It’s true, accidents happen. One second you’re driving to work on the highway, running errands at the local grocery store, or spending time with family and friends on vacation, and the next you might find yourself suffering from a personal injury that causes you physical pain, emotional and mental trauma, and worries about your personal health and financial stability.
However, personal injury can come with serious ramifications, and sometimes “accidents” aren’t merely accidents, and could be the results of someone else’s reckless behavior or negligent actions. You have rights in these cases, and you shouldn’t have to completely shoulder the burden of your physical, emotional and mental pain and stress due to someone else’s negligence. A personal injury lawyer can assist you with your legal needs.
Personal injury cases include a private party, in this case the person who is claiming an injury occurred, seeking compensations from the person or business who caused the injury for lost wages, pain and suffering.
Most personal injury cases involve the doctrine of negligence, and the private party must show that a reasonable person acting responsibly and avoiding putting others at risk would have resulted in a different outcome than what the defendant in this position had inflicted upon the private party.
Personal injury claims can be filed because of an accident as well as intentional acts, with common claims including injury caused by auto accidents, workplace accidents, product liability, negligent security, premises liability (such as slip and fall accidents), medical malpractice, dog bites, child injury or death, and wrongful death.
If you have been the victim of a personal injury and think you may have a claim against an individual or business, the next best step you can take is to consult a personal injury lawyer. Once you have contacted a personal injury attorney, they will begin gathering and preserving possible facts and evidence and will begin working with the insurers involved on your behalf. The main goal for these claims is to gather as much evidence as necessary to show how the accident happened, and establish who was ultimately at-fault. This could include official reports, eye-witness reports and photographic evidence.
Personal injury lawsuits usually follow one of two paths, a formal lawsuit through civil court proceedings that go through a court judgment, or an informal settlement.
It is typically more common for disputes over fault of an injury to be resolved through informal settlement, and include involvement with the people personally involved, their attorneys, and their insurers. A settlement is a negotiation between the two parties, facilitated by their attorneys. This negotiation usually ends in an agreement in which both parties decide not to pursue further action (like a formal lawsuit) and instead agree upon a sum of money to be paid to the injured.
If a claim is taken to a formal lawsuit, defendants may use a few common defense theories to try to dispute the claim. In negligence cases the defendant may try to argue that the person who sustained the injuries didn’t use “due care”, which refers to the effort made by a reasonable party to avoid harm, and to act reasonably under particular circumstances. A defendant could also try to claim “assumed risk”, meaning the person who was injured assumed the risk by voluntarily participating in the activity that ultimately harmed them, or that the injured gave permission to the defendant to commit the action that ended in injury. Having a qualified and experienced attorney on your side to help refute these claims gives you the highest chance of success.
Hiring a personal injury attorney for these cases is also important in order to make sure the statute of limitations for personal injury claim in Texas isn’t violated. A statute of limitations is a period of time in which you must file your claim of personal injury, or the claim will no longer be valid after that time period expires.
Texas has a Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code that established the general statute of limitations, but the application of these statues can be more complicated and it would be beneficial to have a qualified personal injury attorney look over the details of your case to look for possible exceptions.
In some cases, the limitations can be tied to the point in which the injured knew than an injury occurred, rather than the day of the event that caused the injury. In Texas, the statutes of limitations for personal injury claims typical go as follows:
- Product Liability: 2 years or 15 years
- Assault and Battery: 2 years
- Medical Malpractice: 2 years
- Legal Malpractice: 2 years
- Wrongful Death: 2 years
- General Personal Injury: 2 years
If you have a child that has suffered a personal injury, they may be qualify for the existing statute of limitations to be extended. If the personal injury took place before the child turned 18, the child would have two years from the date of their 18th birthday to prosecute their personal injury case. This extension would apply to claims that belong to the child, and would not include claims, for example, medical expenses, because the child’s parents take the legal responsibility for caring for their child. The extension would apply to damages the child may sustain throughout their childhood, and into adulthood, including but not limited to:
- Medical expenses as an adult that stem from the childhood injury
- Permanent disfigurement or scarring
- Mental anguish, pain and suffering
- Physical impairment
Once negligence on the part of the defendant is established and proved, awarding damages to the injured party takes place, which can include economic damages, non-economic damages and, in extreme cases, punitive damages.
Punitive damages occur when it’s shown that the defendant who caused injury acted with extreme or gross negligence, for example, a drunk driver getting into a car knowing that they are inebriated and then hitting another car and injuring the person inside could be considered gross negligence. To demonstrate that the defendant acted in extreme negligence, the prosecuting attorney will need to show that the defendant know the risk of their actions, but acted with disregard to the safety of others, or that a reasonable person in the same situation would have known that their behavior was inappropriate and could damage to themselves and others.
Non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit include damages that don’t have a determined monetary value assigned to them, and could include:
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of Day-to-Day Enjoyment of Life
- Pain and Suffering
Economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit include damages sought to cover medical expenses and lost wages due to the injury. Medical-related economic damages could include:
- Ambulance Fees
- Physical Therapy
- Surgery Costs
- Hospital, Emergency Room or ICU Stays
- Follow-Up Doctor Appointments
- Cost of Medications
- Testing Costs, such as MRI’s and X-rays
Economic damages awarded for lost wages could include:
- Loss of Benefits
- Loss of Sales Commission
- Money that may have been lost from a promotion or wage increase while your were injured
- Loss of Potential Bonuses
Maneuvering a personal injury claim on your own can be extremely complicated and stressful on top of an injury, and it’s best to consult a qualified personal injury lawyer to assist you with your fight for justice.
Thank you for visiting the Jarvis, Garcia & Erskine blog, Austin-based personal injury lawyer. We write to inform locals about law changes, events and news.