A personal injury case is a civil lawsuit in which one party seeks compensation for an injury caused by another person. The injury might be physical, emotional, mental, or all of the above.
Personal injury law is a broad category of law, but most of the cases are based on negligence. Essentially, every person owes a duty to act reasonably and minimize the harm that could be caused by their actions. When someone acts unreasonably and hurts another person, they can be held legally responsible.
Who Are The Parties In A Personal Injury Case?
There are usually two parties in personal injury cases: the plaintiff and the defendant.
The plaintiff is the person who initiates the lawsuit. Usually, this is the injured party or their representative. The defendant is the party who is getting sued. This may be an individual, a business, or even the government.
Sometimes, there is more than one defendant in a Texas personal injury case. This happens when multiple parties’ negligence contributes to an accident. If the defendants are found liable, usually, each party must pay damages consistent with their percentage of responsibility.
Common Types Of Personal Injury Cases
There are many different types of personal injury cases. Some personal injury lawyers handle multiple types of cases, while others specialize in only a few.
The most common types of personal injury cases include:
- Car accidents
- Brain injuries
- Bus accidents
- Construction accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Product liability
- Wrongful death
- Workplace accidents
- Spinal cord injuries
- Slip and falls
- Dog bites
- Nursing home abuse
- Assault injuries
Any case where you are hurt because of someone else’s negligence is considered a personal injury case. Even if you aren’t sure where your case may fall, you can consult with a personal injury lawyer to get an idea of whether you are entitled to damages.
Negligence In Texas
To win your personal injury case, you need to prove that the defendant was negligent. If the defendant wasn’t negligent, they can’t be held responsible for your damages.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is when a person fails to exercise reasonable care. This can be through an action (like speeding while driving) or inaction (like failing to check the mirrors before merging).
Everyone has a duty to use reasonable care in their daily lives. We owe this duty to people we know and those we don’t know. The idea is that when everyone uses reasonable care, it minimizes the chances of harming one another.
What Is Reasonable Care?
Reasonable care is a legal standard that can be difficult to understand. A person uses reasonable care when they act as an ordinary and prudent person would act in a similar situation.
An ordinary and prudent person is a hypothetical person – meaning they don’t exist. It is a legal concept that the court applies in negligence cases. The ordinary person is not perfect, but they do take precautions, follow the law, and think before acting.
For example, imagine that a grocery store mops the floors every day. The store knows that the floors become slippery when wet. However, the employees don’t put a sign out to warn the customers that the floor is wet. As a result, a customer falls and gets hurt.
In this case, the grocery store did not act as an ordinary and prudent person, and they breached their duty of care. They could have warned customers that the floor was slippery, for example.
What Are The Elements Of Negligence?
To prove negligence and win a personal injury case, you need to provide evidence of four elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- The breach caused the plaintiff’s injury
- The plaintiff suffered damages
You must prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. That means that it is more likely than not. If you cannot prove even one element, you will lose the personal injury case.
Steps In A Personal Injury Case
Every personal injury case is different. However, most cases in Texas tend to follow similar steps. A personal injury case may end at any time if the parties agree on a settlement outside of court.
File An Insurance Claim (Sometimes)
In many personal injury cases, the first step is to file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This is very common after a car accident or workplace injury, for example.
The insurance company will investigate the claim, including interviewing witnesses and parties and collecting evidence. Then, the insurance company will decide to accept or deny the claim. If they accept the claim, they will make a settlement offer to the injured person.
The settlement offer may be part or all of the damages. If the offer is less than the full amount of damages, then you may negotiate with the insurance company for the full amount.
If you can’t reach an agreeable settlement, or if the insurance company denies the claim, then the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit in court.
File A Complaint In Civil Court
When you file a formal complaint in civil court, you will write a document that usually includes:
- The name and address of the defendant
- The facts of the case
- The basis for recovering damages
- The amount of the damages requested
The defendant is served a copy of the complaint and then has approximately 20 days to file an answer. According to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendant may deny all or some liability, assert affirmative defenses, request a change of venue, or even assert a cross-claim.
Participate In The Discovery Process
Once the complaint and answer have been filed, the discovery process begins. Discovery is when both sides have an opportunity to review and collect evidence. Both sides have certain obligations to turn over evidence to one another and have the right to depose witnesses or pose interrogatories.
This is a very important time because the plaintiff and defendant learn about the strength of the other side’s case. It’s also a chance to prepare for a trial. During the discovery phase, it’s very common for the parties to negotiate once they see all of the evidence. Many cases settle during this time.
Go To Trial
After the discovery process, the parties prepare to go to trial. This may include filing motions, consulting with expert witnesses, and creating a case strategy.
During the trial, both sides will question the jury, question witnesses, admit evidence, and make oral arguments. At the end of the case, the jury will decide if the plaintiff has met the burden and is entitled to damages.
Damages In A Personal Injury Case
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff is entitled to financial, emotional, and psychological damages. It’s very common for the plaintiff to ask for compensation to cover:
- Medical bills
- Follow up treatment
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Property damages
- Lost earning capacity
- The onset of mental illness
The specific damages in a personal injury case will vary depending on the type of case and the impact that it had on a plaintiff. A lawyer can help you calculate your damages, particularly those that don’t have a clear monetary value (like pain and suffering).
Contact Our Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyers for Help With Your Case
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into a personal injury case. If you’ve been seriously injured, you shouldn’t try to handle your claim on your own. You should contact an experienced Fort Worth personal injury lawyer to protect your rights.
Anderson Injury Lawyers can help you seek fair compensation from the party that injured you. Let us help you maximize the value of your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more by calling at (817) 294-1900.