Texas Personal Injury Law
Texas Personal Injury LawIf you were injured in an accident in Texas, there are a variety of laws that may impact your claim. These laws can impact how long you have to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries, what damages you may be eligible to receive and whether you have a viable personal injury claim. Read on to learn more about personal injury laws in Texas.
Types of Personal Injury Cases in TexasPersonal injury cases are usually based on accidents that are caused by a person's negligence, which is usually measured by a required conduct of care or how a reasonably prudent person would act under similar circumstances. Examples of personal injury cases include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites
Damages Available in Texas Personal Injury CasesThere may be a variety of damages that a personal injury victim would be eligible for, including the following:
Economic damages are those damages that represent the financial losses that the accident victim has incurred that can be directly linked to economic factors. Economic damages include:
- Property damage
- Medical and hospital expenses
- Lost wages
These damages are typically relatively straightforward and may not be too difficult to prove. Another form of economic damages is loss of earning capacity. If an accident prevents you from returning to work or if you can only complete lower-paying work, you can possibly recover the difference between the amount of money you can make now and the amount you were expected to earn before the accident disabled you. An economic expert witness is usually necessary to establish this element of your damages claim.
Non-economic damages are those damages that are not connected directly to a certain economic loss and may be more difficult to prove. They compensation an accident victim for pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement and inconvenience.
These damages are intended to punish a defendant and deter similar conduct in the future. These damages are only imposed in the most egregious of cases.
Damage Caps in Texas Personal Injury CasesMany states place a limit on the amount of damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases. In Texas, there are generally not these types of caps. However, one exception is cases involving medical malpractice. For these cases, non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 per defendant and $500,00 overall. There is also a limit for medical malpractice cases resulting in wrongful death.
Process of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in TexasA personal injury lawsuit in Texas begins at the time of an accident. This is when the statute of limitations or time limit starts to tick. It is often better for a person to consult with a personal injury lawyer as early in the process as possible so that he or she can provide targeted advice and representation from the onset of a case.
A personal injury lawyer will conduct an investigation into the accident, identify the potentially liable parties and consult with the accident victim to determine the possible legal grounds to recover compensation for the damages. During this investigative process, the personal injury lawyer may interview witnesses, gather medical records, review police reports and consult with experts.
The personal injury lawyer or accident victim will usually file a claim against the insurance company first, if applicable. Many personal injury claims are resolved successfully through this process. A personal injury lawyer can assess the potential value of the claim based on the specific circumstances of your claim and previous case results with similar fact patterns. The Texas Insurance Code requires insurers not to engage in bad faith practices when negotiating insurance claims. However, insurance adjusters represent the interests of their employers, the insurance companies, so they will try to deny or devalue as many claims as possible.
If a fair settlement is not successfully negotiated, a personal injury lawyer can pursue the formal process of participating in litigation, which includes the following steps:
- Filing a complaint - The lawsuit begins when the personal injury victim files a complaint against the at-fault party in the appropriate court, naming the defendant.
- Service of complaint - The complaint must be legally served on the defendant with a summons to appear for a court date.
- Filing of pre-trial motions - The personal injury lawyer or lawyer representing the defendant may file motions before the official trial. These motions may ask the court to rule on the admissibility of certain evidence, to order the other party to provide certain information, to provide certain information, to grant a summary judgment or to dismiss the case, as applicable.
- Trial - If the parties are unable to resolve the case before the trial date, the parties then participate in the trial process. If there is a jury, the first step will be the voir dire process in which the lawyers try to determine if any of the jurors would be biased and unable to render a fair verdict. Once the jury is selected, the trial begins. Each party provides an opening statement. Witnesses are examined and cross-examined. Evidence is presented. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury renders a verdict. If the case is ruled in the plaintiff's favor, the judge or jury calculates the damages, based on the specific circumstances surrounding the claim.
- Enforcement of judgment - If the defendant or its insurance company does not provide the compensation awarded, the plaintiff and his or her legal team may have to take additional steps to actually receive the money that was ordered by the judge or jury.
