What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If another party caused your injury, you could be entitled to compensation for damages. Filing an insurance claim is generally the first step in recovering compensation for your injuries. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate a fair settlement, you may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
In either case, having sound legal advice throughout the process can reduce stress, help you avoid costly mistakes, and give you a better chance of getting the money you deserve.
Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Texas
Every personal injury lawsuit begins with someone being injured. Although each injury case is unique, several steps are common in personal injury cases.
Obtain Medical Treatment for Injuries
Prompt medical care is essential after an accident. Even though you might choose not to go directly to the emergency room, see your family doctor for an examination as soon as possible.
Tell your doctor about all symptoms, even if they are minor. You could have sustained an injury that has delayed symptoms. By documenting your symptoms right after the accident, you’ll have evidence to argue against allegations that the accident did not cause your injuries.
You generally must have documentation of injuries to win a personal injury lawsuit. A defendant cannot be held liable for negligent acts if the plaintiff did not sustain damages due to the defendant’s conduct.
Furthermore, careful documentation of injuries improves your chance of recovering the maximum value for your case.
File an Insurance Claim
If you were not at fault for the cause of the accident or your injury, you can file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, waiting to file an insurance claim could jeopardize your right to pursue a claim in court. Therefore, notify the insurance provider that you intend to file an insurance claim for injuries and damages.
Because you are speaking with experienced, highly trained claims representatives, it is best only to provide the facts. Many representatives and claims adjusters are trained to get information and statements by asking leading questions and engaging in friendly conversation.
You can politely decline to answer any questions about the accident or your injury. However, it is generally best to speak with a Houston personal injury lawyer first to avoid saying something that could hurt your case.
Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Most accident lawyers offer free consultations. Therefore, it does not cost you anything to speak with an attorney about your case. You may have a straightforward injury case that does not require the assistance of an attorney.
However, injured victims benefit from hiring a Houston personal injury attorney in most cases. A law firm has the resources to conduct an investigation. Furthermore, experienced injury lawyers understand the tactics used by insurance companies to undervalue and deny claims. They also have a thorough understanding of personal injury laws, damages, and the value of damages.
The insurance company has a team of professionals protecting it. Hiring a lawyer evens the playing field.
Conduct an Accident Investigation
The insurance company will investigate your claim. However, it is not wise to rely on the insurance company’s findings. Instead, your lawyer will conduct an independent investigation.
The goals of an independent accident investigation include:
- Gather evidence proving the cause of the accident and your injury
- Identify the parties who contributed to the cause of the accident or injury or could be vicariously liable for damages
- Document damages and gather evidence detailing the extent of your injuries
- Identify and verify insurance policies that provide coverage for damages
- Calculate the value of all damages, including economic and non-economic damages
- Analyze the case to determine if the facts of the case support an award of punitive damages
Depending on the case, your lawyer may retain one or more expert witnesses to provide evidence and opinions regarding causation, fault, and the value of your damages.
Send a Settlement Demand Letter
Your attorney will draft a demand letter to send to the insurance company. The demand letter outlines the facts of the case and describes your injuries and damages. It concludes with a specific amount you will accept to settle the injury claim.
The insurance company may accept the claim or make a counteroffer. It could also deny the claim entirely. Generally, insurance companies send a counteroffer which starts a back-and-forth negotiation until the parties reach a settlement. Most claims settle without filing a lawsuit or going to court.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the other parties refuse to agree to a fair settlement amount, your lawyer may advise you to proceed with a civil lawsuit. You generally have just two years to file a personal injury lawsuit under the Texas statute of limitations.
The two-year deadline applies in most personal injury cases. However, there are exceptions. Therefore, we recommend talking with a lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing the applicable deadline.
The Discovery Process
After both parties file pleadings with the court and serve copies to each other, they engage in discovery. A lawsuit’s discovery phase is often the longest part of the process.
The parties use various discovery tools to obtain information from the other parties, eyewitnesses, experts, and other parties involved with the case. Standard discovery tools include interrogatories, depositions, requests to produce, and requests for admissions.
Discovery allows the parties to obtain additional evidence and review the other party’s evidence. The process allows the parties to evaluate their case and the other side’s case.
Settlement Negotiations and Trial Preparation
The parties to a lawsuit generally engage in settlement negotiations after completing discovery. The parties may be willing to agree to a fair settlement once they better understand the other side’s evidence. If the parties settle, the lawsuit is dismissed.
If the parties cannot agree to a settlement amount, they prepare for trial. Trial preparation may include filing several pre-trial motions regarding evidence, witnesses, and other matters.
Trial and Appeal
Each side presents their evidence during the trial. The attorneys can cross-examine each of the witnesses called by the other party. The court determines the facts of the case and decides whether the plaintiff proved the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. If so, the court will award damages.
However, the defendant could appeal the decision. If so, you do not receive any money. You must go through the appeals process for a higher court to issue a ruling. Alternatively, you may appeal the decision if the court ruled in favor of the defendant at the original trial.
As with other steps in the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will weigh the pros and cons with you regarding an appeal. Then, the attorney will give you their opinion and allow you to make the final decision.
Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Talking with an experienced personal injury attorney in Houston is the best way to learn about your legal rights and determine if you have a legal claim for damages.
An attorney will advise you of the steps to filing a personal injury lawsuit and whether they recommend filing based on your circumstances. They will also assist you in communicating with the insurance company to ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of during the negotiation process.