you, the other side will do all that it can to cast doubt on that guilt. Even if the guilt is admitted, there is still the matter of determining the value of the claim. Hiring an attorney to advocate on your behalf and lay out a compelling argument for why the compensation you request is justified is another crucial benefit, something many plaintiffs would be unable to do without years of prior experience.
Though it isn’t fair to rush those who have suffered serious injuries, the reality is that timing matters when it comes to filing a Texas personal injury lawsuit. In Texas, victims do not have an unlimited amount of time to consider filing a claim for damages. The law, known as the statute of limitations, exists to set a limit on when certain kinds of lawsuits can be brought. For those filing tort claims, meaning personal injury cases, the law says a plaintiff has two years from the date of injury to file a claim before a court.
This means that if you were involved in a car accident 5 years ago, you would be prevented from bringing a lawsuit against the responsible party today. This holds true no matter how serious the accident was or how guilty the defendant is. The law is the law and any case outside the statute of limitations will be thrown out of court by the judge. The good news is that you do not have to have your case over and done in two years, you simply must have filed the case in a court.
Given the importance of timing, it is crucial that victims reach out to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident to begin the process of filing a legal claim for compensation. Though you certainly do no have to rush faster than you are comfortable, the sooner you reach out to an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, the sooner your lawyer can begin taking the necessary steps to preserve your claim, ensuring that you are ready to file within the time legally allowed.
When filing any personal injury lawsuit, it is crucial that you prove to a judge or jury that the defendant is responsible for the harm you have suffered. But what happens if you are somewhat responsible for the harm? For example, let’s say someone was involved in a car accident, such as being rear-ended at a red light. The other driver was clearly negligent and may have been excessively speeding at the time. The problem is your brake lights were out. What would happen in this case? A jury would need to assign a percentage of fault for your mistake and this percentage would ultimately prove important in whether or not a claim for damage can move forward and, if so, how much you ultimately stand to collect.
Texas follows an approach known as modified comparative negligence. This means that a person will have his or her personal injury damage award reduced by the percentage that he or she is found to be at fault. For instance, if in the previous example you were found to be 25 percent at fault in the accident, whatever damage award you received would be reduced by 25 percent.
What happens if you are found to be 99 percent responsible and the defendant is only 1 percent at fault, can there still be a valid claim? Not in Texas. If you are found to be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident you cannot collect any compensation from any other at-fault parties.
How much is your personal injury claim worth?
It’s one of the most common questions asked of Texas personal injury attorneys: how much is my claim worth? Though it’s understandable why people would wonder how much they could stand to collect by filing suit, this is a nearly impossible question to answer generally. How much you could collect from a personal injury claim depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. One large component of any total personal injury claim are the actual costs that need to be reimbursed, so any property damage, medical bills, time off of work would need to be added up. These will be different in each and every case and can’t be estimated in advance. Beyond that, things such as pain and suffering or compensation for disfigurement or lifetime disability will also need to be calculated, something else that will vary greatly depending on the particular facts of your case.
Types of damage
There are two broad categories of damage that can be collected in a Texas personal injury case. First, economic damages. Economic damages include anything that is objectively verifiable. That means things that typically have receipts and can be easily demonstrated. This includes lost pay, medical expenses, loss of use of property, repair costs, loss of business opportunities, etc. These are often difficult to argue with and seldom leave room for debate.
The second category, which is far more open to debate, is non-economic damages. These are things that cannot be objectively quantified and, as such, are open to some interpretation. Examples include pain and suffering, compensation for severe emotional distress, money for permanent disability, disfigurement, etc. These are no less real harms, it’s just that the money needed to compensate a victim for suffering such harm is much more difficult to pin down. After all, one person’s pain and suffering can be difficult to monetize and then effectively communicate the true extent of the pain to a judge or jury when deciding a damage award. As a result, expert witnesses, family members and friends are used to help explain the seriousness of an accident and why such an award is justified.
You may have heard about caps on damage in some kinds of personal injury cases. While these caps do not apply in most cases, it is true that limits exist in some circumstances. In Texas, the law limits the amount of money that can be collected by a plaintiff in medical malpractice cases. The caps are very complicated, but the short version is that non-economic damages (meaning pain and suffering) are capped at $250,000 per defendant or $500,000 overall. This means that economic damages, including for medical expenses or loss of earnings, there is no cap. Also remember that this cap only applies to medical malpractice cases, a particularly complex subset of general personal injury claims.