Following a traumatic event like a car or truck accident, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, as your medical bills start to mount, and you find yourself unable to return to work or even perform the same activities of daily life that you could before the accident, you soon realize you need help. If your accident was the result of somebody else’s negligence, you understandably expect that person to compensate you for your losses.
All too often, that is easier said than done. While insurance adjusters may seem like they want to help, their initial offers typically will not cover the full cost of your injuries. More often than not, the insurance carrier will fight to minimize, deny, or delay your claim. Most accident victims quickly realize it is in their best interests to hire an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer.
We help people like you every day at Kraft & Associates, P.C. Our lawyers can walk you through the steps of how to file a personal injury claim in Texas and answer all your questions. While every case is obviously different, here is a brief overview of some of the steps that are common to most claims. Please feel free to contact us when you are ready to talk about your case in a free consultation.
Do I Have a Case?
This is usually the first question a new or potential client asks us. Again, there is no universal answer, as every case has its own unique set of facts. However, in terms of the law in Texas, an accident victim needs to show three things to prevail in a personal injury case:
- There was a negligent party. “Negligent” is the key word here. In an auto accident, for example, you do not need to prove the other driver intentionally hit you. You only need to show they were careless, reckless, or otherwise acted with a disregard for traffic laws or public safety. In other words, if the other driver ran a red light and hit you, that is usually sufficient to prove negligence.
- The negligent act caused a personal injury. Even when there is clearly negligence on the part of the defendant, the plaintiff must still prove that negligence caused some specific, identifiable injury. This may include physical injuries, damages to the plaintiff’s car, or even psychological injuries traceable to the accident.
- The injury resulted in compensable damages. In a legal context, “damages” refers to the amount of money an accident victim may recover from a negligent defendant. As with negligence, the plaintiff needs to prove the existence and amount of damages, which may include items like medical bills or loss of income.
Steps of the Injury Claims Process in Texas
- Selecting an attorney. For most accident victims, the first step in bringing a personal injury claim is hiring an attorney. Technically speaking, you do not need a lawyer to represent you in court. However, your chances of success are substantially greater if you have professional representation.You should work with an attorney who is not only experienced in personal injury claims, but one who has successfully handled claims like yours before. You will also want to ensure the attorney you choose has a proven track record in the courtroom and will take your case to trial, if necessary.
- Launching an investigation to collect evidence. Even after you hire a lawyer, that does not mean you will immediately proceed to file a lawsuit. Your attorney will first conduct an investigation to collect evidence in support of your personal injury claim. You can actually begin this process before even contacting a lawyer.You can start with the accident itself. Most of us carry smartphones with excellent cameras. You can use your phone to take pictures of the accident scene and your injuries. Such evidence often proves helpful to your attorney as he or she attempts to reconstruct what happened. If anyone else saw the accident, it is also helpful to get their names and contact information, so your attorney can interview them as potential trial witnesses.
- Documenting the extent of your injuries. You will need to show the court proof of your accident-related injuries. Here, the best evidence is medical records. You should always go to the emergency room – or at least see your own primary care physician – as soon as possible following an accident. All records of this and any follow-up care will provide crucial documentation of the extent of your injuries.
- Consulting with experts. In some cases, particularly ones where the defendant’s liability is contested, it may be necessary for your personal injury lawyer to consult with an expert witness, such as an accident reconstructionist. These experts can serve as trial witnesses to help a judge or jury understand the events leading up to the accident.
- Negotiating a settlement or filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Contrary to what you might think, most personal injury cases are settled without the need for a trial. Indeed, when faced with overwhelming evidence of negligence and the extent of the victim’s injuries, defendants (and their insurance carriers) are usually eager to settle. If a settlement proves impossible for whatever reason, your personal injury attorney will assist you in filing a lawsuit. Please note that it can take several months – and sometimes years – before a lawsuit is actually ready for trial. During that time, your attorney may continue with settlement talks.
- Obtaining the final outcome. If a personal injury case goes to trial, a jury (or sometimes just the judge) will hear evidence and arguments from both sides before rendering a verdict. The losing side may decide to appeal the verdict, but barring that, the trial court’s decision is final.
Statute of Limitations in Texas
Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This means that in most cases, you need to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident. If you miss this deadline, the Texas courts will simply not hear your case regardless of its merits.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Texas Now
The process of filing a personal injury claim in Texas may seem overwhelming at first. However, our personal injury lawyers are here to help. If you have any questions regarding your own potential claim, contact Kraft & Associates, P.C., today to speak with a Dallas personal injury attorney.