What are the Steps Involved in Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

There are multiple steps in a personal injury lawsuit. While the lawsuit process is primarily governed under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, other laws, rules, and factors play an important rule in determining the overall success of a lawsuit.
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Being injured comes with many concerns besides just physical recovery. You may need to take time off work, miss out on important life events, take care of medical bills, or even change jobs and your lifestyle after an accident. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can sometimes be the silver bullet you need to cut through the evasions and denials of the party at fault and recover the compensation you deserve. Personal injury claims cover negligence lawsuits, such as motor vehicle accidents, injuries caused by defective products, slips and falls, and wrongful deaths.

Unfortunately, when a party has been negligent, they may also be reluctant to pay for the harm that they’ve caused. Our team at DFW Injury Lawyers is here to muscle up and help you recover financial compensation for your injuries. Our personal injury attorneys know what it takes to build a strong personal injury case and see it through to a successful outcome.

Key Takeaways

  • A personal injury lawsuit in Texas can help you recover compensation if you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence.
  • A Texas personal injury lawsuit is governed largely under the Texas Civil Procedure Code, along with other related laws and procedures.
  • A qualified Texas personal injury attorney can help protect your interests and maximize your compensation following an accident.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

Personal injury law is an area that helps victims of avoidable accidents recover their costs, as well as additional funds for their pain and suffering. If you’ve been injured in Texas and you believe another party to be largely at fault, then you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit.

How a Texas personal injury lawsuit will proceed will depend on the amount and relevance of evidence available, the goals of each client, and the skill and experience of the personal injury attorney.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Your chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit greatly increase when you pick the right attorney for a personal injury lawsuit. It is important to hire a personal injury lawyer who has a breadth of experience practicing personal injury law in Texas, as well as the knowledge and skills to help a victim get paid for their losses.

A top personal injury lawyer should be able to anticipate and defuse the many challenges that an injured party may face in a lawsuit. For example, many motorcyclists know that anti-motorcycle bias is alive and well in Texas, and can affect a jury’s verdict in motorcycle accident cases. An experienced attorney knows how to take such bias into account while fighting for their client’s rights.

A local lawyer well-versed with the laws, regulations, customs, people, and the day-to-day life in your area will be aware of how to navigate complex injury cases, and present them in a convincing way in a courtroom. A Dallas personal injury lawyer, for example, would know the most dangerous roads in Dallas and bring this prior knowledge into use when handling a local car crash case. This is why hiring the right lawyer is the most important step in filing a personal injury lawsuit.

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Gathering Evidence for a Personal Injury Claim

After you hire an attorney, they will investigate all aspects of your case. This involves collecting the right evidence that can strengthen your personal injury claim. Evidence collected in a personal injury case may include eyewitness testimony, police reports, photographs and videos of the incident, as well as medical bills and diagnosis (i.e. medical reports, follow-up care, diagnostic scans, and more).

According to Rule 401 of the Texas Rules of Evidence, a piece of evidence is considered relevant when:

  • It has the tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
  • The fact is of consequence in determining the action.

For instance, in a case where the plaintiff alleges that they were hit by a car, video camera footage that shows the defendant running a red light signal will likely be relevant. This is because it shows that the defendant violated the law, while the pedestrian followed the rules of the crosswalk during the time of the accident.

While evidence must be relevant in order to be admissible during trial, there are certain types of evidence that are not admissible in court. Examples would be the private conversations between you and your attorney, or certain hearsay evidence.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit begins when a person files a petition with the court clerk. A petition frames the issues of the case, and highlights both the factual and legal basis for the lawsuit. A skilled trial attorney will create a petition with both compelling proof of your injury as well as strong legal reasoning as to why you deserve compensation.

A petition is part of the pleadings process. Pleadings include the initial petition, as well as a possible answer and reply from both the defendant and the plaintiff. They provide notice to the person being sued that a case has been filed against them, and offer them a chance to respond. You may think of pleadings as formal documents filed with the court that state the reason behind your lawsuit as well as the relief you wish to get.

