San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Injured Clients Fight for Compensation in Texas
Personal injury cases can result from a variety of accidents, ranging from slip-and-falls to wrongful death and several other events in between. Likewise, the injuries resulting from these accidents can vary in complexity. What all personal injury cases have in common is one party that ended up sustaining damages and enduring physical pain that could have been avoided if the other party had not been negligent. Learn the basic aspects of how personal injury cases work in Texas and why an attorney can help you obtain better chances of a positive outcome.
What Counts as a Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
In Texas, much like in other states, an accident or event that results in someone getting hurt has certain elements that need to be proven in order to be considered a personal injury claim. First, the defendant in the case should have a duty of care to the plaintiff. This simply means acting in a responsible manner so as to keep others safe and prevent injury. For example, drivers on the road have a duty of care to passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers and should oblige to all traffic laws and drive in a safe manner to avoid accidents.
Second, the plaintiff is expected to demonstrate that the defendant breached their duty of care, or in other words, failed to act in a responsible and sensible manner, engaged in reckless behavior, or simply did not take action to prevent an accident from happening. For example, traffic laws are pretty clear about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. An individual who chooses to consume too many alcoholic drinks and operate a vehicle has breached their duty of care to others, especially because the risks of their actions are well-known, but the person chose to ignore those risks and potential consequences.
Third, the plaintiff must show they were injured as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty of care. The injury can be physical, emotional or financial, or a combination of all three. Those injuries or losses are referred to as damages. This is a key element, as the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff – the party who was injured by the defendant is expected to present enough evidence to show that the damages they sustained were a direct result of the defendant’s negligent actions that constituted the breach of duty of care.
What Do You Need to Prove in a Personal Injury Claim?
If you were hurt by someone else’s negligent actions and wish to seek compensation for your damages, the first step to take is to seek the help of a San Antonio personal injury lawyer. As explained above, it is up to the victim to come up with enough evidence to link their injury and losses to the actions of the negligent party. This may be true even if you are seeking compensation through an insurance claim without going to court. An attorney can help you put together a strong argument to maximize your chances of winning your case.
The exact type of evidence needed depends on the nature of your accident. In general, you will want to have medical records that can help document the severity and extent of your injuries as well as the steps you have to go through to recover – surgeries, prescriptions, physical therapy, or any other type of medical treatment. It is worth mentioning that the sooner you seek medical attention after being injured, the better. Waiting too long to be examined by a doctor can sometimes weaken your claim, potentially giving the other party enough room to argue that your injury was caused by a separate event unrelated to the accident.
Other types of evidence that may be helpful include the testimony of witnesses present at the scene of the accident, pictures, and videos showing the area where the accident took place and documenting any unsafe situations that may have contributed to the accident, surveillance camera footage, and police reports (if an officer was dispatched to the scene, usually due to a vehicular accident).
How Do Negligence-Based Injury Claims Work in Texas?
Personal injury claims are largely based on negligence, meaning the at-fault party acted with negligence or recklessness and created the unsafe situation that led to the victim being injured. Each state follows its own negligence theory. For example, in some states, victims are barred from recovering any compensation if they are assigned as little as 1% of the responsibility for their accident. This rule is known as contributory negligence. Other states may use the comparative negligence rule, which allows victims to recover some compensation even if they are deemed to be partially at fault for what happened.
Texas applies a variation of the comparative negligence rule. This means that a victim may recover compensation for their damages as long as they are not more than 50% at fault. This means that you will be barred from recovering compensation if you are 51% at fault or more. In addition, the percentage of responsibility assigned to you affects how much money you will be able to receive. For example, if you are deemed to be 20% at fault, the defendant is only obliged to pay you for 80% of your damages. This is why it is important for personal injury victims to work with an attorney right from the start – your attorney can help build your case in a way as to minimize the percentage of blame assigned to you if you happen to be partially responsible for your injuries.
How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
Another important aspect of a personal injury case is the opportunity for the victim to seek reimbursement for a variety of tangible and intangible losses, usually referred to as damages. The monetary value of a personal injury case is usually calculated based on the extent and severity of injuries and damages sustained by the victim as a result of the accident. For that reason, every personal injury case is unique. The amount of money you may receive in your case can only be estimated by an attorney after a careful analysis of your accident and the damages you suffered.
Damages can be divided into two categories – economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easily documented, as they encompass a variety of financial losses resulting from the accident as well as from your recovery process. Medical bills, property damage (such as a damaged vehicle that needs to be repaired or replaced), lost wages, and other financial losses can all be counted as economic damages.
On the other hand, non-economic damages account for the emotional impact of an accident. The pain and trauma of being injured, the emotional distress caused by the whole situation, the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what will happen during recovery and how one will make ends meet without being able to work, and even additional pain inflicted by the recovery process can all deeply impact a victim’s quality of life. Non-economic damages are sometimes referred to as “pain and suffering” and are also included in the compensable damages a victim may seek reimbursement for.
In the end, it can be said that the more serious the injury and the more extensive the damages, the higher your case value may be. However, it is best to consult a personal injury attorney to discuss your case and get an accurate estimate of how much money you may be entitled to receive.
