Accidents can happen throughout your day, leaving you with a bump or a bruise. You may even need to seek medical help if you slip and fall in a grocery store, for example. Most of us never think twice about these incidents and just tell ourselves to be more careful.
However, if you are hurt because someone did not clean up a spill or fix another type of obvious hazard, it’s another story. You shouldn’t have to pay bills for an injury that was someone else’s fault or even if you are harmed intentionally, such as during an assault. The legal system can be complex and overwhelming to understand, so you may not know where to start.
With that in mind, here is a guide to the personal injury claims process in Texas.
Personal Injury Claim or a Lawsuit: Which One Should You Choose?
When you are hurt because another individual or a business entity was careless, malicious, or simply didn’t do their duty to keep others safe, you deserve compensation rather than to pay your bills yourself.
Generally, your first choice should be a personal injury claim filed with an insurance company. You will provide evidence to prove your accident is their insured’s fault and negotiate a settlement for your expenses.
If you cannot reach an agreement with the insurance provider, you then move on to a personal injury lawsuit. This is a civil legal action against the party at fault for your damages so you can secure compensation.
Don’t Pursue a Claim or a Lawsuit Without Professional Legal Help
Insurance companies will fight hard to avoid paying you. Some insurance representatives will blame you for your own injuries to minimize your claim. Negotiating with an insurance company successfully is much easier when they learn you’ve hired an attorney. You can often get a satisfactory settlement much faster without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.
If you file a lawsuit, you need a skilled personal injury attorney to go up against the defendant’s lawyer. The litigation procedures can be baffling if you have no experience with them. In addition, there are legal advantages you may not be aware of that your lawyer can put to use to argue more effectively for full financial compensation for all of your losses.
Proving Liability in a Personal Injury Case
Being injured is not enough to file a claim and get a settlement. You’ve got to establish liability by gathering evidence such as police reports, photos, video, witness statements, and testimony from accident experts. This creates a powerful story showing the four elements of negligence:
- The other party owed you a duty of care.
- They failed in that duty by their action or inaction.
- You were hurt as a direct result of their failure.
- You have expenses related to your injuries.
Whether you pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit, you’ll need robust proof to show you are in the right and you deserve compensation. Expect the other party to fight back with their own evidence. Negotiating skillfully with insurance adjusters and attorneys will be the key to winning your claim – and that is best accomplished with experienced legal counsel.
Gathering Evidence Is Essential
Evidence forms the backbone of a successful legal claim, and you can start gathering it as soon as your injury happens. Some recommended actions include:
- Take photos of your injuries, property damage, where you were hurt, and anything that could document what happened.
- Get medical attention immediately, either at the scene from first responders or later on at your doctor’s office.
- Ask witnesses for their contact information so your attorney can interview them later.
- Stay off social media and don’t discuss the event.
- Hire a qualified personal injury attorney to prepare your claim professionally.
All these steps contribute to establishing and protecting the connection between the responsible party’s negligence and your injuries.
Step-by-Step: The Personal Injury Claims Process
Let’s walk through all the steps you will follow in a personal injury claim.
1. Consult with Your Attorney
Set up a meeting with a top-notch personal injury attorney in your area. Generally, these meetings are free so the lawyer can assess your claim and determine if you have a valid case. They will let you know what to expect, how to proceed, and what level of compensation you can reasonably expect.
2. Investigate the Incident
Your attorney will investigate all elements of your claim, gathering evidence and evaluating the severity of your injuries. They can connect you with medical professionals to estimate your future treatment needs and costs. Their team will interview witnesses and hire experts to testify on your behalf.
Many law firms have a team of researchers who will analyze and develop your evidence into a case. They can even hire an accident reconstruction expert to give a detailed description of what happened. This is especially useful in car, truck, motorcycle, and other vehicle accidents.
3. Submit A Demand Letter to the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company
Again, you’ll start with an insurance claim as a first attempt to obtain reimbursement for your expenses and compensation for your other damages. Your attorney will ensure every cost is accounted for, then send a demand letter to the insurance provider and/or liable party for the full amount.
The other party can accept the demand and pay you, reject the demand, or make a counteroffer. If they reject or send a counteroffer, your personal injury lawyer will aggressively negotiate to ensure all your costs are covered while preparing to go to court.
4. File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Your attorney will file all the paperwork correctly and on time to begin your lawsuit. During the discovery phase, both sides share the evidence they have. Depending on how much evidence is available, this process can take quite some time. In addition, depositions are often conducted where witnesses (including the injured party) give sworn testimony about the events that took place and the resulting consequences.
5. Negotiation (Mediation)
Lawyers may negotiate among themselves, or they may use a mediator. A mediator is a certified legal professional who attempts to bring the parties to an acceptable compromise. The agreement is signed by both parties and taken to a judge for a final decision, avoiding the time, expense, and potential stress of a public trial.
If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, you will move to a trial phase. Your case will be heard by a judge and/or jury that will determine who is at fault and how damages will be awarded. Once the verdict is rendered, all parties must abide by the decision unless one side appeals.
If either side does not feel the verdict was fair, they can choose to file an appeal. After all the time and frustration of facing a trial, the civil appeals process may feel overwhelming. If your attorney has built a strong case, the defendant may be left with little or no reason to seek an appeal.
Statute of Limitations: A Ticking Clock for Your Claim
The Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Section 16.003 allows only two years after the date of the incident for you to file your claim. This time can go quickly when negotiating with insurance companies for a settlement before you decide to go to trial. It’s in your best interests to begin working with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as you can to allow them the time to build the most robust case for you.
Free Consultation for Personal Injury Claims
The Lubbock, Texas personal injury lawyers of Liggett Law Group offer free consultations to all personal injury victims and their loved ones. Our experienced team has worked with hundreds of clients, helping them successfully resolve car accident claims, workplace injury claims, and more. If you or someone you know needs advice and isn’t sure where to turn, we can help.