Not just anyone can file a personal injury lawsuit. The first thing you need to determine is whether you have a right to file a lawsuit against the business or person you are in dispute with. In order to file, you must have been directly affected by the dispute. In legal terms, this is known as having ‘standing’ to file the lawsuit.
You must also have the legal capacity to make a claim, which means that you are over the age of 18 and are considered mentally competent. If you do not have legal capacity, then you may need a legal representative to file a claim on your behalf.
Personal injury lawsuits are claims that are judged in court. Many personal injury claims settle outside of court, which often benefits both parties. If you have a valid claim to compensation, the best thing you can do to maximize your chances of success is to speak to an experienced attorney.
Abraham Watkins is proud to have served personal injury victims in Texas for more than 70 years, making us one of the longest-serving law firms in the state. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis which means that we only get paid as a percentage of your settlement if we are successful. If, for whatever reason, your claim does not result in compensation, we will not be paid anything.
Utilizing a stellar reputation, fierce litigation skills, a wealth of resources, and a dedicated approach, we will fight tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve.
We offer a free consultation with no obligation from you. At the very least, you will walk away armed with a deeper understanding than before. If we believe you have a valid claim, we will offer our services, and you can decide whether or not you want to continue with representation.
Contact us today at 713-535-9319.
Deciding Whether You Can File a Lawsuit
If you are unsure whether you have a claim for compensation, then do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We will discuss the details of your case and determine whether we believe you have a valid claim. In order to be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, you must meet the following conditions:
You Must Have Standing
The first thing you will need to determine is whether you have the right to file a lawsuit, which is known as having standing. In order to have standing, you must have been directly affected by the actions or inactions of the business of the person you have a dispute with.
For example, if you were in a car accident, you must have been injured as a result of the at-fault driver’s behavior. If you are unsure whether you have standing to file a lawsuit, then you should speak to a personal injury lawyer who can quickly assess your case.
Standing involves three elements:
- Injury in Fact – Under this element, the claimant must establish that they suffered damages, such as physical injuries, or monetary damages, such as lost wages.
- Causation – Under the second element, the claimant must establish the connection between their injuries and the at-fault party’s behavior.
- Redressability – The final element considers if anything can be done to relieve the injury caused, such as monetary relief for medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
You Must Have Legal Capacity
In order to file a personal injury lawsuit, you must have the legal capacity to do so. If you are considered to have a ‘legal disability’, then you may need a legal representative such as a trustee, executor, parent, or guardian to file on your behalf.
You may not have legal capacity if you are under the age of 18 or if you have a mental incapacity. Those who lack legal capacity cannot do many legal things, such as sign a will, sign a contract, consent to medical care, or file a lawsuit.
If you are under 18, you may be able to appoint a legal representative, known as a next friend, to file on your behalf; this is commonly a parent or other family member. If there isn’t a family member who is able to be your legal representative, then a friend or responsible party can be appointed by the court.
If a personal injury victim lacks legal capacity due to a mental illness such as dementia, then a legal representative may file a lawsuit on their behalf. This may be someone who already has guardianship over the victim, or the court may appoint someone.
In both cases, the legal representative will be responsible for all legal decisions, such as when to sue, which lawyer to hire, and whether or not to settle.
You Must be an Actual Legal Entity
You must be an actual legal entity to file a lawsuit. A legal entity could be any of the following:
- A Natural Person – A living human being can be considered a legal entity.
- A Group – A group of citizens, a business partnership, or a nonprofit organization can be a legal entity if the court accepts that the group represents one side of the dispute.
- The Government – In a civil case, the government can be considered a legal entity.
- A Corporation – A corporation can be considered a single legal entity for the purposes of a lawsuit.
You Must be Acting Within the Statute of Limitations
In Texas, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit if more than two years have passed since the accident; this is known as the statute of limitations.
Once the statute of limitations has been exceeded, you will usually lose your right to make a claim for compensation. However, in exceptional circumstances, such as if your injuries did not appear until years after the incident, you could be granted more time.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer to File a Claim?