Is There a Time Limit for Personal Injury Cases in Texas?
Personal injury cases are subject to a strictly-enforced legal deadline called a statute of limitations. This means that a victim of a personal injury has a determined amount of time after the accident to initiate a claim. In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. Claims filed after the statute of limitations has expired may be dismissed by the court, as it often happens when the defendant named as part of the lawsuit simply files a Motion to Dismiss pointing out to the court that the clock has run out and the statute of limitations for your claim is expired.
While two years may seem like a long time to take action, building a strong case with the necessary evidence to back it up can take time. The sooner you hire an attorney to begin working on your case, the better your chances are of maximizing your compensation. Another benefit of taking early action is the fact that it will be easier to gather evidence documenting your accident. Items like surveillance footage can routinely be erased after a while, and vehicles in an accident can be destroyed at the junkyard. You run the risk of losing essential evidence for your claim the longer you wait. If you have been hurt and believe you have a personal injury claim, speak to a San Antonio personal injury attorney right away.
Can a Personal Injury Case Result in Criminal Charges?
Personal injury cases are handled in a civil court, and the typical outcome of a personal injury case is the determination that the defendant must provide monetary compensation to the victim. While civil cases do not result in criminal charges, it is possible for a criminal case to be initiated at the same time as a personal injury case. This is frequently seen in accidents caused by drunk driving, for example.
If a drunk driver causes an accident, they may face a variety of criminal charges for breaking the law. Criminal charges are handled by the state – a prosecutor will bring evidence to the court to show that the defendant has broken the law and harmed others, and the judge (and/or jury) will ultimately decide if the defendant is guilty or innocent. If guilty, the defendant may face penalties (such as fines and jail time) and may end up with a criminal record.
On the other hand, a victim of a drunk-driving accident may choose to initiate a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver, as criminal cases do not typically result in any type of compensation for the victim, with few exceptions. In this case, the burden of proof lies with the victim. In certain accidents where gross negligence can be proven to be the main cause, a victim may be able to receive punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. If your personal injury case overlaps with a criminal case, it is in your best interest to seek the help of an attorney to fully understand whether criminal charges will affect your claim in any way.
What Is Gross Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?
A defendant in a personal injury case can be deemed to have acted with gross negligence when their acts showed extreme recklessness and disregard for the safety of others. Gross negligence could be viewed as a step above standard negligence because the at-fault party is said to have deviated so far from the expected standard of care to others that their actions resulted in a severe violation of other people’s right to be treated in a reasonable manner without having their safety and well-being put at risk.
Another aspect of gross negligence is that the at-fault party was fully aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences of their actions and chose to ignore those consequences and engage in reckless behavior regardless of whether that would prove to be harmful to others. Not every personal injury case results from gross negligence. When circumstances point to the possibility of gross negligence as the main cause for the victim’s injuries, it is usually up to the victim or plaintiff to produce enough evidence to support their argument.
Likewise, plaintiffs who were victims of gross negligence may also seek punitive damages payment when applicable. Punitive damages are a way for a civil court to “punish” a defendant for acting in a particularly egregious or reckless manner, which can be the case when gross negligence is involved. Because a civil court cannot charge anyone for crimes or sentence defendants to jail time, ordering that defendant to pay the victim punitive damages in addition to standard compensatory damages is meant to work as a way of discouraging similar behavior in the future. Your attorney can advise you on whether gross negligence or punitive damages are applicable to your personal injury case.
Why Should I Hire a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer for My Case?
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by someone else, you probably have a lot of questions and might be feeling overwhelmed or confused about what will happen next – and, most importantly, who will be responsible for your damages. You may be seriously injured and unable to work while bills continue to arrive in the mail. Unfortunately, personal injury cases can be hard to navigate without having any previous experience dealing with insurance carriers, paperwork, and endless phone calls – all while you are trying to heal and get back on your feet.
Adding insult to injury – quite literally – is the fact that when you are dealing with a personal injury claim that involves an insurance company, chances are they are not on your side and will do whatever it takes to protect their business interests. This means they may try to find any type of evidence that could even slightly suggest you may be partially at fault for the accident and thus are not eligible to receive full compensation.
A San Antonio personal injury attorney has likely handled many cases similar to yours, and they know what to expect, what to avoid, and how to navigate your case in a way so as to maximize your chances of receiving top dollar for your claim. Your attorney is also skilled in negotiating with insurance companies and steering clear of their usual tactics to try and get out of their responsibility of paying what you deserve. Additionally, your attorney can handle every aspect of your case for you – from adjuster phone calls and filling out forms to representing you at a court trial if needed.
At the Law Offices of S. Dylan Pearcy, Attorney S. Dylan Pearcy and his legal team are committed to fighting back to help you secure maximum compensation after a personal injury. Whether your case is simple and can be settled without a court trial, or you have a more complex case that may require going to court, our legal team is ready to assist you and answer all your questions. Reach out to our San Antonio office by calling (210) 953-7486 and requesting an initial consultation to discuss your case.