Personal injury cases are time bound. So, how long do you have to file a personal injury claim in Texas? This article will discuss the Statute of Limitations in Texas, and how experienced personal injury lawyers in Houston can help with your injury claim.
If you or a loved one have been involved in any form of accident, whether a car accident, a slip and fall, or medical malpractice, the first and most important thing is to get back to being healthy.
After getting back to good health, different bills, including medical expenses, have probably piled up. If your accident resulted from another party’s negligence or recklessness, you may be eligible for financial compensation according to the law through a personal injury claim.
Texas law states that the at-fault party in an accident will compensate the victim for any physical, financial, and emotional losses. However, this law also puts a time constraint on filing a personal injury claim. Once this time elapses, the victim loses the legal grounds to file for compensation, and the insurance companies can ask the court to throw out the case.
If you’ve been in an accident, you need to understand the scope of your case and the legal options you have. This is why hiring experienced personal injury lawyers in Houston is advisable to guide you through the legal process and ensure that you get the maximum compensation possible.
This article explains the length of time available to file a personal injury claim in Texas.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim? Do I Have a Case?
A personal injury claim is a legal case that can be filed if an individual was harmed in an accident as a direct result of someone’s negligence. It’s a formal procedure of recovering compensation from the at-fault party responsible for your injuries.
This compensation is usually paid by the defendant’s insurance company. Personal injuries are not limited to bodily injuries; they could also be emotional or damage one’s reputation. There are three basic elements to a personal injury claim: duty of care, breach of duty, and causation.
We discussed them individually below.
- Duty of Care: Duty of care is the responsibility an individual has to prevent or stop others from coming into harm. This duty varies with the level of your relationship with the other party.
- Breach of Duty: Once you’ve proved that the defendant owed you a duty of care, the next step is to show that they breached that duty.
- Causation: If you can successfully argue the above points, the last piece to prove is that the breach of duty was the direct cause of your accident.
A successful establishment of these three elements means having a valid personal injury case. Examples of personal injury cases include medical accidents, vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, wrongful death, truck accidents, drunk driving accidents, hit-and-run accidents, etc.
A personal injury case can be formalized through a personal injury attorney representing the plaintiff in a civil court proceeding. There are two possible outcomes in a personal injury case:
- Out-of-Court Settlement: Most personal injury cases are settled outside of court via settlement negotiations. This fair settlement is usually reached by the plaintiff and defendant, insurance adjusters, and the lawyers representing both parties.
- Formal Lawsuits: In other rare cases, a settlement cannot be reached out of court, and the matter may have to be settled in court.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
If you believe that your accident was a result of someone’s negligence, the next step after your recovery should be to file a personal injury claim. But how exactly do you do this? It’s important to note that each personal injury case is unique due to several factors like the cause of the accident, the severity of the injury, etc.
The points below represent what to do when filing a personal injury claim.
Get Medical Attention
An accident victim’s first step in any personal injury case is getting medical help. Apart from the obvious reasons that health comes first, records of medical expenses and testimonies from your health care provider can improve your chances of getting compensation.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
Even though it is legally possible to represent yourself in a personal injury case, it’s highly unadvisable. This is because you are not versed with personal injury law and probably do not have the experience to go against insurance companies on your own. Even if they settle with you, there’s every possibility that you could have gotten a higher settlement compared to what they offered. Injury victims that work with personal injury lawyers in Houston typically receive higher settlement amounts than those who handle their claims on their own.
Gather Every Piece of Evidence
Since you have to prove fault in most personal injury cases (some cases like workers’ compensation are no-fault cases), evidence is very crucial to your case. When working with personal injury lawyers in Houston they can help collect evidence to strengthen your case, including accident reports, police reports, accounts from eyewitnesses at the accident scene, expert opinions, traffic cam footage, etc.
Summons and Complaints
The personal injury claim takes off when certain documents are filed with the court and served to the defendant. One such document is the ‘complaints,’ also known as a petition.
It is a formal legal document that highlights the factual and legal reasons for your personal injury claim. Many states also require a summons document, which identifies the parties to the litigation and explains to the defendant that they are being sued.
After filing these documents, you’ll need to pay a filing fee to the court. The best personal injury lawyers in Houston know all of these and can save you stress while providing solid legal support.
