If you have suffered an injury in an accident in Houston, Texas that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may have a valid personal injury claim. Pursuing compensation through the personal injury claim process can help you cover medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. Here is what you need to know about how the personal injury claim process works in Houston.
Determining If You Have a Valid Claim
The first step is to determine if you have grounds to file a personal injury claim. Generally, you must prove:
- The other party owed you a duty of care that they breached through negligent actions or inaction
- You suffered damages or losses as a direct result of their breach
- Your actions did not contribute to the accident
Common scenarios that can lead to valid personal injury claims in Houston include:
- Car accidents – If another driver caused an accident through actions like speeding, running a red light, or distracted driving, you may have a claim against them for your injuries and vehicle damage.
- Slip and fall accidents – Property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe premises. If you slipped on a wet floor or tripped over an obstruction, the property owner may be liable.
- Medical malpractice – Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers must meet professional standards of medical care. If negligence during diagnosis or treatment causes injury, you may have a malpractice claim.
- Dangerous or defective products – Manufacturers and distributors are liable if a defective product injures someone through no fault of their own.
- Dog bites – In Texas, dog owners are strictly liable for bites, meaning negligence does not have to be proven.
If any accident and injury was caused by someone else acting carelessly or negligently, it is a good idea to consult with a Houston personal injury attorney to fully evaluate your potential claim. An attorney can examine the facts and evidence and provide guidance on your legal options.
Collecting Evidence and Documenting Your Injuries
Strong evidence is crucial for proving liability and damages in a personal injury claim. It is important to gather as much documentation as possible, including:
- Police reports from any officers who responded to the accident scene
- Photographs and video documenting the accident scene, property conditions, vehicles, injuries, etc.
- Medical records related to diagnosis, treatment, prescriptions, procedures, etc.
- Receipts for medical expenses, hospital bills, prescriptions, medical equipment
- Records of missed work and pay due to the accident and injuries
- Receipts for property repairs or replacement
Thoroughly documenting your injuries and treatment is also important. Keep detailed records of:
- All doctor and specialist visits, dates and notes
- Diagnostic test results, like x-rays or MRI scans
- Emergency room treatment
- Hospitalization including surgeries
- Medications prescribed
- Physical therapy sessions
- Assistive devices like crutches, wheelchairs, braces
- Any nursing or in-home care required
Detailed injury and treatment records help substantiate the economic and non-economic damages resulting from the accident. This provides strong evidence of the compensation you deserve.
Attempting Settlement Negotiations
Many personal injury claims settle out of court through direct negotiations between attorneys. Once your Houston, Texas personal injury lawyers have gathered evidence to prove liability and damages, they will contact the at-fault party’s insurer and present a demand letter.
This letter outlines the facts of the accident, your injuries and losses, applicable laws, and a monetary demand amount to compensate you. This starts a back-and-forth negotiation process as both sides communicate to reach a settlement agreement and avoid a trial.
The insurer will likely make a low initial counteroffer. Your attorney may then go back and forth negotiating and providing additional evidence until a satisfactory settlement amount is reached. However, if it becomes clear that taking the claim to court will be necessary, your attorney will begin preparing for litigation. Settlement negotiations can take weeks or months depending on the complexity of the case.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If initial settlement negotiations fail, the next step is your Houston, Texas injury lawyers filing a personal injury lawsuit in Houston civil court on your behalf. This formal legal complaint names the defendant(s) and specifies the legal and factual basis of your claim, such as:
- The defendant’s negligent actions (like texting while driving)
- How those actions breached their duty of care to you
- How you were injured as a direct result
Defendants then have a period of time, such as 30 days, to respond to the complaint with their side of the story and any counterarguments. The discovery process also begins, where your attorney and the defendant’s attorney investigate evidence related to the case. This can include:
- Interviewing witnesses
- Taking depositions under oath
- Issuing subpoenas for documents
- Exchanging relevant documents and information
Both parties work during the discovery phase to establish their positions, build their arguments, and prepare for trial. As evidence is gathered, negotiations may restart and a settlement could still be reached before going to trial. But if not, both sides proceed to a civil trial.
The Personal Injury Trial Process
During the civil trial, both sides present arguments and evidence before a judge or jury. Key stages can include:
- Opening statements explaining each side’s position
- Questioning and cross-examination of witnesses
- Presentation of evidence like medical records, photographs, videos, etc.
- Expert testimony from doctors, accident reconstructionists, etc.
- Closing arguments tying the evidence back to the law
The judge or jury will then decide if the plaintiff proved their case and legal right to damages by a “preponderance of the evidence.” If so, the jury will determine the compensation amount. It is critical to have experienced car accident lawyers Houston, Texas to effectively argue your case at trial.
Receiving Compensation After a Settlement or Trial
If you agree to a settlement or receive a favorable trial verdict, the final step is getting compensated for your damages. Payment typically happens within 30 days of the settled agreement or court judgment.
In addition to economic damages like medical expenses and lost income, you may receive compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic losses. An experienced personal injury attorney can help maximize your compensation.
How the Personal Injury Claim Process Works in Houston, Texas
Successfully navigating the personal injury claim process requires strategic legal guidance. An attorney can handle negotiations, litigation, evidence gathering, and documentation to help obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries.
Contact the experienced Houston personal injury lawyers at Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by negligence. We can evaluate your case, determine the liable parties, and outline your legal options for recovering damages. Call us today to get started and let us help fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.