Once you have determined that you are eligible to file a personal injury claim, your next question may be whether you need to hire a lawyer or not. In Texas, you do have a right to file a claim independently; but we do not recommend it.
Firstly it is important to consider that filing a personal injury claim without representation is likely to be incredibly stressful. You will be dealing with aggressive insurance companies and their legal teams who will be fighting to reduce the amount of compensation they owe you. You will be required to clearly establish who is at fault and how much you are owed in compensation. Both of these factors require substantial evidence.
Secondly, those who do not have representation usually end up with much less than what they deserve. Insurance companies are more likely to take your case seriously if you have an experienced lawyer by your side. Unfortunately, if you do not have an experienced attorney, they may see this as an opportunity to dismiss or devalue your claim.
We also recommend securing representation from an attorney with trial experience. A lawsuit is expensive and time-consuming, and insurance companies would rather avoid a successful lawsuit against them. However, attorneys quickly gain a reputation, and if they do not believe that a threat of court is present, they may be unwilling to offer fair compensation.
An attorney will provide a wealth of skills and resources that will help you to secure the compensation you deserve. That is why those with a reputation usually end up with a higher settlement, even after their legal fees are considered. Your personal injury lawyer will take over the entire process, ensuring deadlines are met, the proper procedures are followed, and all available evidence is secured. They will also take over all negotiations with insurance companies to ensure your rights are protected. With their help, you can focus on your recovery.
Who to Sue in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you have been injured, then determining liability is an important step, as the liable party is who you will make your claim against. While it may seem straightforward, liability can be complicated, especially if there is more than one at-fault party.
For example, if you were in a truck accident, then you may believe that the truck driver was at-fault for the accident. However, the trucking company may be responsible, they may have encouraged the driver to work for long hours, or they may have failed to train them properly. Or a third party could be liable, such as a loading company that failed to properly load the truck, causing the driver to lose control.
Any single party, or perhaps several parties, could be responsible, and without exploring every avenue to compensation, you could end up with less than what you deserve.
Comparative Fault in Texas
In Texas, more than one party can be held liable. Therefore, in a personal injury lawsuit, you may need to bring a claim against multiple parties in order to claim full compensation. For example, if you are in a car accident and your damages exceed the at-fault party’s policy limits, then you may need to look to other factors that caused the accident. Perhaps a government entity responsible for maintaining the road is partially responsible.
What if I Was Partially At Fault for the Accident?
In Texas, you still have a right to file a personal injury claim even if you were partially at fault for the accident. Texas is a comparative fault state, which allows victims to claim compensation as long as they are found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident.
However, if you are found to be partially to blame for the accident, then your settlement will be reduced by the amount you are determined to be at fault. Therefore, if you secure $100,000 in compensation but are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, your settlement will be reduced to $80,000.
When you are fighting for compensation from an insurance company, they will likely employ legal teams who will try and reduce what they owe you to save the company money. One way they can do this is by claiming you were more at fault than they were. Your personal injury attorney will help protect you by ensuring that fault is not unjustly assigned to you.
Personal Injury Claim Process
Although you are within your rights to pursue a personal injury claim in Texas without a lawyer, those who do often end up with less than what they deserve. Insurance companies do not give out fair compensation easily, and the skills, resources, and experience that an attorney can offer could prove to be invaluable to your case.
Once you secure compensation from an attorney, they will take over the entire claim process so that you can focus on your recovery. Although each case is unique, they tend to follow a similar process.
The first stage of any personal injury claim is to gather as much evidence as possible. The sooner an investigation begins, the better, as some evidence, such as CCTV, or property damage, could become lost over time.
Evidence could include a police report, medical records, vehicle repair records, CCTV footage, and witness statements. In some cases, expert testimony may also prove invaluable to your case, such as testimony from accident reconstruction specialists or testimony from medical experts who can testify as to the extent of your injuries.
The next step is to determine which party or parties were responsible for the accident and, therefore, liable to pay you compensation. Most personal injury claims are founded on negligence, which means that your attorney will need to establish that the at-fault party behaved in a way that was different from how a reasonable person would have acted given similar circumstances.
