Accidents are one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US, and statistics reveal that millions of victims and their families are affected. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost 225,000 people die because of unintentional injuries every year, making accidents the #4 causes of fatalities. Plus, another 49 million individuals seek medical care at the ER or their physician’s office after suffering accidental injuries. If you were hurt or lost a loved one, you may be aware that Texas personal injury laws provide you with rights. However, you may not know where to begin with pursuing your legal remedies.
You can count on our team at the Stano Law Firm to seek all available compensation from the at-fault party, as we have extensive experience advocating on behalf of accident victims. We are also knowledgeable about Texas laws, so our lawyers develop a solid strategy to obtain a favorable outcome. Please contact our firm to set up a free consultation with a Greater Houston personal injury attorney who can describe the legal process in more details. It is also helpful to review some answers to the most frequently asked questions about accident claims.
1. How do I prove a Texas personal injury case?
Most accidents occur because someone was negligent, but the term has a special meaning in the legal field. Negligence is a theory of liability for personal injury cases that requires you to prove four essential elements:
1. The at-fault party owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care and not create a risk of harm.
2. That person or entity breached this legal duty through unsafe actions and misconduct.
3. The breach of legal duty was the direct cause of the accident in which you were injured, such that you would not have been hurt but for the failure.
4. You suffered physical, financial, and emotional losses because of being hurt.
Texas personal injury laws also cover intentional misconduct that cause injuries, such as criminal attacks and assault. There are fewer elements to prove, so you must show that the offender committed the act, and you suffered injuries as a result.
2. What are examples of negligence in accident claims?
You can better understand the underlying principles of when you review some of the most common types of negligence in accident cases. The Houston personal injury lawyers at the Stano Law Firm handle a wide range of claims, including:
· Car collisions caused by speeding, drunk driving, and running red lights
· Motorcycle crashes that often happen because of driver inattention
· Pedestrian and bicycle accidents, typically the result of distracted driving and failure to yield
· Commercial truck collisions, which may occur due to typical traffic violations as well as violations of trucking regulations
· Slip and falls and other accidents that happen because a property owner failed to keep the premises reasonably safe
· Claims for work injuries and occupational diseases
· Wrongful death cases, in which surviving loved ones have a claim after a family member was killed in an accident
3. Can I recover compensation for accidental injuries?
If you have sufficient proof regarding the four essential elements described above, you may qualify for various types of monetary damages. Compensation is intended to make a victim whole after an accident, at least as much as practically possible. There are two classes of damages that apply in most personal injury cases:
1. Economic Damages: Some losses are tangible, definite, and have a dollar amount attached. A large percentage of compensation in an accident claim will be medical costs for surgery, emergency treatment, hospitalization, pain medications, and other care. You may also qualify to obtain amounts for your lost wages and out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
2. Noneconomic Damages: You sustain other losses when injured that are not as definite, but you definitely endure hardship. Noneconomic damages are your personal, subjective losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and diminished quality of life.
4. What are Texas laws on wrongful death cases?
When an accident is fatal, there is a legal remedy available to the deceased person’s family members. A wrongful death claim aims to compensate survivors for the losses they sustain due to their loved one’s passing. To recover monetary damages, you must have evidence of the four essential elements of negligence as you would in an injury claim.
However, there is an additional element: You must have standing to sue, meaning you must have legal authority under Texas law. The matter of standing comes down to timing:
· If you are the surviving spouse, a parent, or a child of the person who was killed, you can file a lawsuit within the first three months after death.
· Beyond three months, the decedent’s personal representative has the power to sue. This is an individual named in a will or appointed by the probate court.
In a wrongful death claim, it is possible to recover for the deceased person’s medical expenses, funeral, and burial costs. Survivors may also obtain amounts for lost financial support, contributions, emotional guidance, education, and other losses.
5. How do I recover compensation after an accident?
With many personal injury matters, your first step will be filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Home, property, and business owners carry policies to protect their interests in the event of an accident, and motorists are required to have auto insurance by Texas law. You might expect that the claims process is just filling out forms, but keep in mind that insurers are in the business for profit. Many companies deny claims or counteroffer a lowball amount to protect their own bottom line.
If the insurance company will not agree to pay a fair amount in settlement discussions, the next step in the legal process is going to court. You start a lawsuit by filing a complaint and going through the pretrial stages, and eventually your case is scheduled for trial.
