Why File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits have two purposes. The first is to receive reimbursement for your losses. In many cases, no amount of money can truly compensate a victim and his or her family for the physical and emotional aftermath of an accident or wrongful death. And because they have suffered a personal injury, victims typically incur very large medical bills and repair bills for damage to their property. Often, they must take time off from work to recuperate from their injuries. Suing those responsible for your injuries allows you to win the money you need to get back on your feet. In addition to medical bills and property loss, lost wages, reduced long-term earning capacity, pain, suffering and the expense of a disability, whether short or long-term, along with other expenses caused by an accident due to the defendant’s negligence may all be reimbursed through a personal injury lawsuit or negotiated settlement with the insurance company that represents the defendant.
The second objective of filing a personal injury lawsuit allows you to punish the individual or entity that caused your injuries. By suing those found to be responsible, and then winning fair compensation, you’ll make certain that they think twice before again acting carelessly in a way that could endanger others in the future.
Who Can File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Anyone can file a lawsuit for any purpose in Texas. What really matters is being able to file a successful personal injury lawsuit that you can clearly prove. In order for your case to be successful, you must have been injured in some sort of verifiable accident, which gives you legal standing to file a personal injury lawsuit. You must be able to present evidence to meet your burden of proof in each of the four elements of a personal injury claim. They are duty, breach, causation and finally, damages. They are listed again below and include some very general information surrounding what the plaintiff (and plaintiff’s legal counsel) must do in order to clearly prove each of these four elements:
The first element of a successful lawsuit is clearly showing that the defendant owed you a duty of care to act in a way that wouldn’t cause harm to you. Often, people owe each other the duty to behave as reasonably as possible so they will avoid hurting others. In short, people we normally trust to not harm us owe us a legal obligation to behave in such a manner. This means not only avoiding unreasonably careless activities but furthermore, the defendant must take affirmative (clear) precautions to protect others from getting hurt in the same way a reasonable person would do so. The applicable duty of care in your specific case greatly varies according to the people and circumstances involved.
Here are just a few examples of instances in which the duty of care may vary, that few free online legal advice web sites rarely clarify:
Homeowners. Property owners generally owe a relatively low duty to trespassers who come onto their property without permission or those who are there to commit a crime. In some instances, though, property owners may have a much greater duty to protect children from getting hurt on their property, even those of their neighbors, or children who are trespassing. Visitors who the owner allows on the property also have a right to expect a reasonably high duty of care.
Shopkeepers. Have you ever noticed signs at stores and restaurants warning you about wet floors or steps or other hazards that might cause injury? Now we’re not obligated to put up signs warning houseguests of similar hazards because this high duty of care is already assumed. But stores and other places of the business owe an even greater duty of care to customers because the law views customers like strangers. And the higher duty of care must be displayed in their warnings, along with the property owner taking every reasonable action to protect these visitors from getting hurt on the property.
Hotels and public transportation. Like stores and other businesses, Innkeepers and common carriers owe their patrons a particularly high duty of care in many instances.
Doctors and medical professionals. Doctors and other members of the medical profession receive special training in order to be able to care for their patients. We expect that they’ll use their specialized knowledge and skill when treating and diagnosing us when we are in their care. This is why the law demands that doctors treat patients with an unusually high level of care than they would owe other people whom they are not treating. While they are working, doctors and other medical professionals must exercise the care expected of any reasonable medical professional, rather than simply that of a reasonable person. In short, by the very nature of their jobs, most healthcare providers are held to a much higher obligation than the rest of us.
Drivers. In many states, the duty of care owed by a driver to a passenger depends on whether the passenger is paying for a ride or simply a guest. In states such as Texas, cab drivers, bus drivers, and chauffeurs must be much more careful to protect the safety of a paying passenger in his car, which makes their duty of care unusually higher than that of a driver who, for example, might pick up a hitchhiker who is a stranger.
There are also a variety of other more subtle duties of care that might apply to your case. Depending on which duty of care applies in your situation, you may have a much easier time proving a defendant’s liability. Or you might have a much more difficult duty to prove. These variations represent one reason why after you suffer an injury in personal injury legal advice that’s free is rarely enough to give you an accurate appraisal of your individual situation or how to receive legal relief through a lawsuit. You need the services of an attorney who specializes in personal injury law.
After showing that the defendant owed him a duty of care, a successful plaintiff must then prove that the defendant breached that legal obligation to the injured victim. Proving that a defendant breached the duty of care that he owed you usually requires bringing clear and unambiguous evidence to the court to show exactly what the defendant did, or failed to do, that constituted the breach. If your case goes to trial, the jury will consider your evidence of an alleged breach, along with all of the circumstances involved in the accident, and determine whether the defendant did or did not breach the duty of care that you are claiming. And only an experienced personal injury attorney can make juries understand the many nuances of the breach, and how they apply to any specific case.