Most personal injury claims are brought against insurance companies, which means that once the fault has been established, your attorney will need to find out which insurance company is liable.
Assess Your Injuries
We will ask to see your medical records to assess the extent of your injuries, which will help determine how much compensation you could be owed.
As well as your medical records, we may arrange for an expert medical assessment to help determine how long your injuries may take to heal and their long-term impact.
During your medical assessment, an expert may take photos of your injuries if they are visible. They will also ask about your level of pain and discomfort, how your injuries have affected your mental health, and how you live your daily life. For example, if you can no longer participate in hobbies you once enjoyed, then this should be reflected in your settlement.
Determine What a Fair Settlement Looks Like in Your Case
Now that we have the evidence we need, we will determine what a fair settlement would look like in your case. This will allow us to begin negotiations with insurance companies.
Your settlement figure should include:
- Medical bills, including all expenses related to your medical treatment, such as hospital bills, medication costs, physiotherapy costs, and more
- Home adjustments if they are required to support your recovery
- Future medical costs if your injuries are ongoing
- Lost income as a result of your injuries
- Loss of earning capacity if your injuries are likely to continue to affect your ability to work in the future
- Property damage, if your property was damaged in the accident, then you should be reimbursed for its repair or replacement
- Pain and suffering damages are designed to compensate you for your non-economic losses, such as your emotional distress, physical pain, and loss of enjoyment in life
Some of these factors have clear figures attached to them and can be evidenced by bills and receipts. Others, such as your future medical costs and pain and suffering damages, can be highly contentious. An experienced attorney will understand how to evidence your experiences and will fight for a just settlement that is reflective of your suffering.
Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement
Now that we have determined how much compensation you are owed, we will fight to secure a fair settlement by negotiating with the insurance companies involved in your case. Usually, there will be a lot of back and forth before an agreement can be reached.
We will take over all the communication with you and will give you options along the way so that you can decide whether to accept a settlement or not. It is ultimately your decision whether you want to accept a settlement, but you will always have our support and advice.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If an agreement cannot be reached, then we will be prepared to take your claim to court. Taking a claim to court is often time-consuming and stressful. Therefore, we will always prioritize an out-of-court settlement first.
If your claim results in a lawsuit, the Judge will examine the evidence and determine how much compensation you are owed. While we will represent you in court, you may be required to give evidence.
It is common for insurance defense lawyers to know which attorneys are willing to go to court and which aren’t, and this can make them more willing to offer a fair out-of-court settlement. At Abraham Watkins, we have over seven decades of experience helping clients through court hearings to secure compensation successfully.
Once you have decided to take your claim to court, you may still receive an out-of-court settlement. If you accept the settlement, the court date will be canceled.
Once you have accepted a settlement or the court has made a decision, the final step is to determine how you will be paid your compensation. Often, you will receive your settlement as a lump sum. Or, in some circumstances, the court will order payments monthly or yearly to cover long-term care costs.
Usually, compensation will be paid directly to you. However, if you lack legal capacity, then it could be paid into a special account. An appointed person can then use the money for you to serve your best interests and pay for your care.
Maximizing Your Chances of Securing Compensation
If you have suffered a personal injury, then there are some steps you should take that will help to protect both your well-being and your right to compensation. Your first priority should always be your health, and if you are unsure about anything, then do not hesitate to contact an attorney for a free consultation.
Do Prioritize Your Safety
If you have been in an accident, then your own safety should always be your top priority. Take a moment to check in with yourself. If you feel pain in your neck or back, then you should stay still and wait for help to arrive. Only if you feel able to move around should you then check on others for injuries.
Do Call Emergency Services
If you or anyone else involved in the incident needs medical attention at the scene, then call an ambulance as quickly as possible. You may also be required to call the police, who will help to resolve any remaining danger and will file a report which could be important to your claim.
Do Collect Evidence
If your injuries are not too severe, then you should collect some evidence from the scene. Photos of the accident, and your injuries, and information from other people involved in the incident and any potential witnesses could all prove invaluable later on.
We commonly advise victims to write down some details of what they believe happened soon after the accident. Your memory could fade quickly, especially if you were severely injured or if the accident was traumatic.