Who is a Plaintiff?

The plaintiff is the person who has been injured and wants to initiate the legal process by filing the lawsuit.

Who is a Defendant?

The defendant is the person or party against whom the lawsuit is being brought. For instance, if a pedestrian claims they were injured by the driver of a car that struck them, the pedestrian would be the plaintiff and the driver would be the defendant.

After filing the initial complaint, a summons is issued to the defendant to let them know about the case and give them a chance to reply.

In some cases, a defendant may file a counterclaim alleging that the plaintiff caused the defendant certain harm. This is common in some accident cases where both parties were injured. In a counterclaim, the defendant brings a case against the plaintiff and asks them to pay for their damages. The plaintiff will have the opportunity to reply to a counterclaim, just as the defendant has a chance to reply to the initial complaint.

What Are the Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

The personal injury lawsuit process is governed under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and other related laws. A qualified and experienced local attorney will have a sound understanding of the proper order and function of the steps in personal injury lawsuits in Texas.

Serving the Lawsuit on the Defendant

Rules 21 and 21a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure govern how a pleading is filed with the court clerk, as well as how it is served on the defendant and what kinds of proof of service are necessary to be filed. Every pleading must be filed in writing with the clerk of court (unless it is presented during a hearing or trial). Filing is usually done electronically and within a certain time frame.

The defendant has a specific timeline and process allotted to them to answer pleadings, which they may do by either admitting or denying all or some of the plaintiff’s allegations. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure govern the structure of the defendant’s response.

Pre-Trial Procedures

The plaintiff’s attorney decides in which court to file the case. The filing depends on whether the court has jurisdiction and venue.

Before the trial, either party may file motions such as a motion to dismiss, a motion for summary judgment, or a motion to compel discovery. You may have noticed that sometimes, lawsuits end before the trial. This happens in certain situations, such as where the case was settled between both parties before it reached the courtroom.

Discovery Process in a Lawsuit

Discovery is the legal process during which supporting facts are investigated and gathered. In a personal injury trial, you will rarely find any smoking guns or big reveals before the jury. Instead, both parties are required to share certain relevant facts with the other legal team in advance. Privileged information, like attorney-client discussions, is not admissible as part of the discovery process, but you might be required to take part in other kinds of disclosures like:

  • Interrogatories: Answering questions under oath
  • Requests for Production: Producing documents such as social media posts, emails, text messages, and other pieces of communication or documents related to the event
  • Requests for Admissions: Admitting or denying certain relevant facts
  • Deposition: Answering questions in real-time while under oath
  • Medical, physical, and mental examinations

Pre-trial Conference

A pre-trial conference is typically used to set lawsuit timelines with the help of the judge.

“Embarking on a personal injury lawsuit requires meticulous attention to detail and strategic planning. From gathering evidence to navigating legal procedures, each step demands careful consideration and expertise to ensure justice is served and rightful compensation attained.” — Founding Partner Pedro “Peter” de la Cerda

Trial and Appeal

Most personal injury cases in Texas are settled before they reach the trial. If your case moves ahead to the trial stage, each party will present their arguments to either a judge or a jury. Juries are selected in advance through an elaborate process governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, set up to weed out those who will be biased for or against your claim in advance.

Arguments on questions about the law are addressed to the court, whereas arguments about questions of fact are addressed to the jury.

Opening arguments are statements of the case and facts to come, and may be followed by presentations of evidence, direct examination, and cross-examinations. The trial concludes with closing arguments, in which the plaintiff’s attorney usually goes first.

The verdict is a written declaration by the jury of their findings in the case. The verdict is not the final step in a civil claim, as motions may be filed in the days after a verdict if the situation arises.

Finally, the court grants the judgment, which is an order filed under public record. In some cases, either party may be able to appeal the decision.

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What Do You Need to Prove Personal Injury in Texas?

