A personal injury case is a lawsuit to resolve a dispute resulting from an injury or harm to a person or property by another's actions or failure to act. The goal is to determine damages and obtain compensation.
Most personal injury cases seek financial damages to compensate for an injury. Damages may pay for medical costs, lost wages, future lost pay, and pain and suffering both physically and mentally. Damages can compensate for disfigurement and disability as a result of the negligence of another, as well as for loss of consortium, or the inability to have marital relations with your spouse.
What Does it Cost to File a Suit?
Most personal injury attorneys will not charge a fee unless you win your case. This is known as working on a contingency basis. That does not mean that you, as the plaintiff, will not owe any money to the attorney or the court. Basic fees for filing and processing may be owed regardless of the outcome of the case.
Where Are Personal Injury Suits Filed?
You must file your case in the county where the defendant resides or where the defendant contracted to perform the service, if applicable, according to the Texas Bar Association. If the claim is under $10,000, you must file in small claims court, where you may represent yourself. However, laws are complicated and vary from state to state, so it may be beneficial to the outcome of the case to seek the help of a lawyer.
Statutes of Limitations
There are time limits for filing specific types of personal injury claims, known as statutes of limitations. In general, you have two years in Texas to file a personal injury claim from the time of the injury or discovery of the injury.
What to Expect
Once you have filed your personal injury suit in the proper court within the time limit, you can expect the process to continue in a predictable way:
- Your case begins with filing a complaint and summons, which is served on the defendant in the case.
- The defendant will answer the complaint.
- You may file preliminary motions. These are decisions to be decided by the judge before the case goes to trial.
- The discovery process begins. Facts about the case will be gathered. An expert witness may be required. This must be disclosed and the witness deposed by the opposing litigant.
- If counterclaims were made, you will reply to these counterclaims.
Reaching a settlement at this point is very common. Few personal injury cases go all the way to trial. A neutral third party, like a mediator, can help both sides reach a mutually satisfactory solution.
If no agreement is reached, the case proceeds to trial. A jury will be selected if applicable. Both sides, beginning with the plaintiff, will make opening statements. Then each side will produce evidence. Once the facts of the case have been laid out, deliberation by a judge or jury begins. When a verdict is reached it will be read in court. At this time damages may or may not be awarded. Funds will be disbursed soon after trial.
In Texas, personal injury law is applied in accord with the proportionate responsibility rule. This means a claimant cannot receive damages if his or her percentage of responsibility is more than 50 percent. If less, the plaintiff's recovery is reduced by the amount of their liability. The defendant is only liable for the amount of harm for which he or she is deemed responsible.
Statement of Caution
State laws for personal injury claims are multifaceted and different in every state. Speak with a personal injury attorney if you need help to establish your claim and damages.