If you are injured in the state of Texas, or if you are the family member of someone who is hurt, you may have heard about the possibility of filing a Texas personal injury lawsuit.
While lawsuits can be a fantastic way to hold an at-fault party responsible for harm, prevent other parties from sustaining similar injuries, and recover financial compensation for your losses, it is important that you understand Texas personal injury laws before initiating your claim. In addition to the information above, it is recommended that you contact an experienced Texas personal injury lawyer to discuss your case in person and learn more.
Types of Cases that May Warrant a Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury case may be pursued when the negligence or wrongful act of one party leads to the harm of another. Common types of personal injury cases include:
- Car accidents;
- Truck accidents;
- Bus and commercial vehicle crashes;
- Motorcycle crashes;
- Bicycle crashes;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Boating accidents;
- Aviation accidents;
- Slip and fall claims;
- Nursing home accidents;
- Medical malpractice;
- Premises liability;
- Negligent security;
- Defective product;
- Workplace accidents;
- Defective medical products/medication; and
- Dog bites.
A personal injury claim can be filed against a person, business, entity, or organization.
What Is Negligence and How Does it Affect a Personal Injury Claim?
Negligence is the failure to act with the proper duty of care. When a professional, such as a doctor, commits an act of negligence, the negligence is called malpractice. An act is “negligent” when it falls outside of scope of something that a reasonable person–or a person of similar background and training–would do in the same situation. Negligence may also be a breach of the law, and therefore is different for each type of case. Consider the following types of accidents, laws, acts of negligence, and rules of liability–
- Pedestrian laws. Pedestrians have different laws than do drivers, and as such, a pedestrian may act negligently in a completely different manner than a driver might. For example, in Texas, pedestrians are required to yield to vehicles when traffic lights indicate that they do so, must use a sidewalk when one is available, and are asked to keep to the right half of a crosswalk when possible, amongst other things.
If a pedestrian crosses somewhere other than a crosswalk, steps from the sidewalk in front of a vehicle unexpectedly, or fails to yield when they should, they are acting negligently. Keep in mind that other things that are not specifically addressed by the law–such as using a mobile device while walking–may also be acts of negligence.
- Driving laws. Drivers also have laws that they are required to follow. For example, drivers are not permitted to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level of .08 percent or above, are asked to follow the speed limit, and have a number of laws regarding yielding, turning, and proceeding through intersections.
If a driver breaks one of these laws and the default leads to a crash, they can be held liable. However, just like pedestrians, drivers can also be held liable when they commit an act of negligence that is not explicitly illegal, such as driving after having a drink (even if BAC is not at .08 percent or above), or driving too fast for conditions.
- Motorcycling laws. In order to get a motorcycle license in Texas, you have to agree to follow all motorcycle laws. These laws include, but are not limited to, wearing a helmet (with certain exceptions), riding a motorcycle that is equipped with required equipment, never operating a motorcycle with a BAC of .08 percent or greater, and following all posted motorcycle and traffic laws.
Even when something is not illegal, such as not wearing a helmet, if it is unsafe and its act contributes to an injury (i.e. the motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet and suffers a head injury as such), this can affect recoverable damages.
- Premises liability laws. Property owners in Texas are required to maintain properties in a reasonably safe condition. If a dangerous condition exists on a property, the property owner is required to correct it within a reasonable amount of time.
If they fail to do so, and an injury occurs as a result, the property owner can be held liable. The only exception to this is as it pertains to trespassers – in Texas, property owners have no duty to trespassers but to prevent from causing willful or wanton harm.
- Dram shop and social host liability laws. If an establishment sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person in Texas, and the intoxicated person then causes harm to another, the establishment may be held partially liable under the state’s dram shop laws.
A host of a party or other social situation may also be held liable when a person causes injury to another if the party who caused the injury is under 18 years old and the party who served the alcohol knowingly provided alcohol to a minor and is not the minor’s parent, guardian, or spouse.
- Attractive nuisance doctrine. Another important law to understand is the doctrine of attractive nuisance. This law pertains to premises liability claims that involve trespassing children. While property owners typically do not owe a strong duty of care to trespassers, as mentioned above, when children are involved, the doctrine of attractive nuisance applies.
This means that a property owner may be held liable for injuries sustained by a trespassing child when the property is one on which children are likely to trespass, the cause of the injury is a condition that the owner knew or should have known would be attractive to children, and the child harmed, due to their age, was unable to comprehend the dangers of the property and dangerous condition on the property.
What Happens if I am Partially at Fault for My Injuries?
Even with the above liability laws in place, who is responsible for harm following an accident may not always be clear. In fact, fault is sometimes split between more than one party, including the victim themselves.
When this is the case, the laws of modified comparative fault apply. The state of Texas’ modified comparative fault law holds that even if a person contributes to their own injuries, they are still able to recover compensation for losses suffered so long as they did not contribute to their injuries in an amount of 51 percent or more.
As such, if you are 50 percent or less at fault for the harm you suffered, you may bring forth a claim against another party. If you are found to be partially at fault, then the amount of damages that are you able to recover will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
For example, if you are found to be 10 percent at fault for a head injury following a motorcycle crash caused by a drunk driver because you were not wearing a helmet, and you suffered $200,000 worth of damages, your recovery award will be reduced by 10 percent, or $20,000. The laws of modified comparative fault are one of the primary reasons that working with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assist you in proving fault and negotiating a fair settlement amount is so important.
Damages In a Personal Injury Suit
Personal injury lawsuits in Texas are used to recover the value of losses suffered by the plaintiff, or injured party. Plaintiffs in Texas can seek damages for all types of losses suffered, including economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those actual damages suffered by a plaintiff, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are damages for intangible losses, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. In some cases, damages to punish the defendant, called punitive damages, are also recoverable.
The Difference Between a Personal Injury Claim and a Wrongful Death Claim
In addition to a personal injury claim, another type of civil lawsuit is a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim in that it is permissible in the event that the decedent would have been able to bring forth a personal injury claim for damages caused by the negligence of another but for death.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Case
If you think that you may have a personal injury suit based on the information above, it is important to bring forth your claim as soon as possible. In all cases, however, you must bring your personal injury claim forth within two years from the date of injury. If you wait longer than two years time to bring forth a personal injury claim, you will be barred from recovering damages indefinitely.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
If you are injured in Texas and believe that someone else is to blame, please contact the offices of Sutliff & Stout today. A case review is offered free of charge, and we work on a contingency fee basis. Our knowledgeable Texas personal injury attorneys care about you!