Your written account and any evidence that you have will all help your attorney to establish the facts of your case. However, if you are unable to do this or if the accident has already passed, then don’t worry. Your attorney will know how to gather evidence to support your claim.
Do Seek Medical Attention
You should seek a medical examination as soon as possible after an accident. It is common for adrenaline to mask injuries, and following medical advice could protect you from accidentally making your injuries worse. Your medical examination is also integral to your personal injury claim, and the sooner after the accident you are examined, the better.
Don’t Apologize or Admit Fault
You should never apologize or admit fault in any way; while it could come naturally to you to apologize, doing so could harm your case. Even if you think you could be at fault for the accident, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney first, as you may not know all of the facts of your case. Even if you did contribute to the incident, you could still be owed compensation, and it is important that you do not give the other party any ammunition against you.
Don’t Accept a Quick Settlement
A common tactic that insurance adjusters use to reduce the amount they pay victims is to offer a quick settlement in hopes that they will accept. While a quick settlement may seem attractive, it is likely to be much less than what you deserve, and once you accept a settlement, you forfeit your right to fight for more, even if it turns out to be insufficient to cover your damages.
If you are being offered a settlement, then it is likely you have a valid claim. You should discuss your case with a lawyer in a free consultation so that they can advise you on whether it is a good offer and what the advantages and disadvantages are of accepting.
Don’t Allow an Insurance Company to Record Your Conversation
Insurance adjusters are highly skilled at saving insurance companies money. One particularly harsh tactic is to trick you into admitting fault in someone or to downplay your injuries.
Once you have representation from an attorney, they will take over all negotiations so that you don’t have to speak to an insurance company. If they do contact you, you can just tell them to speak to your attorney. But in the meantime, you should stick to vague details and never allow them to record your conversation.
Don’t Delay in Speaking to a Personal Injury Attorney
Many personal injury victims delay in contacting a personal injury lawyer. One of the most common reasons is because they are worried about the cost. However, the sooner you contact an attorney, the better. Furthermore, at Abraham Watkins, we work on a no-win no-fee basis, so you will never be left out of pocket.
Can Anyone File a Personal Injury Lawsuit FAQs
Is Compensation Guaranteed?
Compensation is never guaranteed. However, in your free consultation, your attorney will be able to tell you whether they believe you have a strong claim.
How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take to Settle?
All personal injury cases are unique, and your case could take a few months or over a year to settle. How long it takes depends on many factors, such as the severity of your injuries and how clear liability is. Another important factor is the quality of your representation. Insurance companies may be more willing to offer a fair settlement quickly if your attorney has a good reputation.
At Abraham Watkins, an experienced attorney will be dedicated to your case. We understand how important compensation is to you, and we will fight for a quick settlement where possible, but we will not hesitate to go the distance if that’s what it takes to secure justice in your case.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Unlike compensatory damages, which are designed to compensate victims, punitive damages are designed to punish the at-fault party and discourage similar behavior in the future. They can only be awarded in cases that go to court, as they can only be awarded by a Judge in cases involving malicious intent or gross negligence.
Should I Speak to the Witnesses?
While you should take down witness information if you are able to, you should refrain from discussing the incident with them. Instead, you should pass the information onto your attorney, who will seek a statement from them without jeopardizing your claim.
If an Insurance Company Contacts Me, What Should I do?
Once you have representation, you are under no obligation to speak to insurance companies. If they contact you, you should give them the name and number of your attorney and politely end the call. Once they know you have an attorney they are prohibited from contacting you.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm Today
If you or someone you love has suffered a personal injury, then you need support from a dedicated and compassionate attorney. That is exactly what you will find at Abraham Watkins. We know that our clients’ lives may never be the same after an accident, and we will fight passionately to secure the best possible outcome in their case.
Our personal injury lawyers have stellar reputations and a wealth of resources available to them. We will work with you at every stage, keeping you informed and giving you options so that you can focus on your recovery.
We work on a no-win no, fee basis and offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Speak to one of our personal injury attorneys today by calling 713-535-9319.