Negligence is the most common way of proving that a defendant violates his duty of care. It refers to what you believe as simple carelessness. If a defendant is careless, even during the critical seconds when your accident occurred, he may be held responsible for the injuries that result. Gross negligence on the other hand, which is seen as a complete disregard for the safety of others, is another way in which people violate the duty of care they owe to you. An action constitutes gross negligence when the defendant knows it’s highly likely to cause injury to other people or willfully damage another’s property, but they behave that way without regard for the consequences. Driving while intoxicated is one – of many – examples of gross negligence.
Finally, it is very difficult to prove gross negligence in many personal injury cases. But if, for example, your injuries are the result of physical assault by the defendant, it is quite possible that the defendant may also be answering criminal charges for his or her very acts that caused your injuries. And regardless of whether or not this defendant is found guilty of – in this case – an assault against you, it will be easier for you and your attorney to argue that this defendant’s actions, were intentional; thereby meeting this higher standard of proof of gross negligence.
The ability to prove causation is a critical part of any personal injury lawsuit. It’s just not enough to prove that the defendant breached the duty of care he or she owed you. You must also demonstrate that the defendant’s actions directly resulted in your injuries. This is not always easy, especially if you were unconscious when your injuries occurred, or if many different parties might have contributed to your accident. Furthermore, the defendant you name in your lawsuit will probably try to prove that your injuries were caused by someone else, or even by you. This is also the point where the defendant might try to turn the responsibility for the accident back on you, or assassinate your character as his or her attorney tries to drive home the point that your irresponsibility was in fact how you were injured; not the defendant. If you can’t make this crucial link between the defendant’s actions that caused your injuries, your case will quickly unravel and you’ll lose.
Now we get to the good part: the payday, known as legal damages. But first, we should tell you that any Texas free online legal advice web site that tells you a specific amount to expect from any personal injury damage suit should be viewed with some skepticism. Sharing typical recovery amounts for various types of personal injury cases handled by a law firm is one thing. But any suggestion that you can recover “X-amount” of money for injury compensation by one with no knowledge of your specific case is clearly misleading.
If you are successful in proving the defendant’s liability, the final step finds him or her paying damages to you in order to fairly compensate you for your injuries: well, sort of. Most of the time, it’s the defendant’s liability insurance carrier who picks up the tab. Now don’t confuse injuries with damages. If you are involved in an accident and break your legs, your broken legs are your injuries. Your damages are the cost of treating your broken legs, the wages you’ve lost if you can’t return to work during your recovery, and probably the value of other economic and non-economic losses you sustained as a result of the accident that you have now proven the defendant caused.
Your tangible (or apparent) financial losses are called special or economic damages. Most of the time, examples of special damages include lost wages, loss of earning capacity for the period of time you can’t work because of the injury, and your medical bills. Sometimes, the cost of medical treatment can also be easy to calculate. Other times these costs are not, especially if your medical treatment continues longer than expected, or the full extent of your injuries is unknown. Then the task of calculating special damages is more complex. Calculating loss of earning capacity is often a complicated matter. If you’re unable to return to work, you must account for the time value of money you’ve actually lost, as well as hypothetical promotions, raises, and career changes when calculating how much you’ll demand that the defendant must compensate you for the income you are unable to earn in the future, regardless of whether it takes months or years for you to recover from the accident this negligent person caused.
Intangible, non-economic losses are called general damages. These usually include compensation for your emotional suffering associated with the accident. They also include the pain and suffering of family members in cases of wrongful death. The amount of general damages that a case is worth depends almost exclusively on the circumstances surrounding the injury and the degree of pain and suffering. This is why general damages can vary greatly from case to case even if the physical injuries are very similar. After you’ve been injured in or around Texas, personal injury legal advice you find online is almost never of sufficient quality to help you understand the amount of general damages you may be entitled to because those are computed on a case-by-case basis. And because general damages are relative and subject to many different factors, contact our Law Firm for a free consultation to find out what your case is really worth. After we ask you some important questions about your situation, we’ll be in a position to give you a clear understanding of how a jury will put a price tag on your pain and suffering and other emotional losses, or the amount that may be recovered through aggressive negotiation with the insurance company whose client-defendant is legally liable for your injury.
One of the biggest mistakes that personal injury victims make who don’t hire lawyers is failing to account for all of their damages. Once you collect money from a defendant, you can’t go back and ask for more compensation later. There are no “do-overs.” And by asking for significantly more than a jury might think you are entitled to might open the door for the defendant’s attorneys to accuse you of filing a frivolous personal injury lawsuit. And another round of tort reform passed by the Legislature in 2011 places the plaintiffs of frivolous lawsuits in peril of not only having their cases dismissed with prejudice but also having to pay all of the defendant’s legal bills in many instances. So it’s very important to get the amount right the first time and recover all you’re entitled to from the defendant to compensate for both your tangible and intangible losses.
Put our years of experience to work for you if you want to know what your rights are, how to proceed with your claim and how much compensation you can win from your personal injury case. Regardless of how it happened, we’ll answer all of your questions. Call our Law Firm now at 1(800) 862-1260 (toll-free) for a free consultation and find out how we can help you.