A personal injury case arises when you attempt to enforce a personal injury claim, either by private settlement or by courtroom litigation. You have a personal injury claim when someone else is responsible for paying for the consequences of an injury that you suffered. As long as you suffered a physical injury, you can also collect compensation for ancillary losses such as lost earnings and pain and suffering.
Typical Personal Injury Claims
There are as many different types of personal injury claims as there are ways to injure the human body. An explanation of some of the more common types of claims appears below.
Traffic accidents are by far the most common personal injury claim. They include car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. Insurance companies typically pay compensation for vehicle accidents. Fortunately, Texas requires automobile drivers to purchase liability insurance.
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or a hospital, harms a patient through substandard medical treatment. Shockingly, a Johns Hopkins study estimates that medical malpractice is the nation’s third-leading cause of death.
Owners and operators of premises have a duty to keep their property safe for those who enter (with the exception of trespassers in most cases). A department store, for example, must keep its premises safe for customers. Slip and fall accidents are the most common types of accidents that invoke premises liability.
Any product on the market must be reasonably safe. If you suffer an injury due to a defective product, you can file a product liability claim.
Most workplace injuries fall under workers’ compensation law, which, strictly speaking, is not part of personal injury law. If you can find a responsible third party other than your employer, such as the owner of a construction site, you can exit the workers’ compensation system and file an ordinary personal injury claim.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is one of the most horrifying offenses that anyone can commit. It can happen through active abuse or through simple neglect. Either way, the victim is entitled to compensation—and immediate cessation of the abuse.
Texas, in effect, applies a “one-bite rule” to dog bite claims. This gives the dog owner a defense if (and only if) the dog had never exhibited any aggressive tendencies before. Homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance typically pays dog bite claims.
If the victim dies from a personal injury, a wrongful death claim arises. In Texas, close family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Compensation is different for a wrongful death lawsuit than it is for a personal injury lawsuit. The amount tends to be substantial, however.
Types of Liability
Personal injury claims rely on four main bases of liability–negligence, strict liability, vicarious liability, and intentional misconduct.
The closest colloquial equivalent to negligence is “carelessness.” To win a negligence claim, you must prove that:
- The defendant owed you a certain duty of care. A doctor has the duty to practice medicine competently, for example. A motorist must drive safely.
- The defendant failed to meet the demands of whatever duty of care applied to them.
- You suffered harm, including a physical injury in most instances.
- The defendant’s breach of their duty of care was a substantial cause of your injury.
You must prove all four of these elements to win your claim.
Strict liability means liability without proving fault. You don’t necessarily have to prove fault in a product liability claim, for example. Instead, you have to prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous.
Vicarious liability arises when a court holds one party responsible for the wrongdoing of another party. This doesn’t let the at-fault party off the hook, it just gives the victim one more party to seek compensation from. An employer, for example, is typically liable for the on-duty misconduct of their employees. Likewise, a Texas court might hold a parent liable for the misconduct of their minor child. The idea is to find someone with enough money to pay the claim.
You can sue someone for an intentional assault. Of course, many common criminals don’t have any money. However, if a bouncer unjustly beats you on duty, you can probably sue the bar. You might also sue a business establishment for negligent security.
The term “damages” refers to the money the defendant must pay you if you win the claim. Most of the time, this means compensation for your injuries. Sometimes it can also include punitive damages.
Economic damages are tangible, easy-to-count damages such as medical expenses and lost wages. They might also include out-of-pocket expenses such as child care while you are in the hospital.
Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible harms such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. They often amount to far more than economic damages.
Courts award punitive damages if and only if you qualify for economic or non-economic damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant, not to compensate you. It is difficult to win punitive damages as courts rarely award them. They are also more difficult to prove than economic damages and non-economic damages.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a personal injury claim is normally a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means enough evidence to prove that your version of the truth is more than 50% likely to be accurate. Even 51% is enough. This is a lot easier to prove than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies to criminal claims.
You must prove your entitlement to punitive damages by “clear and convincing evidence.” This standard is harder to prove than a “preponderance of the evidence” but easier to prove than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If you were partly at fault for the accident, you will lose compensation in direct proportion to your percentage of fault. If you were 40% at fault, for example, you will lose 40% of your damages. If you were more than 50% at fault, you will lose 100% of your damages per Texas law.
Can You Settle Your Case While a Lawsuit Is Pending?
Yes, you can settle your case any time before the court announces its decision. In fact, most personal injury cases end at the settlement table, not in court. The defendant, of course, might refuse to negotiate with you if they are confident of winning in court. But if they are not so confident, you can try to negotiate a settlement.
If you do reach a settlement, the settlement agreement will contain language requiring you to abandon your lawsuit as a condition for payment. You won’t have any problems with the court, as courts love settlements because they reduce their workloads.
A San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer Can Probably Get You a Better Deal
Regardless of whether you resolve your claim in court or at the negotiating table, by hiring an experienced San Antonio personal injury lawyer at George Salinas Injury Lawyers, you will probably end up with more money even after you pay your legal fees. Most personal injury lawyers charge legal fees as a percentage of the amount you win. If you win nothing, then you pay nothing in attorney’s fees. Schedule a free initial consultation at (210) 225-0909 to learn more.