How Texas Statutes Impact Personal Injury Claims

Many people do not realize that laws in every state limit how much time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Texas is no exception.

For people injured in accidents in Houston, Brian White & Associates, P.C. offer experience, knowledge, and skill handling injury claims. Brian and his team understand the complexities of Texas statutes like the Wrongful Death Code and the statute of limitations. 

After an accident, we know you may have questions about what statutes may apply to your potential case. Our attorneys have a first-hand understanding of car accident litigation and negotiation – including the application of the statute of limitations. We are happy to provide a free consultation to answer your questions. 

What is a Statute? 

When something is a rule “by statute,” it simply means it is a written law that has been passed by a legislative body. Every state has statutes. Examples of statues in Texas include: 

  • Agriculture Code 
  • Education Code 
  • Family Code 
  • Government Code 
  • Insurance Code
  • Labor Code 
  • Penal Code 
  • Property Code 
  • Tax Code.

When you’re involved in an accident in Houston, TX, there are a variety of different statutes that might affect your personal injury case, should you decide to pursue compensation for your injuries.

What Is the Statute of Limitations For Civil Lawsuits in Texas? 

 If you are hurt in a car accident, get hurt when you slip and fall, or suffer an injury at work, you only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The legal term for this time period is a statute of limitations. 

In Texas, the law that applies to civil claims is detailed in Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Title 2, Section 16.003, which states:

(a) Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.

(b) A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death. The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.

Simply, you generally have two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit and assert your right to recover compensation from those responsible.

Texas’s two-year rule is the same as many other states. Across the country, the time limits range from as little as one year (Kentucky and Tennessee), and as many as six years (North Dakota and Maine). 

Personal Injury Claims Involving Texas Government Agencies or Entities 

Many car accidents involve another individual driver with a private insurance company. If you are involved in a collision with someone driving a company vehicle, you may have a claim against the business. 

But what happens when you are involved in a collision with a government vehicle, such as a school bus, a police car, an emergency services vehicle, or a prison bus? The city, county, or state agency may be liable for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. 

In Texas, and many states, claims against government entities can be complicated. The standard statute of limitations will not apply.

If you want to file a lawsuit in Texas against a government entity, you will have to follow Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Title 5, Chapter 101, better known as the Texas Tort Claims Act

Specifically, you must file your claim within six months under Sec. 101.101(a): “A governmental unit is entitled to receive notice of a claim against it under this chapter not later than six months after the day that the incident giving rise to the claim occurred.” 

Special Considerations For Claims Against the City of Houston

What happens if a city employee driving a work truck was texting and driving, and struck you while you were crossing the street in a marked crosswalk? If your personal injury lawsuit is against the city of Houston, you have even less time to file your claim than a suit involving a state agency – you must file your notice within 90 days. Your notice of claim must be in writing and signed before a Notary Public with the following evidence attached: 

(i) three property damage estimates;

(ii) photographs of damage, if any;

(iii) accident report, if available; 

(iv) photocopy of Certificate of Title of the damaged vehicle; 

(v) photocopy of medical bills, if any; and 

(vi) doctor’s narrative. 

You must send everything (with 90 days) to both the City of Houston City’s Secretary’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they can do this for you. To ensure your legal rights are protected following an injury accident, do NOT delay contacting a lawyer. 

What Does a Statute of Limitations Apply To? 

Texas’s statute of limitations will apply to any civil claim – a court case that involves one party asking another party for money. A civil claim can arise from any injury accident covered by personal injury law, including: 

You will generally need to prove that the person you are making a claim against was negligent and that their negligence led to your personal injuries, which caused you physical, emotional, and financial harm (damages). 

How a Car Accident Claim Works in Texas, and When The Statute of Limitations is Relevant

You don’t hear about statutes of limitations very often, because it is in everyone’s best interest to file a civil claim promptly. However, if you hire a lawyer, they will most likely not immediately file a lawsuit. When you hire a lawyer for a personal injury case, your attorney will likely do the following: 

  1. Review your medical records and the police report of the accident. They will likely wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) in order for you to get a final prognosis from a doctor. Before you accept any money, you should have a clear picture of your medical future, and what kind of care you will need going forward. As your body heals and stabilizes, some injuries may worsen in the days and weeks following an accident. 
  2. Interview witnesses, and request the driving records or phone records for the suspected at-fault driver. Some attorneys have investigators that do this for them. 
  3. Engage in meaningful negotiations in an effort to settle your insurance claim without a lawsuit. If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, your lawyer may draft a complaint and proceed to a formal lawsuit. Even if a trial date is set, the case may still settle at any point in the litigation phase. 

A Statute of Limitations is really only relevant if the time period has passed. The court will reject any filing once a statute of limitations has passed. Even though many cases settle out of court, once a statute expires, a defendant will know you have no legal recourse in court, and any settlement efforts outside of court will almost certainly not be successful. 

Who You Can and Cannot Sue in Texas

Generally, if the negligence of another person caused your injuries or a loved one’s death, you can sue them. However, there are exceptions. A number of Texas statutes limit who you can sue for a serious injury. For example: 

  • You cannot sue a minor, or sue as a minor. A parent, legal guardian, or relative can stand in for a minor as “next of friend.” Texas car accident lawsuits involving children are commonly referred to as “friendly lawsuits.”
  • You cannot sue a Good Samaritan. Texas’s Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 74.151. Liability for Emergency Care statute states, “a person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency.”

An attorney can help you determine which party (or parties) might be responsible for your injuries.

What If You Are Partially At Fault? 

Texas has modified comparative negligence rules. This means that you can recover compensation for accident-related injuries, as long as you’re not mostly to blame. The state has a 51% bar to recovery. So, if you’re allocated more than half of the blame for an accident, you will be prohibited from filing a lawsuit and recovering compensation.

What happens if you share some, but not most, of the blame? You can recover compensation, but your financial award will be reduced by your degree of fault. Let’s say a jury determines your proportionate responsibility for a commercial vehicle accident is 30 percent. Your damages would be capped at 70 percent – reflecting your degree of blame (30 percent).

Understanding What Laws Apply to Your Texas Personal Injury Case

After an accident in Houston, TX, you do not need to navigate statutes, case law, and exemptions by yourself. At Brian White & Associates, PC, our Houston personal injury lawyers specialize in Texas law and plaintiff litigation.We offer a free case evaluation to answer your questions, review applicable laws, and discuss your legal options. Contact us to schedule yours today.