What is Personal Injury: Ultimate Guide
Personal injury is the area of law that deals with accidents and injuries that cause physical or emotional harm to a person. Victims of personal injury may suffer from bodily injuries that require medical care and cause severe pain, emotional distress, physical limitations, inability to work and therefore loss of earnings, as well as other harms. If you or a loved one suffered a personal injury in Houston or elsewhere in the state of Texas, it is important to understand what personal injury is and have a guide to the laws that protect you.
In this article, we’ll answer the question: “what is personal injury?” and you’ll get a general introduction to the laws that protect you in Houston and the state of Texas.
What Constitutes a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a legal action taken by someone who is injured due to the negligence or other wrongful act of another. This can include accidents, criminal acts, and other situations where someone else is at fault for causing physical harm or emotional distress. The law provides a way for these claims to be addressed and ultimately resolved through negotiation and settlement with the at-fault party, by arbitration, or by trial in a court of law.
Common types of personal injury cases in Houston
Some of the most common types of personal injury cases in Houston are:
- Car accidents: resulting from negligent or reckless driving, which can cause serious injuries.
- Slip and fall accidents: hazardous conditions such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, defective ladders, or loose carpets can cause slip and fall accidents.
- Workplace accidents: caused by unsafe or unhealthy working conditions that expose workers to injury or illness.
- Medical malpractice: when medical professionals fail to provide the standard of care that is expected of them under normal circumstances.
Legal elements required to prove a personal injury claim
When making a personal injury claim based on negligence, a plaintiff has four legal elements to prove. These are:
- Duty of care: The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
- Breach of duty: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached that duty of care through one or more of defendant’s actions or inactions
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty must have caused the plaintiff’s injury or the occurrence. The legal standard is known as “proximate cause” which has the elements of foreseeability and cause in fact.
- Damages: The plaintiff must show that he or she has suffered actual harm or loss due to the defendant’s breach of duty.
The above is a general outline, and it is essential to consult a personal injury attorney to discuss in greater detail what personal injury is and what you must prove to have a successful claim.
Seeking Compensation for Personal Injury
When seeking compensation for personal injury, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney with knowledge of applicable laws and regulations is important. It is essential that the lawyer have a history handling personal injury claims so the client has the best opportunity to succeed with the claim.
A personal injury attorney will work to establish the value of a claim. They should compile and develop evidence under the law to support the claim and maximize its value.
Steps involved in pursuing a personal injury claim
The steps involved in pursuing a personal injury claim vary depending on factors such as the type and severity of your injury and the party responsible for your injury.
Some general steps common to most personal injury claims are:
- Seek medical attention for your injury as soon as possible and keep records of diagnosis, treatment, and expenses.
- Consult with a personal injury lawyer on your legal rights and options. Your attorney will help you prepare and file your claim.
- Gather and collect evidence of the other party’s liability and notify them of your intention to file a claim.
- Your attorney will negotiate with the other party’s insurance company or their lawyer for a fair settlement covering your damages and losses.
- If an agreement on a fair settlement cannot be reached, file a lawsuit and present your case before a judge or jury.
Depending on each case, these steps will take different amounts of time and effort.
Types of compensation available in personal injury cases
The types of compensation available in personal injury cases, in the past and future, are:
- Medical expenses: These are called economic damages and reimburse you for actual financial loss resulting from the injury. They include the cost of medical care in the past and future.
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity: Also falling under economic damages, lost wages include lost income due to time off work, future loss of benefits, and loss of capacity to earn.
- Pain and suffering: Classified as non-economic damages, this type of compensation is intended for the physical pain and discomfort you experienced. Headaches, bruises, fractures, and burns are included.
- Mental anguish: This includes emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
- Physical impairment: This is the element of damages to compensate for the loss or diminishment of physical ability.
Statute of Limitations and Time Constraints
The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit or settle a claim for personal injury. It’s essential to know the statute of limitations and handle your claim accordingly so that you do not lose the right to pursue the claim.
For a personal injury claim that is based on negligence and that happened in the state of Texas, a claimant must either settle the claim or file a proper lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the incident that caused the injury. If that is not done, then the claimant will lose the right to ever make the claim.
Depending on the specific facts of your case, there may be exceptions and variations. It is critical that you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your injury to determine the statute of limitations that applies to your case.
Importance of acting promptly to protect your rights
Acting promptly after suffering a personal injury allows you to:
- Preserve critical evidence and witness testimony necessary to prove your claim.
