After an accident, you may find yourself facing serious injuries and an uncertain future. If your accident was caused by someone else, you may be wondering what legal rights you have and if you can recover compensation for your losses.
Our lawyers often help accident victims navigate this difficult time. The answers to some of the most common questions we receive are below.
What Is a Personal Injury?
Personal injury is a legal term given to any physical, emotional, or mental injury. The term is most commonly used in tort law, which involves an injured party, known as the plaintiff, bringing a lawsuit against the person at fault for the accident, known as the defendant. Through that lawsuit, injured individuals can claim compensation for their injuries.
Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
Many accident victims think they can file a personal injury claim on their own. However, they shouldn’t. Although an injured individual can represent himself or herself, there are many benefits to working with a personal injury attorney. These include:
- The experience an attorney brings to every case
- The knowledge of the law and the procedural rules that can help move the case through the system more quickly
- The investigation an attorney will perform to determine liability
- The knowledge that your case is progressing, even though you are focused on your own health and recovery
- An accounting of total compensation, including many types of damages you may be unaware that you are entitled to receive
- No risk of paying fees if you do not win your case
- Avoiding dealing with the insurance company, as an attorney will take care of that
These are just a few of the advantages accident victims will receive when they decide to hand over their case to a knowledgeable attorney.
The Insurance Company Said I Don’t Need an Attorney ─ Is That True?
Before speaking to the insurance company, you should always speak to an attorney. This is because the insurer is likely to tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. They may say they are ready to accept fault, that they will pay you a fair settlement, and even go so far as to say that in your case, regardless of the facts, an attorney is not worth it.
None of this is true, and insurance companies have been known to go back on their word. They will say you don’t need an attorney because they don’t want you to get legal representation. They know an attorney will hold them accountable for paying you full and fair compensation, and this could be difficult to get on your own.
Do I Have a Personal Injury Case? If So, How Much Is It Worth?
Not every accident results in a personal injury claim. However, if someone was at fault for the accident, and you suffered significant injury as a result, there’s a good chance you have a personal injury claim.
Unfortunately, no one can determine how much a case is worth without first reviewing the facts of the case. If you’ve been injured, a personal injury attorney can help determine the value of your case by assessing all the damages you have suffered.
What Damages Am I Entitled to Recover?
Texas law allows accident victims to claim economic and non-economic damages for their injuries. Common damages awarded in personal injury cases include:
- Medical expenses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Physical impairment or disfigurement
Your case may include all of these damages, only some of them, or even more. An attorney will identify all of your losses and help you claim compensation for them.
The Texas Center for Legal Ethics and the American Bar Association both outline rules of professional conduct for attorneys. Under these guidelines, anything told to an attorney cannot be shared with anyone else without your permission. An attorney must always keep legal discussions confidential, even from the court. The attorney-client privilege protects you from the minute you start working with an attorney as his or her client.
How Soon After I Am Injured Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Under Texas law, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Although there are some exceptions, in most cases if you file after this time, you will likely be barred from receiving compensation.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are awarded by the court when a defendant has shown gross negligence or carelessness. In Texas, these are capped at $200,000 or twice the amount of economic damages, whichever is greater.
What Is the Letter of Protection Used For?
A letter of protection is written by the injured individual’s attorney. It allows accident victims to obtain the medical treatment they need, even if they cannot afford it. They receive this treatment in exchange for a promise to pay for services rendered directly out of a settlement or judgment.
How Do I Choose a Personal Injury Attorney?
Choosing the right attorney is an important step in recovering the compensation you need to move forward after a personal injury. Some things to look for include:
- Knowledge of the area in Texas the accident occurred in
- Knowledge on case law and the legal statutes within the state
- Experience in the area of accident law your case falls into
- Available resources, including expert witnesses
- Trial experience
- Experience negotiating claims successfully
- Your own personal feeling about a specific attorney
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney?
Different law firms have different payment structures. Some may charge a fixed fee, while others charge hourly. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they will only receive a fee as a percentage of your settlement or award. This means that if they do not recover money for you, they do not get paid.
What Can I Expect in My Free Consultation?
Again, each law firm is different and there is no one blueprint to follow during a free consultation. However, you should work with an attorney who will look at your case at no charge. During this consultation, you can expect, at minimum:
- A face-to-face meeting with the attorney
- A discussion centered around your most pressing legal concern
- A discussion on how the attorney can help
- A review of the fees and payment structure, if you and the attorney agree to work together
Have More Questions? Call Our Texas Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you’ve been in an accident and think you have a claim, you likely have a lot more questions. At Burch Law Firm, our New Braunfels personal injury attorneys can answer them. Contact us online to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can help.