Kerrville Personal Injury Lawyer Representing Injured Clients in Texas
Hundreds of thousands of people are hurt annually due to unintentional injuries in the US alone. A large percentage of those injuries require hospitalization. You may have a personal injury case in your hands when you are hurt due to someone else’s actions. Learn how personal injury claims work in Texas and what you should do to hold the at-fault party responsible for your accident and recover the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Critical Components of a Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
Personal injury claims are typically based on negligence resulting from one party’s breach of the duty of care to another. The root cause of the plaintiff’s injuries can be directly linked to the actions of the at-fault party. In some cases, the at-fault party failed to act in a way to prevent an unsafe situation from happening, and this failure to act may also be regarded as negligence.
With that in mind, the main components of a personal injury claim in Texas are 1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; 2) the defendant breached that duty by acting with negligence or recklessness; 3) the plaintiff was injured as a result of the breach of duty of care and 4) The plaintiff suffered damages including financial loss.
For example, car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents are some of the most common personal injury cases. In a car accident, all drivers on the road have a duty of care to comply with traffic laws and drive responsibly without harming others. Suppose a driver engages in behaviors that are knowingly dangerous, such as speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In that case, that individual is breaching their duty of care to all other drivers and pedestrians. If that driver causes an accident in which someone else is injured, that driver may likely be financially responsible for reimbursing the victim for their damages.
Another example is a slip-and-fall accident. This type of accident is common in places of business, retail stores, and public areas. The individual or organization in control of that building or area has the duty to ensure a safe environment for all visitors. However, let’s suppose a recent storm caused a roof leak that resulted in a wet, slick spot on the floor. The party in control of the area knew about the leak but did not take any action to remedy it and failed to post warnings near the wet spot on the floor. A customer did not notice the wet area and slipped and fell to the floor, breaking their ankle. That customer was injured due to the building owner’s negligence and thus may be entitled to seek compensation for their damages.
Who Has the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?
Another important aspect of a personal injury case is that the victim bears the burden of proof. In a civil lawsuit, it is up to the plaintiff to present enough evidence to prove the different elements of the case. Because a personal injury claim is based on negligence, the victim or plaintiff is expected to produce evidence to show that there was a breach of duty of care and that the breach was a direct cause of their injuries. Pictures from the scene of the accident, testimonies of witnesses, and police reports are some examples of evidence types that can be used to prove negligence.
It is also important to properly document the extent of the victim’s injuries as well as other damages, as these are factors that can ultimately influence how much compensation the plaintiff may receive. Medical records, exam results, and the testimony of expert witnesses such as doctors, psychologists, or other specialists can all be valuable in helping the court understand the severity of the plaintiff’s injury and how the injury affects them physically and emotionally now and in the future.
Sometimes, an injury can require a long recovery process and affect the plaintiff’s ability to earn their normal wages, and if that’s the case, documents such as pay stubs and the testimony of an expert may also be useful. If there was any property damage, such as a vehicle that was partially or completely damaged, estimates of the price to repair or replace that vehicle can also be included as evidence. Each personal injury case is unique, and the type of evidence required may vary, but because it is up to the plaintiff to prove their case, working with a seasoned attorney is extremely important. Your attorney can help guide you through what is needed to build a strong case and increase your chances of winning.
Can a Victim Still Get Paid if They Are Partially at Fault?
Many people worry that they may not receive any compensation because they believe they were partially responsible for their accident. While that may be true in some states, Texas follows a variation of a rule called comparative negligence. This means that you may still recover some compensation even if you were partially at fault for your accident, as long as you are not deemed to be 51% or more at fault.
The percentage of fault attributed to you affects the final award amount you are eligible to receive. For example, if you were injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, but it was determined that you were engaging in distracted driving and failed to apply your brakes, and did not try to swerve to avoid the accident, then you may be 20% at fault. Your final award amount will be subtracted by 20% before you can receive it. However, if you were more than 50% at fault, you may not be eligible to receive any compensation according to Texas laws.
If you believe there is a chance you may be partially responsible for your accident, one of your main goals should be to reduce your liability as much as possible, which will in turn maximize the amount you are eligible to receive. A skilled Kerrville personal injury attorney can help you build a strong case to protect your rights to receive compensation while minimizing your exposure to any liability.
How Is the Value of a Personal Injury Claim Calculated?
As briefly mentioned above, the severity of the victim’s injuries and the extent of damages caused by both the accident and the injury are some of the key factors used to determine the value of a claim. The more serious the injury and the more significant the damages, the higher the claim value may be. However, because each personal injury case is as unique as each victim, providing an estimate of your award value without a thorough analysis of your case is extremely difficult.
It may be tempting for some to simply use one of the many “personal injury calculator” tools available online, but the reality is that these tools cannot provide an accurate estimate and often over or underestimate how much you may be eligible to receive. Instead, it is best to sit down and discuss your case with a personal injury attorney to get a more precise estimate of your case value. Your attorney can analyze the specifics of your case and even rely on knowledge acquired during previous cases to give you a more accurate number.
The dollar value of a personal injury case is usually a combination of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to all financial losses a plaintiff sustained due to the accident, injury, and throughout the recovery process, including but not limited to lost wages, damaged property, and medical bills. Non-economic damages are informally referred to as “pain and suffering” and account for the negative emotional and psychological impact of the accident and injury.
In What Situation Can a Victim Claim Punitive Damages?
Besides economic and non-economic damages, some personal injury victims may seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are not available for every case and are typically only sought when the defendant acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence happens when one party shows extreme disregard for the safety of others and acts in a reckless manner with the intent of causing harm. While standard negligence is usually unintentional, gross negligence is a deliberate act.
When gross negligence can be proven to be among the main causes of a victim’s accident and injury, then an attorney may ask the court to grant punitive damages payment in addition to payment for standard damages. Punitive damages, as the name implies, seek to punish the defendant’s behavior and discourage the defendant from repeating that type of behavior in the future. It is possible for a personal injury case based on gross negligence to occur along with a criminal case for the same offense, but only the civil case will result in any type of compensation for the injured victim. A personal injury attorney is the best person to consult if you would like to know whether punitive damages are applicable to your case.
Why Is Working With a Personal Injury Attorney a Good Idea?
There are many important details that a personal injury claimant needs to observe in order to build a strong case, and overlooking just one seemingly minor aspect of your case may turn out to be a costly mistake. By working with a seasoned personal injury attorney, you can rest assured your case will be in the hands of a professional who is knowledgeable of all applicable laws and has handled countless similar cases in the past.
At the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy, Attorney S. Dylan Pearcy and his legal team can handle every aspect of your case on your behalf, while all you need to do is focus on healing. They can take care of every phone call, form, document, and formality required for your case and are ready to fight to secure maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact our Kerrville, TX office by calling (830) 222-8629 and requesting a consultation to discuss your case.