If you are injured here in Texas by another person’s negligence, and if you choose to seek compensation, you’ll find that a number of steps are required by the personal injury process in this state.
After you have been examined and treated by a healthcare professional – that is your first priority – your second priority is reaching out to an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney for the legal advice and representation that you are very much going to require.
WHAT ARE THE THREE “MAIN” PARTS OF THE PERSONAL INJURY PROCESS?
When looking at the personal injury process, it’s helpful to divide that process into its three main phases:
1. the pre-filing stage
2. the discovery stage
3. a mediation or personal injury trial
The victim of a personal injury or injuries is called the “plaintiff” in a personal injury case. Deciding to accept a settlement or go to mediation or trial is probably the most important decision that a plaintiff will make in the entire personal injury process.
HOW SOON AFTER BEING INJURED SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A LAWYER?
It is imperative to retain a reputable injury lawyer as early as possible in the process because you must have the benefit of your attorney’s insights and experience to help you make that all-important decision.
The party accused of negligence in a personal injury case is called the “defendant.” The most important factor in your decision to settle or go to trial is the defendant’s settlement offer.
If a defendant extends a settlement offer that satisfies the plaintiff’s needs, the plaintiff can accept the offer and avoid a courtroom trial. But if no acceptable settlement amount is offered, the plaintiff’s attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit.
DOES FILING A LAWSUIT ALWAYS MEAN GOING TO TRIAL?
Filing a lawsuit still does not necessarily mean that the case will go to trial. Filing a lawsuit is a way to gain some leverage – and show the other party that you’re serious – in the out-of-court negotiations. Often, a settlement can be reached immediately after the lawsuit is formally filed.
Still, the overwhelming majority of personal injury cases never reach a courtroom. While the precise statistics vary depending on the source, approximately nine out of ten personal injury cases are settled outside of court.
WHY ARE SO MANY PERSONAL INJURY CASES RESOLVED OUT-OF-COURT?
Why do so many personal injury cases never go to trial? These are the three main reasons:
1. The fear of losing: If a plaintiff rejects settlement offers and then loses at trial, the plaintiff receives nothing. Defendants also face a possibility that a jury may award a higher settlement amount than the plaintiff was originally willing to accept.
2. The expense: The cost of a trial can be substantial. The more complicated a personal injury case becomes, the more it will cost each side. In many personal injury cases, one side or the other decides that a trial is not worth the expense.
3. The delay: A plaintiff may take an offer that’s less than the injury claim is actually worth, not because the plaintiff is pleased with the settlement offer but because he or she needs money at once and cannot wait for the legal process to unfold.
If no settlement can be achieved, what happens after a personal injury lawsuit is filed? What’s called the “discovery” stage begins.
WHAT IS THE “DISCOVERY” PROCESS IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
Discovery is time-consuming and meticulous. In the discovery stage of a personal injury case, both sides request, gather, and review the statements, documents, and other evidence in the case.
Information acquired in the discovery process must be shared with the other side in the case. The process is supposed to ensure fairness as both sides prepare to go to trial.
The “interrogatory” and the “deposition” are essential parts of discovery. Listed here are the various stages of the discovery process:
1. After a lawsuit is filed, it is “served.” A process server delivers the paperwork to the defendant, or if the defendant is a company, to its registered agent.
2. You receive and respond to an “interrogatory.” An interrogatory is a list of written questions from the defendant’s attorney. Honest answers are imperative. Your own attorney also sends the defendant an interrogatory.
3. Before any trial begins, each side may “depose” witnesses under oath. Depositions usually take place in the conference rooms of attorneys’ offices, but any answer you provide in an interrogatory or a deposition is considered “under oath.”
4. You may have to submit to a medical examination conducted by a doctor chosen by the defendant. Defendants have that right.
5. Both parties may agree to arbitration as an alternative to a personal injury trial. An arbitrator, typically a retired judge, serves as both judge and jury in the arbitration process. In most cases, arbitration is binding.
6. If all efforts to negotiate a settlement are fruitless, your attorney may recommend a jury trial rather than arbitration. At trial, evidence is presented, witnesses are questioned, and a verdict is decided.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SETTLE A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
When parties settle a personal injury case outside of the courtroom, they waive any right to pursue the case further. Winning at trial, however, means the plaintiff may have to endure the appeals process before the case is finalized and damages are paid.
If you are injured because of someone else’s negligence in Texas, you must take your case at once to a qualified personal injury attorney. Under Texas law, you have only two years to file a lawsuit for personal injury or medical malpractice.
WHY IS IT IMPERATIVE TO ACT SWIFTLY?
But you can’t wait two years – or even two weeks to speak with an attorney after you’ve been injured. Evidence deteriorates rapidly. So do the memories of eyewitnesses.
The sooner you speak to an injury lawyer, the more likely it is that you’ll receive the full compensation you need.
If you’ve been hurt in a slip-and-fall accident, a traffic accident, an incident of medical malpractice, or in some other manner, and if you prevail with a personal injury lawsuit, you can be compensated for medical expenses, lost income, and all other related losses and damages.
Protect yourself. If you become a victim of negligence in Texas, get the legal help you need – immediately. That is your right.