If you get injured in an accident in Texas, someone may owe you financial compensation for your losses. Retrieving payment for your medical bills and other expenses takes filing a personal injury claim. It is important to understand the court process for the typical personal injury case so you can prepare for what lies ahead. A lawyer can help you with your personal injury claim in Texas.
The Plaintiff (Usually) Hires an Attorney
You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you during your claim, especially if you have serious injuries or anticipate your case going to trial. Although the vast majority of personal injury claims settle, cases involving liability disputes or other complications may need to go to court. Hiring a personal injury lawyer at the beginning of your claim can ensure the full protection of your rights either way.
All Parties Involved Investigate the Case
The first step in resolving a personal injury claim is all the parties involved investigating the case. The plaintiff, the plaintiff’s attorney, the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company will all have the chance to investigate what happened. Investigations often involve reviewing available information and evidence from police reports, accident reports, medical records, eyewitnesses, photographs and video footage.
The Plaintiff Submits a Demand Letter
If a lawyer’s investigation finds that someone else caused your accident and injury due to negligence, your lawyer will help you file a demand letter. The demand letter initiates your insurance claim. It has a basic description of the accident, why you believe the defendant is liable and a list of the damages you are seeking as payment. It should also include a sentence threatening to take the case to trial if the insurance company does not handle it fairly.
The Plaintiff and Insurance Company Negotiate
Upon receiving your demand letter, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation if it has not already done so. The insurance company will either accept or deny your claim based on the facts discovered. If the insurance company accepts your claim, it will offer a settlement to resolve the issue. You and your lawyer can negotiate for a fair amount and end the case there, if desired. If you do not reach a settlement, your lawyer will help you take the case to court instead.
The Plaintiff’s Attorney Files a Lawsuit
Most personal injury cases do not need lawsuits, as they settle before reaching this stage. If your case does require a lawsuit, however, your lawyer will help you with the required court documents and filing paperwork. Your lawyer will need to submit the filing paperwork to the civil courts in the county where you live or the county where the accident occurred by the deadline. In Texas, you have two years from the date of your accident to bring a lawsuit against a defendant.
The Claim Goes to Trial
If your personal injury claim goes to trial, your lawyer can help you understand the basic court process in Texas. While every case is unique, all civil trials have essentially the same 10 steps. Your personal injury lawyer will represent you through all of the phases of your lawsuit, whether you reach a settlement during pretrial mediation or your case goes all the way to court.
- Pretrial negotiations
- Discovery phase
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Presentation of evidence
- Witness testimony
- Cross-examination of witnesses
- Closing statements
- Jury deliberation
During your trial, your side of the case and the defendant’s side will have the opportunity to present evidence to a panel of 12 jurors. The jury will review the evidence and decide whether you met the burden of proof to establish the defendant’s liability as more likely to be true than not true. If so, the jury will give you a judgment award to cover your losses. If not, the jury will not find the defendant liable. Your lawyer will then have the chance to file an appeal or a motion for a new trial, if desired. Work with a lawyer on every step of your personal injury case for the best odds of success.