6. Is there a time limit on suing after an accident?
Yes, Texas has a statute of limitations for personal injury cases, like all other US states. You have two years to file a lawsuit in court, and the clock starts on the date of the accident. A notable exception is wrongful death cases, in which the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of death. Another scenario involves children who are injured in accidents, who are under a legal disability and do not have the capacity to sue. In such a situation, the clock begins to run on the date the victim turns 18 years old.
If you fail to initiate litigation before the deadline expires, you are forever barred from suing for monetary damages. The two-year statute of limitations may seem like a long time, but keep in mind that settlement negotiations with an insurance company can be time-consuming.
7. Are there any other limitations on personal injury claims?
Another factor that could affect your case is the Texas rule on comparative negligence, which focuses on your own conduct in an accident. If you also breached the duty to exercise reasonable care, there are implications for your monetary damages. The concept is also termed proportionate responsibility because it serves to reduce your compensation by the percentage of fault assigned to you.
8. Do I need a lawyer to help with a Texas personal injury case?
There is no rule that requires you to hire an attorney, but retaining legal counsel should be a priority. Without a background in law, you are at a disadvantage in dealing with the insurance company and proceeding to litigation. You can expect that the insurer has a large legal department and healthy budget for defending your claim, so you level the playing field when you have a lawyer on your side.
The Stano Law Firm is prepared to support you throughout the legal process. You can rely on our Texas personal injury attorneys to handle such essential tasks as:
· Gathering evidence to show fault and defend claims of comparative negligence
· Reviewing your medical records
· Completing a demand package for the insurance company, in which you request payment and provide all evidence of your losses
· Engaging in negotiations with the insurer in an attempt to settle out of court
· Representing you during mediation, a process in which a trained mediator works with both sides to come together on agreement
· Filing a lawsuit and assisting with all stage of litigation
9. What Should I Do After an Accident in Houston?
Were you hurt in an accident in Houston? It is imperative that you take immediate action to protect your health/safety and your legal rights. A proactive approach to personal injury claims is a must. Here are four steps to take after a serious accident in Southeast Texas:
- Get Immediate Medical Care: All physical injuries require immediate medical attention from a licensed doctor. You should seek medical care right away after a major accident. You need prompt care to put yourself in the best position to make a full physical and mental recovery. Beyond that, you cannot bring a claim in Texas without medical records.
- Report the Accident: An accident should be reported to the proper parties. A motor vehicle collision needs to be reported to law enforcement. A slip and fall accident should be reported to the responsible business or property owner.
- Document the Accident and Your Injuries: The more documentation you have, the better position that you will be in to bring a successful personal injury claim. Gather evidence of the cause of the accident and the nature/severity of your injuries.
- Consult With a Lawyer Before an Insurer: Personal injury claims in Texas are complicated. Too many injured victims struggle to get the full and fair compensation that they deserve. Before you give a statement to an insurance adjuster, be sure to speak to an experienced Houston personal injury attorney.
10. How Do I Know If I Have a Personal Injury Claim Texas?
Do you want to know if you have a personal injury claim in Texas? You should consult with a top Houston personal injury attorney. To ascertain whether you have a valid personal injury claim in Texas, your lawyer will review a number of different specific issues, including:
- The cause of the accident, including the other party’s negligence; and
- The extent of your injuries, including your economic/non-economic damages.
You should be aware of the statute of limitations in Texas for filing a personal injury claim. Compile all relevant evidence, including medical records, accident reports, and statements from witnesses. A Houston personal injury attorney can help you navigate all aspects of the legal claims process.
11. Can I Get Financial Compensation for My Pain and Suffering in Texas?
Yes—or at least it is possible to do so when certain criteria are met. To pursue this, you must demonstrate the extent to which the injury has affected your life, encompassing physical pain, emotional distress, and a decline in the quality of life.
It is important to emphasize that quantifying pain and suffering damages can be challenging. You do not have to figure out the total value of your case alone. An experienced Houston, TX personal injury lawyer can help you determine the proper value of your pain and suffering and your case as a whole.
Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to undervalue pain and suffering. Remember that the negotiations with defendants and their insurers are often a critical part of this process. The right lawyer can make the difference.
12. How Does Modified Comparative Fault Work in Texas?
Multiple parties may share fault for the same accident in Houston. In fact, even the victim may bear partial fault for their own accident. Under Texas law (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.001), personal injury cases fall under a modified comparative fault system. The compensation you can receive—whether through a verdict or a settlement—will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you in the accident.