- Avoid missing the statute of limitations deadline.
- Increase your chances of negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company or the other party.
- Reduce the stress and uncertainty of dealing with a personal injury case, and focus on your recovery and well-being.
Acting promptly does not mean rushing into making decisions or accepting offers not in your best interest. It means seeking legal advice and representation from a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Factors Influencing Personal Injury Cases in Houston
Every case depends on its facts and circumstances. There are, however, some general factors that can influence personal injury cases in Houston and throughout the state of Texas, including the following:
- Comparative negligence: If you are injured in an accident but were partially at fault for the incident, your compensation may be reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to you. There is a limit to the amount of fault a plaintiff can have and still recover damages. Texas follows the 51% bar rule, which means that a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if they are more than 50% at fault for the injury.
- Damage caps: Damage caps are legal limits on the compensation a plaintiff can recover in a personal injury case. Texas imposes damage caps on different types of personal injury cases, such as medical malpractice, government claims, and punitive damages.
- Role of insurance companies: Insurance companies investigate, evaluate, and settle claims involving injuries caused by their policyholders. Their role in personal injury cases in Houston can be significant and challenging.
- Local courts and juries: They apply the laws and procedures for personal injury cases in Texas, which may differ from other states. They decide the facts and evidence of each case and award compensation to the plaintiff.
Importance of Documenting and Preserving Evidence
Essential evidence in personal injury cases
This information and material can help prove the liability of the party at fault for the injury and the extent of the damages suffered by the injured party. Evidence is crucial to proving the claim for the damages you are entitled to. Some common examples are:
- Medical records: Documents that show the diagnosis and treatment of the injuries sustained by the injured party. They help prove the nature and severity of the injuries and the expenses you have paid or are expected to pay.
- Accident and incident reports: These are documents that record the details of an accident or incident, such as police reports. They are important in that they help establish the facts and circumstances of the case.
- Witness statements: Oral or written accounts of what witnesses saw or heard during or after the incident help confirm or dispute the versions of events given by the parties involved.
- Photographs and videos: This is visual evidence that can show the accident scene, injuries, and other relevant aspects of the case. They can help to show how an incident happened as well as the significance of the injuries.
Steps to preserve evidence after an accident
If you’ve been in an accident and suffered a personal injury, it’s important to preserve evidence that can help support your case. Some steps to do so are:
- Call 911 and report the accident to the police. The police report will serve as an official record of the accident and provide important details and information.
- Seek medical attention and document your injuries. Some injuries may not show symptoms immediately but may worsen over time. Keep copies of medical records, bills, prescriptions, and receipts that show your diagnosis and treatment.
- Take photographs and videos of the scene of the accident, your injuries, and any property damage.
- Collect contact information and statements from witnesses. This includes the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of anyone who saw or heard the accident.
- Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help you gather and preserve essential evidence, such as expert opinions and surveillance footage.
Preserving evidence after an accident is crucial for proving your claim and obtaining fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Resources and Support for Personal Injury Victims in Houston
If you have suffered from a personal injury in Houston, there are local organizations that can provide assistance and support. The Family to Family Network provides assistance for people living with a disability.
For support groups and counseling services near you, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission can assist you in locating those within your area.
Understanding Personal Injury Law in Houston
Personal injury law is complex and involves various legal issues and challenges. It allows injured persons to seek compensation under the law from the person or entity responsible for the injury. In a case based on negligence, the plaintiff has to prove the existence of a duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Most personal injury cases are brought under the legal theory of negligence, meaning that the person or entity responsible failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. In Houston, personal injury law includes the legal doctrine of comparative negligence, which means that responsibility for the injury can be shared among multiple parties, including the injured person.
As a complex and dynamic area of civil law, personal injury laws apply to every person and company in Houston and throughout the state of Texas. For anyone who has been injured, it is advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your rights and options.
Q: What are the most common types of personal injury cases?
A: The most common personal injury cases are car accidents, work accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, and product liability.
Q: What are the causes of personal injury?
A: Some common causes of personal injury are motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, forklift accidents, slip and fall accidents, and defective products.
Q: What happens in a personal injury claim?
A: In a personal injury claim, the injured person or their lawyer will gather evidence to support the claim, notify the at-fault person or company of the claim, develop the case, attempt to negotiate a settlement, file a lawsuit, conduct discovery including depositions, mediate, and if the case cannot be settled, then present the case to a judge or jury.
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.