If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, you will file a personal injury claim with that party’s insurance provider – seeking the compensation to which you are entitled and that you need to regain your health and well-being. Your experienced personal injury attorney will proceed to skillfully negotiate with the insurance company for your just compensation, but if the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, you will likely need to file a personal injury lawsuit against it. You have been injured, and it is all a bit overwhelming, but having a better understanding of the anatomy of your personal injury claim (or case – if you end up filing a lawsuit) can help.
The Other Party’s Liability
The first component of any personal injury claim is establishing the other party’s liability, and this amounts to establishing negligence on his or her part. This negligence refers to a breach of the legal duty of care owed to you by the at-fault party. Another way to put this into plain language is that the at-fault party failed to exercise the reasonable care that others in his or her position exercise in similar situations. In other words, the at-fault party owed you a duty of care but failed to live up to this responsibility, and there is a wide range of situations in which this applies.
Traffic Accidents of Every Kind
Every motorist on every road throughout the great State of Texas and throughout our nation owes everyone else on the road a considerable duty of care that includes driving safely and allowing for the safe passage of others. Driver negligence tends to be at the heart of every type of traffic accident, including:
Rideshare accidents, including Uber and Lyft accidents
Driver negligence amounts to a breach of the duty of care owed by motorists, and such negligence can come in any of the following forms:
Disregard for the rules of the road
Distraction (texting is the deadliest distraction of all)
If another driver’s negligence leaves you injured in a traffic accident of any kind, the component of liability – including both the duty of care owed and the breach thereof – is established.
Slip and Fall Accidents
When you enter a commercial property, you generally are not overly concerned with your safety, and this is because commercial property owners and managers owe us a duty of care that involves maintaining their properties in the reasonably safe condition that other property owners do in similar situations. When property owners fail to attend to slipping and tripping hazards on their premises, dangerous slip and fall accidents become more likely, and common causes include:
Failure to attend to spills in a timely manner
Failure to adequately maintain floor coverings
Failure to remove the buildup of debris and tracked in weather in entryways
Failure to provide adequate lighting in stairways and corridors
Failure to adequately maintain stairways
If a property owner or manager’s negligence causes you to slip, fall, and be injured as a result, liability in your slip and fall claim is present.
Many accident victims worry about bringing personal injury claims because they are afraid that they may share fault in the matter. This is human nature – we tend to blame ourselves when things go wrong. Determining who is actually at fault for the accident that leaves you injured, however, is a matter of law and is best left in the capable hands of your personal injury attorney – who will carefully analyze all the relevant evidence in defense of your legal rights. Even if you are partially responsible for the accident that causes you to be injured, you are not barred from seeking the percentage of compensation that the other party is responsible for in the State of Texas – as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible.
How It Works
The court will determine the percentage of fault that you are responsible for, and as long as this percentage is 50 percent or below, you can move forward with your personal injury case. Once your complete damages are calculated, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage for which you are deemed responsible.
If, for example, a speeding motorist shoots through a red light and slams into your vehicle, his or her liability in the matter is established. If, however, you were also speeding at the time, the court may find that you share some of the responsibility. In this case, let’s say that you suffer $100,000 in damages but are deemed 10 percent at fault. Your compensation will be reduced by that 10 percent, leaving you with a settlement or court award of $90,000.
Your Legal Damages
Another primary component of your personal injury claim is your legal damages (or your associated losses). In order to bring a successful claim, you will need to demonstrate that your damages are the direct result of the other party’s liability in the matter. These damages are likely to be extensive, and they typically break down into several basic categories.
If you have been seriously injured, your medical costs can be overwhelming. Serious injuries often require ongoing treatment and care and can lead to secondary health concerns that put your healthcare needs on a continual loop. Failing to ensure that your medical expenses are well represented in your personal injury claim can leave you at a considerable loss – and less likely to reach your fullest recovery. Medical expenses tend to be wide-ranging and can include all of the following:
Charges from doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals
The cost of prescription medications
Pain management expenses
The cost of follow-up care
The price tag for medical procedures, tests, treatments, and more
All told, it is a lot, and without just compensation, your healthcare expenses can stop you in your tracks.