- Appeal - If one or both of the parties believe that the judge made important mistakes during the trial that impacted its outcome, they may appeal the decision to the next court level.
Negligence Principles in TexasMost personal injury claims in Texas are based on the legal theory of negligence. This cause of action requires that the plaintiff establish the following legal elements by proof by the preponderance of the evidence:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care
- The defendant breached this duty it owed to the plaintiff
- The breach caused the victim to suffer an injury
- The victim did suffer damages stemming from the injury
Ultimately, these elements ensure that lawsuits that are filed only against parties that are legally responsible for them and resulted in actual harm. The lawsuit's goal is to establish that the plaintiff did suffer damages and is legally entitled to receive compensation for these damages. Each of these elements is discussed in further detail below.
The first question to ask in a personal injury lawsuit is if the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. The plaintiff must establish what this duty is. For example, in some situations, the legal duty is based on a special relationship between the parties, such as a school teacher's duty to pupils or a doctor's duty to a patient. Some duties are imposed by law, such as the requirements of drug manufacturers to list possible side effects and other warnings on their products. In other situations, the duty may be considered a general duty of care in which all persons owe each other a duty to conduct themselves in a reasonable and safe manner that a reasonably prudent person would act in under similar circumstances.
Breach of Duty
The next element that must be established is that the defendant breached the duty of care. This can be established by showing what the defendant did or did not do under the circumstances and comparing it to what a prudent person would do under the circumstances. For example, in a motor vehicle accident, the victim may be able to show that the defendant breached the duty of care by speeding, driving in an impaired or distracted state, running a red light or violating other traffic rules.
The victim must also be able to establish that the breach of duty caused the injury and that the injury was not caused by some other factor. The breach of duty must be the actual cause of the accident. If the defendant would not have acted in a certain way or failed to act in a certain way, then the accident would not have happened. Additionally, the breach of duty must be considered the "proximate cause" of the victim's injuries. This usually means that the defendant was in a position to predict that the type of accident could occur and failed to take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Even if the plaintiff can clearly establish that the defendant was responsible for the accident, there will be no compensation if the victim did not suffer damages. There must be some right to recovery based on some harm that befell the victim. For example, a victim may suffer a physical injury and incur medical bills. In other situations, the victim may show that he or she suffered property damage or emotional distress from the accident.
Texas Medical Malpractice CasesAnother common type of personal injury case in Texas is medical malpractice cases. These cases are based on a healthcare provider failing to provide the appropriate standard of care to a patient that results in the patient's injury or death. This type of claim depends largely on expert witness testimony in which the expert witness discusses what another medical provider in the same specialty and geographic region would have done under the circumstances and compares this behavior to the acts of the defendant healthcare provider.
Dog Bite Claims in Texas InjuryWhile some states have "strict liability" laws for dog bite injury cases in which the owner or handler of a dog is automatically liable if certain conditions are met, Texas does not have this type of law. Dog bite cases are usually pursued according to the general negligence principles described above. The victim must usually establish that the dog owner should have known that the dog would bite a person.
Claims Against the Government in TexasIf there is a personal injury claim against the government in Texas, special rules apply. The victim must file a formal claim with the governmental agency he or she believes is responsible for the injury. This claim should include a description of the accident, the harm that was caused, and details about the accident, such as the time and place where it occurred. This formal claim must be filed within six months from the accident date.
