Have You Been Injured Due to Someone’s Negligence?
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We believe that the best way to help our clients is to keep them informed about the process as we diligently pursue their claim. With that in mind, this section of our website will serve as a complete walk-through of Texas personal injury law, wherein we will explain all of the basics of personal injury cases. This information will apply to virtually any type of negligence-based cause of action.
Parties to a Personal Injury Claim
The participants in a personal injury claim or lawsuit are referred to as parties. There are at least two parties; a plaintiff (the injured party that files the lawsuit) and the defendant (the person that the plaintiff feels is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries). In some cases, there are multiple plaintiffs and/ or multiple defendants.
An act is considered to be a negligent act when it is performed with a disregard for the rights of others, but not with any willful intent. In other words, negligence is simply being reckless whilst knowing that your recklessness is capable of causing harm. All personal injury claims are based on showing that the defendant acted negligently.
Identifying Defendants and Proving Their Negligence
Naturally, in order to bring a personal injury case, you must be able to identify a defendant. That is not always possible in every case, such as what occurs in hit-and-run accidents. As such, not all injuries result in personal injury cases, but more to the point, not every type of injury sustained is actionable irrespective of whether there is a defendant or not. The question is not whether you should sue, but whether you are legally entitled to sue. In order to have a justifiable lawsuit, your claim must be based on a valid cause of action.
A cause of action is the mitigating factor that allows a person to sue another for their injury. You can think of the term “cause-of-action” being synonymous with phrase “right to sue.” For instance, if you lease an apartment and then break your lease, your actions create breach-of-contract cause of action.
The cause of action that typically applies in a personal injury case is usually rooted in the defendant’s negligence. Negligence contains four elements: duty, breach, causation, and actual injury – and you, as the plaintiff, shoulder the burden of proving the defendant’s negligence by way of satisfying these individual elements. As your legal counsel, our Austin personal injury attorneys do all the work for you. Once you retain our services, we get to work so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries and getting your life back together.
Your involvement in the claims process will be as little or as much as you desire. Grossman Law Offices is different, because we focus on giving you the personal attention that you just won’t find at any other firm. Some of our clients want daily updates, and we are happy to oblige. Others only want to be informed whenever a major breakthrough happens, such as when a settlement offer is made. The point is, unlike other law firms where you’re lucky to even get past the receptionist while on the phone, our attorneys will speak to you directly, answer any questions you have, and give you the amount of personal attention that you want from your Austin lawyer.
Basics of Litigation
Many personal injury cases are resolved through litigation. Litigation is the process of bringing your case through the court system. The first step in the litigation process is filing a lawsuit. The lawsuit is basically a condensed summary of your case whereby you inform the court of your intention to bring the matter to trial. The lawsuit is just one of many important documents (including subpoenas and court orders) that will be utilized throughout the duration of your case, but it is arguably the most important.
Once the lawsuit has been filed, litigation is underway. The next phase of the case, known as the discovery phase, centers on learning new information that can be used to validate your claims and support your theories. Some helpful tools used in this phase are depositions, admissions and interrogatories, and subpoenas and court orders. Each of these instruments are used strategically to flesh out information that the other side probably doesn’t want you to have. For instance, in a deposition, your lawyers will interview the defendant or other key parties to the lawsuit and they will ask them questions. Depositions are performed under oath and everything said on the record is admissible in court.
Once your attorneys have gleaned enough information about the injury and related circumstances, they will typically draft a demand to be sent to the defendants. A demand is a document or packet of documents and other materials that state a specific amount required to settle the case. Also contained in the demand are the supporting materials that substantiate the amount demanded.
Demands come in different forms, but perhaps the best weapon in the plaintiff’s arsenal is the Stowers Demand. A Stowers Demand is derived from a legal doctrine set forth in an old Texas case that basically states that an insurance carrier is required to settle a case with a plaintiff so long as they have good reason to believe that the claim is valid and that the demanded amount is reasonable. If the insurance carrier fails to settle the case (for instance, if they unnecessarily drag the case out and stall the process unfairly, or force the plaintiffs to arbitrarily try the case) in good faith, there are certain penalties that can be levied against them. As you can imagine, filing a Stowers demand against an insurance carrier provides a good deal of leverage for them to act in a reasonable fashion.
Basics of Trial
If the case is not resolved during the earlier stages of litigation, then the case will go to trial by jury. Trial is a risky proposition for all parties since there is no way to know exactly how the case will be perceived by the jury. Juries are by and large fair and reasonable, but human error certainly allows ample room for jury bias based on the plaintiff’s appearance, preconceived notions about a plaintiff’s motivations, preconceived notions about a lawyer’s motivations, etc. There are certainly things beyond your control that can ruin your trial, but the truth is usually well received in court and juries tend to be quite fair.
When you go to trial, court procedure is exercised throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Court procedure can be thought of as the rules of engagement or simply as the ceremonious aspects regarding how the trial is conducted. Everything from where the parties of the lawsuit and jury are positioned in the courtroom, to what information can be presented is derived from the rules of civil procedure.
The goal of the trial is to have both sides present evidence that they feel adequately depicts the facts and circumstances of the incident. The first step is to pick a jury that will be fair to both sides. Once the jury is picked, the judge reads to them the rules that they must follow and then the case begins. Everyone takes their place in the courtroom and then attorneys from both sides will call on witnesses and experts to take the stand and then inform the jury about the case. Once the jury has been made aware of all relevant information, the plaintiff’s attorney submits a jury charge which instructs the jury to assigns fault in the form of a percentage between the plaintiff and defendant(s). The jury then deliberates and then returns with a verdict.
Certainly there is more to the process than described above, but hopefully this information will help you to feel more familiar with the process. We feel that it is very important that our clients have the resources necessary to make an informed decision regarding what’s in their best interest. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Austin personal injury lawyers at 1-855-257-1111. You can call at any time, day or night to speak to a real person that will listen to your claim and give you an informed opinion.