Service of Process
Service of process refers to how the defendant or their representative gets served with the petition and summons. The service of process is completed once the defendant receives a copy of these documents.
Once all of these are settled, the next step is negotiation for a settlement between both parties out of court. If a settlement is reached, it ends there. However, if the two parties are unable to reach an agreement, a formal lawsuit is filed, and the case is taken to court.
Texas Shared Fault Rules
In some cases, accidents are solely the fault of a single party. However, in some other scenarios, two parties may each have a hand in the occurrence. Consider a slip and fall case where a customer looks at their phone and then slips and falls at an unmarked hazard. These types of cases are termed shared or comparative fault cases.
Under Texas laws, you cannot get compensation in a personal injury claim that you are partially at fault unless your percentage of fault is less than that of the at-fault party. This is also called the 51% rule.
If you are 51% or more at fault for the accident, you are automatically disqualified from getting compensation. If your fault percentage is less than 51%, you are still liable for compensation, but it will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
In such cases like this, it becomes a complex legal battle as the other party’s attorney and insurance carrier would want to assign 51% blame to you. Consult with experienced personal injury lawyers in Houston to increase your chances of getting fair compensation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Claim Under the Texas Statute of Limitations?
To begin with, what is the Statute of Limitations? The Statute of Limitations is a time-based law. The law sets the deadline for when a lawsuit can be filed in court. This timeline varies for different states and jurisdictions. Also, different statutes are awarded for different cases.
Statutes of Limitations are very important as they guarantee that necessary evidence will not be lost over the course of time. Also, witnesses that are to testify can do so with fresh, recent memories.
According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.003, the Statute of Limitations for a personal injury claim is two (2) years. The timeline begins on the day of the incident. For example, if the accident occurred on the 31st of July, 2022, the validity of the case will expire by the 31st of July, 2024.
Also, note that it’s not necessary that your case is tried in court or that the jury listens to your case within this timeframe. The Statute of Limitations requires only that you file a lawsuit within the set period.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Under Texas laws and in many states, there are some exceptions to the Statute of Limitations. For example, if your personal injury claim is against a government body or a state employee working in an official capacity at the time of the incident, the deadline to file the lawsuit reduces to six (6) months.
However, you can’t just outrightly sue the government. You will need to submit a formal claim to the government unit you believe is responsible for your injury while describing in detail the incident’s time, location, and details.
Other notable exceptions to the two-year statute include:
- If the subject of the accident was a minor, the Statute of Limitations does not begin to count until they turn 18.
- The Statute of Limitations can extend beyond the normal two-year period if the defendant exits the state before they can begin legal proceedings.
- If the fault or negligence of the defendant was unknown and couldn’t have been discovered within two years.
- If a person entitled to bring a personal injury action is under a legal disability when the cause of action accrued. The time of the disability is not included in the limitation period. However, a person may not add one legal disability to another to extend the limitation period. Also, a disability that arises after a limitations period starts does not suspend the running of the period.
- The defendant committed fraud.
Personal injury lawyers in Houston can help review your case and determine whether the reason you filed late fell under an exception and how it can impact your ability to recover compensation.
How Quickly Should You File a Personal Injury Claim in Texas?
Again, after an accident, the most important thing is getting medical treatment regardless of the severity of the injuries. However, there should also be some sense of urgency about your personal injury claim.
Even with this sense of urgency, you need to be careful not to rush your case. You must understand your case’s entire scope and the legal options you have.
Keep in mind that once you settle with the insurance firm, you lose legal grounds to pursue compensation in court. So, you must determine the full extent of your injuries and how much compensation you’ll be asking for before you file. But, the deadline is still ticking.
This is why it’s advisable to speak with personal injury lawyers in Houston to guide and defend you throughout the cause of your case and ensure you come out triumphant.
What If My Deadline Expires?
If you file your personal injury claim after the deadline expires, you might lose your right to compensation. The other party’s attorney will file a motion to dismiss the case because the deadline has passed regardless of your case’s strength.
Contact Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Houston, Texas Today!
If you or a loved one was involved in an accident due to another party’s negligence, you might be eligible for compensation. However, the clock is ticking toward the deadline for your case, so waste no time hiring an attorney.
At WestLoop Law, our personal injury lawyers in Houston will offer you excellent representation and legal guidance. Schedule a free case evaluation today!