Modified Comparative Negligence Rule in TexasTexas applies a modified comparative negligence rule if more than one party was responsible for an accident. This rule can apply if the plaintiff and the defendant both shared responsibility for an accident. It can also apply if more than one defendant was responsible for the accident. According to Texas' modified comparative negligence rule, if a party is partially to blame for an accident, it can be held liable for the amount of damages for which it was responsible. The court can assign a degree of fault to each responsible party. If the plaintiff was partially at fault, his or her award of damages is reduced by the amount of damages for which he or she is responsible. For example, if the plaintiff was responsible for 20% of the accident and sustained damages of $100,000, the maximum he or she could recover from all of the defendants would be $80,000. Each defendant is responsible for paying for the proportion of damages that he or she caused.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in TexasThe statute of limitations is the time limit that a person has to file a particular legal action. For most personal injury claims in Texas, the statute of limitations is two years. This time limitation applies to personal injury cases based on personal injury, damage to property, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. However, there is a four-year statute of limitations based on cases alleged on grounds of fraud or for breaking a written or oral contract. For example, a product liability case may be based on a breach of a written warranty.
This time limit usually begins to start on the date of the accident. However, there are some situations in which the statute of limitations is tolled so that it is suspended for a certain period of time. For example, in some cases, the statute of limitations may not begin until after the victim actually discovered the injury or had reason to know the injury took place. This may sometimes occur in cases involving medical malpractice or a defective product, for example.
There are also special rules regarding the statute of limitations if the victim is a minor child. Typically, these cases are tolled until the child turns 18, and then the time limit clock starts to tick. In these situations, the child has until his or her 20th birthday in most situations to file a personal injury lawsuit. This exception only applies to claims that legally belong to the child. Any damages that the parents can receive compensation for must be filed as part of a lawsuit within the general statute of limitations.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury LawyerIf you were injured because of the negligent acts of another, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for assistance. A personal injury lawyer can discuss the specific circumstances surrounding your claim and whether you have a viable claim. He or she can also help you explore your legal options for recovery.
Personal Injury TX - Know Your Rights!
- A Guide to Texas Personal Injury Law
A Texas personal injury case can be brought when the negligent actions of a person caused the injuries of another. The injured party must be able to prove a duty of care, a breach of that duty, causation, and that there were damages sustained. When these standards have been proven the injured party will usually receive damages for the physical and emotional injuries they sustained. In this comprehensive guide, learn more about Texas personal injury law.
- Construction Accidents and Legal Options for Recovery in Texas
In the construction industry, there are certain risks of the danger inherent to the job, but many of these depend on the actions or equipment that the employees will encounter or will need to avoid.
- Damages Overview in Personal Injury Cases in Texas
In personal injury cases, the court is concerned with making a victim whole again after the negligence of another party resulted in his or her injuries.
- Inadequate Security Claims and Principles in Texas
Inadequate security claims are a subpart of a premises liability case in which an injured party seeks recovery from a property owner.
- Non-Economic Damages in Texas Personal Injury Cases
Texas personal injury victims can often recover non-economic damages in their personal injury case in addition to their economic damages.
- Property Owner's Responsibility in Texas Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall cases often occur through the accidental or unintentional actions of the person suffering the damage caused, but some of these incidents are because of the property owner's negligence or foreknowledge of possible problems that may occur.
- Suing the Government in a Texas Personal Injury Case
Suing the government instead of a private actor in a personal injury case in Texas can be complicated. Special rules apply to the government that do not apply to others. It is important for accident victims to understand how these rules may impact their personal injury claim.
- Texas Personal Injury Law: Unfit Truck Drivers on the Road
Some commercial truck drivers still choose to drive even if they have been determined to be unfit to drive. This reality exists in Texas as well as in other states across the country. While federal safeguards are in place to prevent such incidents, some trucking companies bypass these or hide behind legal loopholes.
- Texas Product Defect Claims - Things to Know
Product defects can seriously injure the customer after the purchase and the item is working properly in the home, but if the owner uses the object against the listed instructions, the injured party may not have a valid claim.
- Texas Thin Skull Rule and How It Affects a Personal Injury Claim
n the general public, a thin skull rule is not applicable or permitted in civil suits because it is a moral dilemma between a younger victim and an older victim in a similar or the same accident.
- Texas Wrongful Death Claims
The wrongful death claim is often necessary because of the loss of someone that earns income for the household, and the surviving family needs the compensation acquired through the claim to recover in several different ways.