Personal injury laws are among the most misunderstood laws in the US. There are entire handbooks on the subject, but there really are so many confusing procedures attached to them that it can be hard to keep track.
What is Personal Injury Law?
In the broadest terms, personal injury law deals with legal disputes that can arise when a person suffers from an injury due to another person’s negligence or wrongful conduct.
This is unlike criminal law since personal injury cases don’t involve the government prosecuting any wrongdoing. Instead, a private plaintiff, the person claiming the injury, seeks compensation from the defendant, which is the person accused of causing the injury.
Contrary to popular belief, personal injury claims are actually pretty common.
Personal injury can involve the following accidents or intentional acts:
- Auto accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Workplace incidents that result in accidental harm
- Premises liability (slip and fall accidents)
- Product liability
- Dog bites
- Negligent security
- Child abuse
- Child injury
- Wrongful death
What does a Personal Injury Lawyer do?
A personal injury attorney is a lawyer that can provide legal services to people that claim to be injured as a result of negligence or wrongful behavior on the part of another party.
However, there is a lot more that goes in to a personal injury lawsuit than you would expect. As soon as contact with an attorney is made, the attorney will begin taking steps to preserve and gather evidence of the claim and begin working with the insurers on your behalf.
When the investigation of the case is going on, your attorney will have a single goal: to gather the evidence necessary to prove your claim in court. This can include photographic evidence, testimony from eyewitnesses, official reports of the incident, if there are any, etc.
Once the truth is established, the attorney and the defense attorney will begin pretrial investigations. This part of the process is known as the discovery process. During discovery, attorneys begin gathering evidence and can demand answers from the opposition. This is known as interrogation.
After pretrial investigations are complete, the process of settling out of court will begin. At this point, the attorney will begin seeking fair compensation for the damages that you’ve suffered. In case a settlement is reached, the attorney will contact you for approval.
What Laws Govern Personal Injury Cases in Texas?
In Texas, personal injury cases are governed by the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. This is the section of the law that helps define and determine negligence, the duties of care and statutes of limitations, damages, and recovery.
As with a lot of states, many of Texas’ personal injury laws are based on the doctrine of negligence. The legal information institute defines negligence as the failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would exercise under similar circumstances.
General duties of care are owed by every single member of society and require them to act responsibly within the confines of the law in a manner that doesn’t put others at risk. Hence, if you’re injured in an accident and want to seek financial compensation, you need to show that any reasonable person under the same circumstances would’ve acted differently to prevent the accident, or that they would not have acted in the same manner as the defendant had.
Stricter duties of care are established in certain cases which involve a professional providing a service such as a physician or a police officer. In this case, the individual has been trained and licensed for a specific job in which case malpractice or intentional harm to another person is of much greater significance and demands much higher compensation.
What is the Texas Shared Fault Rule?
The shared fault rule in Texas is a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule is commonly referred to as the proportionate responsibility.
The rule says that if a person or business is partially to blame for the accident or the injury, then they can be held liable for part of the number of damages which are proportionate to their share of the fault. In a case where multiple parties contribute to the injuries, the court will assign each party a percentage of the fault based on the responsibility every party bears.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in the state of Texas depends on the unique circumstances of each case. This is because the Civil Practices and Remedies Code doesn’t go into the complications of real life personal injury cases and establishes a basic statute of limitations which isn’t useful in practice.
The Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims are:
- General Personal Injury: 2 years
- Medical Malpractice: 2 years
- Product Liability: 2-15 years
- Legal Malpractice: 2 years
- Assault and Battery: 2 years
- Wrongful Death: 2 years
In cases where a child is injured, the personal injury statute of limitations can be extended until the child turns 18 or is otherwise deemed an adult. The child would then have two years from the date that they are legally recognized as an adult to settle or prosecute personal injury cases.
Common Elements of a Valid Personal Injury Lawsuit
When attempting to ascertain whether a person’s conduct or behavior is lacking reasonable care, it’s important for an attorney to consider the following elements:
- The existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff
- Defendant’s breach of duty
- Plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury
- Proof that the defendant’s breach has caused the plaintiff’s injury
Personal injury law requires a lot of preparation and diligence to master. That’s why it is essential to get an attorney that understands personal injury law in its entirety. Personal injury law forms the basis of many individual freedoms in the US from getting what you owe from your fellow man, to being free, to demanding justice from any party in the country in any capacity, whether personal or professional.