Injured in an accident and thinking about pursuing personal injury compensation on your own? That’s probably the biggest mistake you could make. The insurance company is going to delay, defend, and deny your claims and then give you a lowball offer that won’t even come close to covering your medical bills, let alone your pain and suffering.
Without the right legal representation, you could be left footing the bill for an accident that wasn’t your fault. At Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group, we’ve stood up to countless insurance companies, ensuring our clients receive the compensation they deserve. In this article, we explain how you can maximize your settlement with an experienced personal injury lawyer and why partnering with a seasoned professional can be a game-changer for your case.
Understanding Personal Injury Cases
If you have been injured or a loved one killed due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Personal injury law in Texas, like in other states, is primarily governed by a combination of case law and statutes. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer for the best chance at maximizing your settlement. Here are some key points to understand about personal injury cases:
- Legal Basis: In Texas, personal injury claims are based on the concept of negligence. To successfully pursue a claim and secure compensation, the injured party must prove that the other failed to fulfill their duty of care, resulting in injury. For instance, if a store owner failed to clean up a spill and you slipped and fell and broke your hip, the owner’s negligence could be the legal basis for your claim.
- Types of Personal Injury Cases: Personal injury in Texas encompasses various incidents, from car accidents, slip and falls, and medical malpractice, to product liability, premise liability, and dog bites, among others. It’s important to understand that each case is unique and requires specific evidence to support the claim.
- Burden of Proof: In a personal injury case, the burden of proof lies with the injured party. They must provide evidence showing that the defendant’s negligence or misconduct caused their injuries. This is usually proven by the “preponderance of the evidence” – meaning it’s more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence led to the injury.
- Duty to Mitigate: In Texas, injured parties have a duty to mitigate their damages. This means that you are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure your injuries don’t worsen or cause further financial harm. For instance, if you neglect medical advice and your condition worsens, the compensation might be reduced.
- No-Fault vs. At-Fault: Texas operates on an “at-fault” system for car accidents, meaning the responsible person for causing the accident is also responsible for any resulting harm. The injured party can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: Texas uses a “modified comparative negligence” rule. If you’re partially at fault for the accident, your compensation might be reduced by your fault percentage. If you’re over 50 percent at fault, you won’t get compensation. For example, let’s say you were involved in a car accident and sought $100,000 in damages. However, it was determined that you were 30 percent responsible for the accident because you were speeding. In this case, under Texas’s modified comparative negligence rule, your compensation would be reduced by 30 percent, leaving you with $70,000. If you were found to be 60% at fault on the other hand, you would receive nothing.
- Damages: The purpose of personal injury claims is to seek compensation for the injured party’s losses. Texas allows for the recovery of various damages, including economic (like medical bills and lost wages), non-economic (like pain and suffering), and in some egregious cases, punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior. Accurately calculating the total amount of damages is crucial to ensure fair compensation.
- Damages Cap: While there’s no cap on most personal injury damages in Texas, there are exceptions, especially in medical malpractice cases. For instance, non-economic damages like pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases have a cap set at $250,000 per defendant, with an overall cap of $500,000.
- Settlement vs. Trial: Most personal injury cases are settled before reaching trial. Settlement negotiations involve both parties and their respective insurance companies. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome.
- Statute of Limitations: It’s important to be aware of the time limits, known as statutes of limitations, within which a person must file a personal injury lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of case. Failing to file within the specified time frame may result in the claim being barred. In Texas, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in Texas. Missing this deadline may result in your case being dismissed.
- Benefits of Hiring an Attorney: Engaging a skilled attorney can drastically impact the success of your claim. They can negotiate with insurance companies, navigate legal complexities, and advocate for maximum compensation on your behalf. If you want to maximize your settlement, you need a highly skilled personal injury attorney in your corner, fighting for you every step of the way.
Understanding personal injury cases is crucial to navigate the legal process effectively. If you believe you have a valid personal injury claim, it is essential to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can provide guidance and advocate on your behalf. They can help evaluate your case, gather evidence, negotiate settlements, and, if necessary, represent you in court.
How an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Maximize Your Settlement
When it comes to maximizing your settlement in a personal injury case, a highly skilled lawyer can make all the difference. They are experts in gathering evidence, calculating claim value, negotiating with insurance companies, and going to trial if necessary. They will use their knowledge and experience to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the full compensation for which you are entitled for your injuries and losses. Here’s a detailed explanation of how they can help:
Gathering Evidence and Building a Strong Case
Building a robust personal injury case hinges heavily on the quality and relevance of the evidence presented. Here’s how a seasoned personal injury attorney typically gathers the necessary evidence:
- Accident Scene Documentation: After an incident, a lawyer may visit the scene to collect evidence or review evidence that was already collected, such as photographs, videos, or diagrams. They will gather any relevant items that could shed light on what transpired.
- Police and Accident Reports: These official reports often contain critical details about the accident, including diagrams, the involved parties, potential causes, and sometimes even preliminary determinations of fault.
- Surveillance Footage: In today’s digital age, many incidents are captured on camera. Whether it’s a store’s security camera, traffic camera, or even someone’s personal cell phone, this footage can be pivotal.
- Physical Evidence: Depending on the case, items involved in the incident, such as damaged vehicles in a car accident or a malfunctioning product in a product liability case, can be preserved and analyzed.
- Medical Records: These documents are paramount. An attorney will obtain all medical records related to the injury to show the extent and severity of the injuries, as well as the prognosis and any expected future medical needs.
- Witness Statements: Witnesses can provide a first-hand account of what occurred. A lawyer may interview these individuals, especially if there are discrepancies in the accounts of the involved parties.
- Expert Testimonies: Depending on the case, experts like accident reconstructionists, medical professionals, or engineers might be called upon to provide insights that can substantiate a claim or give a clearer picture of the incident.