Lost Earnings on the Job
The recovery process after being injured by someone else’s negligence can be exceptionally rocky and lengthy, and it can interfere with your ability to earn a living. If your injuries are such that your ability to keep up with your job or to continue advancing your career is affected, they can cause even more considerable financial setbacks.
Pain and Suffering
Being laid low as a result of someone else’s negligence can have considerable psychological effects – in addition to the physical pain and suffering you endure. This pain and suffering can cause significant setbacks that are difficult to overcome. Examples include:
Severe mood swings that can include increased irritability
Increased anxiety, which can lead to anxiety attacks
Bouts of depression
A tendency to self-isolate
Additionally, there is considerable inconvenience involved. A serious accident can literally upend your life and leave you unsure of where to turn or how to get things back on track. These are the kind of negative consequences that may not come with a price attached, but that can be the most difficult to move beyond.
The third component of most personal injury claims is insurance coverage. Most such claims are filed with the insurance company of the at-fault party, and while the insurance company is paid to compensate you fairly, this does not mean that the path forward is going to be smooth. The insurance company is – first and foremost – a for-profit enterprise that is seriously invested in keeping its profits high (by virtue of keeping its settlements as low as possible). This is why you have an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner – to skillfully negotiate with the insurance company for your just compensation and to prepare for a well-considered lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith. Insurance companies have an array of practices they like to turn to in their efforts to keep payouts low.
Early Claim Denials
Sometimes, insurance companies will simply head claims off at the pass by denying them outright – banking on claimants being too overwhelmed to move forward with lawsuits. While having your claim denied from the outset is discouraging and can be intimidating, it does not mean that you do not have a valid claim. The fact is that this is a matter for the court to ultimately decide – if the insurance company refuses to proceed in good faith. Filing a lawsuit against the insurance company may be just the nudge it needs to reconsider your claim more carefully.
Early Settlement Offers
On the opposite end of the scale is the offer of an early settlement. You are watching your medical bills rise while your earnings head in the opposite direction, and you may be just desperate enough to accept a lowball settlement offer that barely begins to cover your full range of physical, financial, and emotional losses. After all, you need financial help now, and this is what the insurance company is betting on (and taking advantage of). Accepting less compensation than the amount to which you are entitled, however, decreases your ability to reach your most complete recovery and can set you up for more losses to come. Accepting a settlement offer of any significant magnitude before consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer is not in your best interest.
The insurance company may invest considerable time and resources in its effort to convince you that blame lies not with their policyholder but with you. As mentioned, fault in personal injury claims is determined in accordance with the evidence (not in accordance with the insurance company’s bullying practices).
The insurance claims process is complicated and lengthy, to begin with. If the insurance company takes it upon itself to make the process more so, it can prove exceptionally discouraging, and some claimants simply give up in exasperation. The most important point to remember here is that there are laws against these less-than-honest practices and that your personal injury attorney will help you successfully navigate the insurance company’s tactics while skillfully fighting for your rights and for your rightful compensation. Do not let your discouragement in the matter support the insurance company’s profit-based goals.
The insurance company may attempt to cast doubt on the extent of your damages. For example, it may claim that your medical expenses are not as extensive as you say they are, and it may attempt to pooh-pooh your pain and suffering. You are the one who had to endure the pain and suffering wrought by the insurance company’s policyholder’s negligence, and you should not succumb to the insurance company’s attempts to shame or frighten you out of just compensation for the actual damages you have suffered. In fact, insurance companies are skilled at downplaying the damages suffered by claimants, and they often coax them into unwittingly participating in this practice. For example, simply saying I’m okay in the immediate aftermath of an accident (which is a common effect of the adrenaline running through you) can be misconstrued as a complete disavowal of injuries. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help protect your claim from the outset, including:
Do not comment about the accident at the accident scene.
If asked direct questions by the police at the scene, answer them as succinctly and truthfully as possible.
Refrain from posting about the accident on social media (in fact, taking a social media break is a good idea). The insurance company is eager to read meaning into your posts, and there is no reason to provide them with the opportunity.
Seek the medical attention you need as soon after the accident as possible and follow your medical team’s instructions and advice as carefully as possible.
Consult with an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is an accomplished personal injury attorney with the experience, drive, and legal insight to help you. To learn more, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.