Personal Injury Law Basics: 8 Things to Know Before Going to Court

Personal injury law cases seem simple enough; the defendant does something to injure the plaintiff, the plaintiff files a lawsuit, the defendant or their insurance company compensates the plaintiff. While those are the basic steps as to how a case proceeds, personal injury law is actually a lot more complex than that. Whether you decide to represent yourself in your case or decide to hire a personal injury lawyer, it is always a good idea to brush up on the personal injury law basics before going to court.

Personal Injury Law Basics: 8 Things to Know Before Going to Court

1. What Personal Injury Law Actually Is

Also known as tort laws, personal injury laws are a complex branch of the legal system in which a plaintiff seeks legal compensation for an injury as a result of the defendant’s negligent actions through a civil lawsuit.

The idea behind a personal injury case is that the plaintiff should be able to return to the state they were in before the accident, or at least recover to as close to that point as they possibly can. As a result, personal injury claims will typically cover any medical expenses as well as property damage.

2. Who Makes Personal Injury Laws

Personal injury laws are an old set of regulations that are considered “Common Law.” As such, they are a part of an unwritten set of rules based on the legal precedent established by existing courts.

In “Common Law,” when a new case is brought before a court, the presiding judge hears and decides the verdict. From there, that verdict becomes the point of reference for all the courts under it, and over time becomes the established ruling for related cases.

For this reason, while most US personal injury laws are similar to ours here in Houston, they vary slightly from state to state simply based on the way they were developed. It is important to double-check your state’s regulations before going to court.

3. The Types of Situations to Which Personal Injury Laws Apply

There is a variety of situations that would fall under the branch of personal injury laws, and they traditionally fall under one of four categories;


This is the most common category of personal injury cases. As the type implies, it involves someone acting in a negligent manner that results in the accidental injury to another person. The most common examples of negligence in personal injury cases include car accidents and medical malpractice.

Intentional Tort

These personal injury cases are similar in the fact that they address situations in which a plaintiff is seeking compensation for injury caused by the defendant. However, in this scenario, the damage is a result of intentional action. Cases involving intentional tort traditionally acquire verdicts with increased compensation.

Product Liability

While still accidental, any injuries resulting from a defective product would be considered a product liability lawsuit. This type of lawsuit is unique because the defendant is not an individual but instead the manufacturer of the faulty product.


While not as common, personal injury laws do still apply to any bodily harm as a result of a person’s defamatory statements.

4. The Types of Damage You Can Receive Compensation For

Damages that can be compensated for under Personal Injury Laws fall into one of three categories;

Pecuniary Damages

Also known as “Economic Damages,” these are the more traditional damages plaintiffs seek compensation for and include any monetary expense resulting from the injury. These damages include any medical bills, the cost of pharmaceuticals, as well as any lost wages due to having to take time off of work, or even potential future wages that are lost due to the injury.

Non-Pecuniary Damages

These damages are more difficult to put a monetary value on as they lack any physical damage that can be repaired with money. Any damages that leave you unable to enjoy life the way you once did are compensatable under Personal Injury Laws and include anything from pain and suffering or mental anguish to familial relationships that have been affected negatively by the injury.

Punitive Damages

While rare in personal injury cases, compensation for punitive damages can be applied when the defendant’s actions are particularly heinous. These damages usually only occur in intentional tort cases.

5. How a Personal Injury Claim Is Valued

Knowing what damage you can be compensated for is all well and good, but the first thing most plaintiffs want to know is the value of their claim. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to recognize exactly how much you are entitled to, and no insurance company will ever make it easy for you.

While pecuniary damages are relatively straightforward and only require a bill as evidence of your monetary expenses, it is much more challenging to put a value on damages to an individual’s emotional dismay. These damages are typically valued based on the verdicts of similar cases conducted in the past and require the guiding hand of an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure you receive the most out of your claim.

6. How Long You Have to Make a Claim

In “Common Law” cases, the Statute of Limitations differs from state to state. For this reason, the amount of time that is allowed to pass before filing a suit depends on the state in which the incident occurred and can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years. In Texas, any personal injury lawsuits must be claimed within 2 years of the accident.

7. How Long a Case Can Last

The amount of time a case can last is highly dependant on the severity of the injuries required. Cases seeking maximum compensation typically can last anywhere between 3 to 5 years, but an experienced attorney will normally wait until you have reached “maximum medical improvement” before settling your claim.

With that being said, insurance adjusters are going to offer a settlement early in the case. It is crucial not to take their initial offer. Insurance companies have their own best interests at heart, and their initial offer will be an attempt to mitigate the value of your claims. Wait until you have a better idea of what your claim is worth, and let your attorney do their job.

8. How a Personal Injury Case Is Won

In Texas, there are three things a plaintiff needs to prove in order to win their personal injury lawsuit; that the incident occurred as they described it, that they have all the injuries they claim they have, and that the defendant caused the damage out of negligence.

This is going to require a lot of evidence. You will need well-documented reports from both the police officer responding to the incident and the doctor treating your injuries, as well as photos and videos documenting the incident exactly as you have described it. Bring your evidence and stick to the facts.

Now that you know the personal injury law basics, you are ready to take your case to court. Don’t go it alone. Ensure you get the maximum value out of your claim by working with the best personal injury lawyers in Houston, TX. Contact Abraham Watkins today for a free consultation.