What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
Have you or a close family member ever been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct? If so, you could be entitled to compensation for the damage you suffered, which might include your medical expenses and lost income, as well as physical and emotional suffering.
A personal injury lawyer is a licensed attorney who can help you through this process and work to try to achieve the best possible outcome from your case. They provide legal advice to their clients who have suffered harm as a result of the negligent or wrong actions of others and represent them in and out of the courtroom.
In this article, we will lay out a full guide to the responsibilities of a personal injury lawyer and how they can help you, as well as define and outline the scope of personal injury law.
Definition and Scope of Personal Injury Law
To better understand the work of a personal injury lawyer, one should have an understanding of what personal injury law is and what it encompasses.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law deals with legal disputes regarding injuries stemming from the negligence or wrongful conduct of another person or entity that results in a person suffering a bodily injury or death.
Specialized Areas within Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law applies in a variety of situations and practice areas, depending on the type and cause of the injury. While various types of incidents and accidents may fall within the scope of personal injury law, some cases more commonly occur;
- Motor vehicle accidents: Road accidents involving cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, or pedestrians fall under this category. These types of accidents frequently occur in Houston and cause injuries and damages. Liable parties in such accidents may include drivers, passengers, vehicle owners, manufacturers, and government entities.
- Medical malpractice: Injuries or deaths resulting from the negligence or misconduct of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals fall within this category. Examples of malpractice include medication errors, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or failure to treat when required.
- Product liability: Injuries or damages caused by products that are not designed or made properly fall under this category. The company that designs, manufactures, distributes, or sells the faulty product may be liable in the event of harm caused by a defect in product or by inadequate warnings regarding the use of a product.
- Premises liability: Injuries sustained due to hazardous conditions in someone else’s property who breached their duty to keep their properties safe fall within this category. Examples of this kind of accident include slipping on a wet surface, falling because of an uneven surface, and getting attacked by someone else’s pet.
- Wrongful death: The death of a person which was caused by the wrongdoing or negligence of another falls under this category. Surviving family members might be entitled to compensation for their losses resulting from the death, such as funeral expenses, loss of support, emotional distress, and loss of companionship.
- Offshore injuries: Injuries of workers in the offshore oil and gas industry, which were incurred due to explosions, fires, equipment failures, or exposure to toxic substances, fall within this category. The rights of workers may be covered under different laws, depending on their employment status and the location of the accident.
Bringing a Claim under Texas Personal Injury Law
Texas personal injury law is sourced from the state statutes and the common law and is mostly built on the doctrine of negligence.
Establishing Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim
To establish a successful personal injury claim based on negligence, one must be able to demonstrate that:
- the party at fault owed a duty of care to them;
- that duty of care was breached by the party at fault; and
- This breach caused injury and damages which were foreseeable.
Texas follows a modified comparative negligence standard, which is also known as the “shared fault rule” or “proportionate responsibility.” This system allows the injured individuals to recover compensation for their injury when they are partially responsible for the accident but when their share of fault does not exceed 51 percent.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Claim?
There is a time limit to file a lawsuit for a personal injury. In Texas, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury. Still, there are exceptions to this general rule.
In some cases, the limitation period is longer or it is determined from the point at which the injured person knew or should have known that an injury occurred. In any case, failing to comply with deadlines leads to the permanent loss of the right to bring a claim for the same injury.
What Type of Damages Can Be Recovered?
In the event of a successful claim, the injured person may be able to recover compensation for their damages which fall under three categories:
- Economic Damages: refers to the money the injured person has spent or lost because of the injury, such as medical expenses or lost income.
- Non-economic Damages: refers to damages not easily quantifiable in monetary terms, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, impairment, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Punitive (Exemplary) Damages: refer to damages awarded in addition to compensatory damages to punish the defendant and/or deter others from committing similar acts. These are usually only available if a Defendant has acted with gross negligence.
Navigating through this complicated process could be burdensome for many, particularly during the recovery period of an injury. In some cases, one might even lose their right to demand compensation due to incompliance with the law.
Consulting a personal injury lawyer is, therefore, crucial to efficiently conduct this process and bring a successful claim that results in the optimal outcome for the injured party.
What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?
Personal injury lawyers perform a wide range of tasks when handling a personal injury claim, including taking a case to court. However, their role is not confined to court representation since a personal injury case may settle before it reaches trial. In fact, only 5 percent of personal injury cases are resolved by a trial, while an overwhelming 95 percent of cases settle pre-trial.
While the scope of personal injury lawyers’ role varies depending on the type of case, there are some general tasks they perform to help their clients, such as;
- Investigating the facts of the case, including how the accident occurred
- Gathering and preserving evidence such as the medical records of the injured person, police report of the accident, witness statements, photos, and videos
- Identifying and contacting the liable parties and their insurance companies
- Evaluating the extent and severity of the injuries and damages
- Calculating the fair value of the claim based on the economic and non-economic losses and advising the injured party on the best course of action to try to resolve their claim
- Sending a demand letter stating the facts of the case and the amount of damages to try to achieve an early settlement
- Preparing and filing the necessary legal documents and paperwork for a lawsuit within the deadlines and in accordance with the law
- Negotiating with insurance adjusters and lawyers to reach a favorable settlement
- Protecting the injured party’s best interests and rights throughout the process
Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer is a valuable ally for anyone who has been harmed or injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of another party. Whether you have been involved in a motor vehcile accident that was not your fault, suffered medical malpractice, been harmed by a faulty product, or experienced an offshore injury, you can benefit from the guidance and representation of a personal injury lawyer.
A personal injury lawyer not only handles legal matters but also may provide you with the support and guidance you need as you go through that difficult and stressful time. Since they have dealt with similar cases before, they can help you guide you through this process.
Remember, you do not have to face this alone. A personal injury lawyer can help you get justice and the compensation you deserve.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What can a personal injury attorney do for you?
A: A personal injury attorney can:
- Provide you with a free consultation to evaluate your case
- Protect your rights against the insurance companies
- Gather and preserve your evidence
- Determine the fair value of your claim
- Negotiate with the insurance adjusters and lawyers
- Litigate your case in court if necessary
- Provide you with emotional support and guidance
Q: Do personal injury lawyers go to court?
A: Yes, personal injury lawyers can represent you in court.
Q: When should I get a personal injury lawyer?
A: You should hire a personal injury lawyer after suffering an injury or harm due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another party.
Michael S Callahan is an attorney and founder of The Callahan Law Firm. He focuses his practice on representing individuals and families in personal injury cases involving motor vehicle and truck accidents, workplace accidents and defective products. With over 25 years of experience, he is dedicated to fighting on behalf of people whose lives have been forever altered by the negligence and carelessness of corporations and individuals. Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, Michael has been practicing law and fighting for justice for those who need it most since 1994. He is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a member of various esteemed legal associations. Outside of work, Michael enjoys spending quality time with his family, outdoor activities, and continually striving to improve as a trial lawyer and human being.