For example, if you are deemed 30 percent at fault in a car accident in Houston and you suffered $100,000 in total damages, your recoverable compensation would be reduced to $70,000. You would be liable for 30 percent of your own damages. However, as Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, you cannot recover any financial compensation through a personal injury claim if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for your own accident.
13. Can You File a Personal Injury Claim after a Workplace Accident in Texas?
It depends. In Texas, whether you can file a personal injury claim after a work injury is determined by the specific circumstances of your case. Unlike most U.S. states, Texas does not mandate employers to obtain no-fault workers’ comp insurance. If your employer does subscribe to workers’ compensation, your primary option for compensation is usually through workers’ comp claims. You may not be eligible to sue your own employer for a workplace accident.
However, if your employer is a non-subscriber to workers’ compensation insurance, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim against them. Beyond that, if your injury was caused by a third party’s negligence, separate from your employer, you could have a third-party liability claim. It is important to understand the specific circumstances of your case. Consult with a top-tier Houston work injury lawyer to learn more about your rights and your options.
14. What is Premises Liability Law?
Premises liability law governs the legal responsibilities of property owners and property occupiers (business) to prevent injuries to persons on their property. Under the law, businesses and property owners in Southeast Texas are required to maintain a safe environment for visitors. If someone is injured due to a dangerous condition on the property, such as a slippery floor or a broken staircase, the property owner may be held liable for the injuries.
These are highly fact-specific personal injury claims. Notably, the extent of a business or property owner’s responsibility can vary depending on the legal status of the visitor—whether they are invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Premises liability cases can include a wide range of scenarios, from slip and fall accidents to negligent security claims. An experienced Houston premises liability attorney can investigate your claim and help you take action to get justice and compensation.
15. Who Can Be Held Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident in Texas?
In Texas, a number of different parties can be held liable for a slip and fall accident. Property owners—both commercial and residential—can be liable if the accident was caused by unsafe conditions on their property. Some examples of unsafe property hazards include wet floors, uneven surfaces, or poor lighting. Determining liability in a slip and fall accident case in Texas requires proving that the responsible party knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and that they failed to rectify it. These accidents require a prompt, comprehensive investigation.
16. Will My Personal Injury Claim Go to Trial?
Probably not—though litigation is possible in any personal injury claim in Texas. Instead, the majority of personal injury cases in Texas are settled out of court through negotiations between the involved parties, often mediated by lawyers and insurance companies. Why? The reason is that settlements are generally faster and less costly than trials and provide a degree of certainty that trials do not. However, if the parties involved cannot reach an agreement on the settlement—or if the compensation offered is not fair—a trial may be necessary.
17. What is the Average Timeline for a Personal Injury Claim?
It varies. In Texas, a straightforward personal injury claim may be resolved within a few months—particularly if it is settled out of court. That being said, for more complex cases, especially those that require an extensive investigation—and potentially, a trial—can take significantly longer. No matter the situation that you are dealing with, a top Houston, TX personal injury attorney can help you determine the best path forward.
18. Should I Accept a Settlement Offer from the Insurance Company?
You should not accept a personal injury settlement offer from an insurance company unless you are ready to resolve your case and you are certain that you are receiving full and fair financial compensation. Unfortunately, in many cases, the initial settlement offer from an insurer may be far lower than what you may be entitled to under the law. Before accepting any offer, it is crucial to fully understand the extent of your injuries, including future medical needs and potential long-term impacts on your life. Do not go it alone. A Houston personal injury attorney can represent you during settlement negotiations and ensure you are being treated fairly by the insurer.
19. How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Top-Tier Houston Personal Injury Lawyer?
You do not have to worry about the cost of securing legal representation after a serious accident in Texas. At The Stano Law Firm, we represent injured victims in Houston, Harris County, and throughout Southeast Texas on a contingency fee basis. How does it work? There are no upfront fees, hourly billing rates, or other out-of-pocket costs. Instead, our law firm only charges legal fees when we win your case. If our clients do not get paid, we do not get paid. Every person deserves a top-rated Houston personal injury attorney who is committed to their case. Initial consultations are free and carry absolutely no obligation.
A Knowledgeable Texas Personal Injury Lawyer Can Answer Additional Questions
This information is helpful as an overview, but you will need experienced legal representation to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses. The Stano Law Firm will serve your needs throughout the process, and we are prepared for challenges in dealing with the insurance company. Our team is also skilled in trial advocacy, so we will take your case to court as necessary to protect your rights.