In order to prove your personal injury claim, you will need proof that the other party’s negligence caused or contributed to your accident. Since Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, you can only file a personal injury case if you are no more than 50% responsible for your injuries. While you can still file a personal injury lawsuit if you bear some responsibility for the accident, your award amount will be reduced by the percentage you are deemed to be “at fault” for your own injuries.

What is the Statute of Limitations on Texas Personal Injury Lawsuits?

The statute of limitations in Texas on personal injury claims is typically two years from the date of cause of action, e.g. a truck accident that caused your injury. There are, however, exceptions to the rule, which is why it is important to check with an attorney while deciding to file a lawsuit.

Steps Involved in Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit: FAQs

1. Who can file a personal injury lawsuit?

Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, check the following:

  • Did you suffer actual and real harm in Texas?
  • Did the other party’s negligence cause you harm?
  • Can you be compensated for the harm you’ve suffered?

Remember, anyone who is injured in the state of Texas due to another party’s negligence may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. You do not have to have full citizenship in the United States or be a taxpayer to file a personal injury claim.

2. What is transferred intent in personal injury?

Transferred intent in a personal injury complaint is often used when a third party is caught up in a fight, accident, or attack. If person A means to hurt person B, say by throwing something at them, and person C happens to be passing by and is struck by the object, then person C may still have a valid personal injury claim under transferred intent. The fact that person C was not the intended victim is not relevant in holding person A accountable for the harm done.

3. Can my attorney use character evidence to show that the negligent party caused the injury?

Under Rule 404 of the Texas Rules of Evidence, an attorney typically cannot use character evidence to show that the negligent party acted in accordance with an existing trait. For instance, if a person regularly drives recklessly, a plaintiff may not be allowed to argue that they might have acted similarly on the day of an accident. There are several exceptions to this rule, however.

4. The person who injured me offered to pay for my medical bills. Can I use this as evidence that they were responsible for my injury?

Offering to pay for someone’s medical expenses is not direct proof of liability for their injury. When in doubt, check with a Texas personal injury law firm to understand what kinds of statements may be admissible to prove liability.

5. What percentage of personal injury cases go to trial?

Across the country, only about 4 – 6 % of injury cases go to trial, which means 95% of injury lawsuits are settled before they can go to trial. In other words, one in 20 cases is resolved in a courtroom. Factors like the quality of evidence, the severity of injuries, and the degree of fault assigned to the defendant may determine whether a personal injury case is likely to be settled out of court.

6. Are personal injury lawsuit settlements taxable?

Texas does not have state income tax, and does not tax personal injury lawsuit settlements. However, certain tort settlements such as for breach of contract may be taxable by the IRS. Understanding how your personal injury lawsuit settlement amount may be subject to state and federal taxation is another one of the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer to handle your case.

7. How long does a personal injury lawsuit take to settle?

Texas civil litigation can be a matter of months or years, depending on the amount of evidence admissible, the background and severity of the injury, and the number of parties involved.

8. How long can a personal injury lawsuit last?

In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years. Once filed, your personal injury lawsuit remains active until a settlement takes place or a judgment is issued. The amount of time it takes to resolve a personal injury lawsuit varies: Some cases take months, others may take years depending on how cooperative the other side is and the complexity of the case.

9. What are the special damages in a personal injury lawsuit?

Special damages, or economic damages, are a kind of compensatory payment for out-of-pocket expenses due to an injury. Examples include past medical bills, future medical expenses related to your injury, current loss of income, predicted future loss of income, disability costs, and wrongful death expenses such as funeral and burial costs, and more.

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Hiring a personal injury lawyer you can trust is the most important step in a personal injury lawsuit. Our attorneys at DFW Injury Lawyers are experienced advocates ready to fight for your rights and maximize your compensation when you’ve been injured. For a free consultation, contact us today.

Article Sources

  1. Texas Rules of Evidence
  2. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure
  3. What Percentage of Lawsuits Settle Before Trial?

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