If you have been involved in an auto accident and sustained injuries in Houston, you may be within your rights to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
This can help you recover compensation for your losses – including both financial and non-financial losses.
However, before you do that, it is worth noting two legal considerations in Texas.
The statute of limitations and comparative negligence laws here may preclude some accident victims from claiming what they believe they deserve.
It’s best to be clear from the outset who can claim and what you can claim for. So, let’s take a quick look at the two main legal parameters that accident victims face.
What is the statute of limitations for auto accidents in Texas?
The Texas statute of limitations for personal injury cases means that you have a limited time in which to file a claim for injuries after an auto accident.
This period is two years after the date of your accident. If you miss the deadline, you relinquish your rights to pursue a case against an at-fault party.
Two years may seem like plenty of time in which to file but sometimes injuries are slow in developing. Some injured parties are not aware of the extent of their injuries until later – so it pays to keep the time limitation in mind.
Sometimes, the preliminary stages of the investigation eat up time when determining how strong your claim is. Your personal accident lawyer can advise you on the best course of action in your case and provide an idea of the associated timelines.
Generally speaking, it’s best to speak to your personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to start the ball rolling with your claim. The details are likely still clear in your mind and it is still possible to gather critical evidence to back up your version of events (photographs, eyewitness accounts, and any other relevant evidence).
Passing the case over to a lawyer should also relieve the stress of having to deal with the insurance company of the at-fault party.
Besides, the faster you act, the quicker you are likely to get a payout that covers your medical and other costs. Never simply accept an offer from an insurance company without first speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Are there any exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Texas?
While in standard personal injury cases, you can expect the two-year statute of limitations to apply, there are some instances where further time can be granted by the courts – as detailed in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code.
In the following two scenarios, for instance, you may be able to argue a case for an extension to the time limit:
- If the plaintiff is “under a legal disability” i.e., a minor (under 18) is “of unsound mind” at the time of the accident that caused the injuries.
- At some point after the accident that caused the injuries, and before the lawsuit can be filed, the person who allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries leaves the state of Texas.
In the first instance, the two-year timespan is likely to start only when the period of legal disability is over (the injured person turns 18 or becomes mentally competent). In the second instance, the period of absence of the defendant is not counted as part of the two-year statute of limitations.
Can you sue under comparative negligence laws in Texas?
Texas is one of many states that operates according to the “shared fault” model when determining compensation. You may hear this referred to as “comparative negligence” or “comparative fault” in Texas.
It essentially means that two parties or more can share responsibility for an accident. This does not preclude an injured party from claiming compensation providing they were no more than 50 percent at fault. However, the amount of compensation awarded will be reduced according to the degree of fault.
For instance, say you were deemed by the court to be 25 percent at fault for an accident and another driver was 75 percent at fault.
The court awards $80,000 in damages in your case – but you would only receive $60,000 due to the 25-percent fault that you need to bear for the accident.
How is comparative negligence determined?
Before you can claim compensation for injuries suffered, a determination must be made of who was at fault for the auto accident.
Often, this is disputed. Insurance companies aim to minimize payouts and will attempt to get you to admit some portion of fault. That is part of the reason why hiring experienced legal representation is essential for any major personal injury claim.
If the case goes to trial, it will be thoroughly evaluated typically by a jury, who will determine which party or parties involved are at fault.
How do you prove negligence in Texas?
Generally, to prove negligence in personal injury cases in Texas, your lawyer will need to demonstrate that the following five elements applied:
What damages can be claimed?
Assuming that you can claim for your losses from the auto accident, your amount of compensation will depend on the nature of your injuries as well as your degree of fault (if any).
Typically, personal injury victims claim for present and future losses – financial and otherwise – including the following:
Get answers to your personal injury claim questions…
Few personal injury cases are simple, straightforward claims. You should expect complications but your personal injury lawyer will handle these and any questions you may have.
With experienced legal representation, you can first determine whether you have a valid case according to the various laws in Texas and then understand the process your case will go through and the expected outcomes.