If you’ve been in a car accident, you know just how hard the fallout can be. If you’re severely injured, you may suffer from lingering pain and other lasting physical impairments, massive medical bills, and serious mental or emotional suffering. You know how you have been harmed, but what counts as the kind of “personal injury” you can legally recover for? What can you take to personal injury attorneys in Houston?
Ask Personal Injury Attorneys: What Counts as “Personal Injury” in Houston
Common Personal Injury Scenarios
Personal injury applies in many different scenarios besides car accidents. It also applies in any case where you were accidentally injured by someone who had a duty of care toward you, and their careless actions resulted in your injury. These are basic negligence cases and they include things like slip and fall, malpractice, and vehicle incidents. Personal injury situations also include where someone intentionally causes you harm, like if someone intentionally hits you with their car.
A third situation involving personal injury is where you have been injured by a defective product. For example, if you just purchased a microwave and that microwave explodes and injures you because there was a defect in its production, you have suffered a recoverable personal injury under the law. One final situation occurs when someone defames you or unduly harms your reputation. Harm to your reputation is also recognized as a type of “personal injury” under the law.
What Can You Recover for Your Personal Injury?
Anything you can recover for your personal injury under the law is classified as “damages.” There are three major categories of damages, the first being monetary (or “economic”) damages. Monetary damages essentially include any money you have had to spend or have not been able to make due to the accident and your injuries. Let’s say you were involved in a car accident, and you had to get your car repaired, get medical treatment, and missed work as a result.
If the other driver was at fault, you would be able to recover your repair costs, medical bills, and lost wages that directly resulted from the accident. Usually, this recovery will come from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You may also be able to recover other economic losses such as needing to pay for in-home care if you require it because of your injuries stemming from the wreck.
Texas law also considers non-monetary (“non-economic”) damages to be recoverable personal injury. Types of non-monetary damages include pain and suffering, mental distress, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life among others. Basically, you will be able to recover for your reduced quality of life due to the accident.
The final major category of damages is called punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for egregious behavior beyond simply being negligent. They are typically awarded in the most severe circumstances where the person that caused the injury was acting extremely carelessly or intentionally, and that conduct let to the injury. Punitive damages are relatively rare.
The Process of Recovering for Your Injury
Injury and Duty
You may have already guessed that personal injury cases start with an incident that causes an injury. What happens next involves some legal research and fact-finding. First, the injured plaintiff’s attorney will gather all relevant facts surrounding the accident. Then, the attorney will determine whether the defendant causing the accident had a duty to act with reasonable care and whether the defendant met that standard or acted negligently.
This can be an intensive process that usually requires the plaintiff’s attorney to get expert opinions on the accident and the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, interview witnesses, examine insurance policies, and contact insurance companies directly.
Settlement vs. Trial
Once enough of the facts have been gathered to form a good picture of what happened during and after the accident, settlement negotiations usually begin. What happens after this point heavily depends on the circumstances and how strong the plaintiff’s case is. The stronger the evidence in the plaintiff’s favor, the more likely the defendant’s insurance company will be to seek a quick settlement so that a lawsuit and trial can be avoided.
However, if the facts have not yet been established or are relatively weak and don’t point clearly to the defendant’s negligence, the insurance company will be less likely to settle quickly and prefer to wait to see if any other evidence comes forward before making a settlement offer. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorney may have to begin legal proceedings by filing a complaint with the court before the insurance company will play ball.
What Should You Do if You Are Injured?
Find an Attorney Immediately
The first thing you should do if you are injured in a car accident is to speak with an attorney as quickly as you possibly can. The statute of limitations places a strict time limit on how long you have to bring your case in court if it comes to that. The sooner you seek legal counsel, the sooner your attorney can begin preparing your case and negotiating with the insurance company to get you paid. You don’t want to wait until the last possible minute as your options may be limited.
Another benefit of seeking counsel immediately is that an attorney can lead you through the process of recovering for your injury. This will speed up the process and increase your chances of obtaining a larger recovery. You can let your attorney do the heavy lifting for you. Calculating damages can be complex and dealing with insurance companies can be an arduous task, one that few people will want to spend the time, money, or energy on.
Make Sure That You Have Made a Full Medical Recovery Before Settling
It’s imperative that you don’t jump the gun and settle before you know all of your expenses stemming from the accident. If you haven’t yet made a full recovery (or as full of a recovery as you can), then any additional medical bills that crop up after the settlement will likely never be recovered. Once you settle, that’s it. You give up the right to sue in court and are stuck with whatever amount you agree upon.
Know What’s Best for You
Everyone’s circumstances are different. Going into any settlement negotiations, it is important for you to know what amount of compensation you need and how long you’re willing to wait for it. Some people desire a quick settlement so that they can pay off at least some of their debt immediately, in exchange for not pursuing a fuller recovery. Other people want to wait so that they can recover every cent possible.
There is no one answer as to how much you should settle for. Listen to your attorney and always make decisions that are going to be in your best interest.
We know that being in an accident can be extremely difficult, painful, and costly, and it’s important that you have peace of mind knowing you have personal injury attorneys you can trust to get you the compensation you deserve and who make that process as stress-free as possible. If you’ve been in a car accident in the Houston area, contact Gamez Law Firm and let us be those attorneys for you.