- Financial Records: To claim lost wages or prove economic damages, an attorney will gather pay stubs, and employment records, and sometimes even seek expert financial opinions to project future lost earnings, especially if the injury leads to long-term disability.
- Personal Journals or Diaries: Many victims are advised to keep a daily journal that documents their pain levels, emotional state, and the daily challenges they face post-accident. These personal accounts can paint a vivid picture of the victim’s suffering.
- Research and Past Precedents: Often, attorneys will look into similar past cases to gauge the potential outcome and determine what evidence had the most impact.
By meticulously gathering and organizing evidence, a personal injury attorney not only bolsters the claim’s validity but also ensures that their client’s story is heard, understood, and justly compensated.
Calculating the Value of Your Claim
Determining the value of a personal injury claim is a nuanced process that requires careful consideration of multiple factors. Here’s how an experienced personal injury attorney approaches this crucial aspect of your case:
- Medical Expenses: The foundation of most claims, medical expenses include the costs for ambulance services, hospital stays, surgeries, doctor visits, medications, physical therapy, medical equipment, future medical treatments, and any other related medical costs. To build a strong case for reimbursement, it is crucial to meticulously document all medical costs, including receipts, bills, and invoices.
- Lost Wages: When a victim sustains an injury and is unable to work, they often experience a direct loss of income. This encompasses any salary, hourly wages, or benefits that they would have earned during the period in which they were unable to work. It is of utmost importance to meticulously track all missed days and accurately calculate the precise amount of wages lost.
- Loss of earning capacity: In more severe cases, an injury may have a long-term or permanent impact on a person’s ability to work and earn a living. Loss of earning capacity pertains to the potential income that the injured individual would have earned if the injury had not transpired. This calculation takes into account factors such as education, skills, job opportunities, and future earning potential.
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering are crucial factors in personal injury cases. They encompass the physical pain and emotional distress endured due to the accident. While more subjective and not easily quantifiable, pain and suffering takes into consideration the severity of the injury, the type and length of physical pain, and emotional traumas like anxiety or depression.
- Loss of Consortium: If the injury has affected the victim’s relationship with their spouse or family, compensation might be sought for the loss of companionship or inability to maintain a marital relationship.
- Property Damage: This pertains to any personal belongings damaged in the accident, such as a car, electronics, or clothing.
- Punitive Damages: In cases where the defendant’s behavior was especially negligent or malicious, the court might award punitive damages as a way to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.
- Life Altering Disabilities or Permanent Injuries: If the victim suffers from a disability as a result of the accident, the compensation might include costs for modifications to their living space, long-term care, or assistance devices.
- Future Treatment Costs: Some injuries may require extensive or lifelong medical care. It is essential to also take into account these future treatment costs when determining the value of a personal injury claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer can collaborate with medical professionals and experts to estimate future expenses, such as ongoing therapy, surgeries, medication, or specialized care. These anticipated costs are factored into the negotiation of a settlement or a court verdict.
- Expert Opinions: Often, attorneys will consult with medical professionals, financial experts, or vocational rehabilitation specialists to estimate future costs associated with the injury, like ongoing therapy or future surgeries.
- Legal Precedents: Past case outcomes can provide benchmarks for determining claim value, though each case remains unique in its specifics.
- Likelihood of Success: An attorney will also consider the strength of your case and the evidence at hand, as these can influence negotiations with insurance companies or decisions to go to trial.
Attorneys, insurance companies, and courts employ various, often complex, methods to calculate the value of a claim. These methods may include using multipliers, where the total medical expenses and lost wages are multiplied by a specific factor, or the per diem approach, which assigns a daily rate for the recovery period.
By hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer, you can ensure that medical expenses and future treatment costs are accurately calculated and included in your claim. Their expertise in gathering evidence, evaluating medical records, and negotiating with insurance companies will help maximize your settlement.
Let’s look at an example: Jane was involved in a car accident that caused severe injuries to her back. As a result, she was unable to work for six months while she underwent surgeries and rehabilitation. During this time, she lost $20,000 in wages. Due to the extent of her injuries, Jane’s doctor determined that she would never be able to return to her previous physically demanding job. An economic expert calculated that she would lose an additional $500,000 in future earning capacity. In her personal injury lawsuit, Jane was awarded $520,000 to compensate for her lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
It’s worth noting that no attorney can guarantee a specific amount, but a seasoned personal injury lawyer will use their expertise and the factors above to advocate for the maximum compensation their client deserves.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Dealing with insurance companies after an accident can be daunting, especially when you’re trying to recover. Here’s how an experienced personal injury attorney can handle negotiations and why it’s best not handled by the injured party:
- Knowledge of the Process: Experienced attorneys understand the ins and outs of insurance claims. They know the tactics that insurance adjusters use, the timeframe for responses, and the paperwork involved, ensuring the process moves smoothly and efficiently.
- Objective Standpoint: Emotions run high after an accident, and an injured party might accept a low offer to get the process over with or out of fear. An attorney provides an objective viewpoint and will push for what’s justly deserved, not what’s simply expedient.
- Skilled Negotiators: Personal injury attorneys have honed their negotiation skills over countless cases. They know when to push, when to hold back, and when to counter. Their goal is to secure the highest possible compensation.
- Comprehensive Claim Valuation: An attorney will thoroughly evaluate the full value of your claim, ensuring nothing is overlooked. They factor in future medical bills, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more. Insurance adjusters might not willingly present these costs upfront.
- Potential for Litigation: Insurance companies are aware that experienced attorneys will take the case to court if a fair settlement isn’t achieved. This potential acts as leverage during negotiations.
- Understanding Policy Details: Insurance policies can be complex. Personal injury attorneys know how to read these policies, ensuring all potential avenues for compensation are explored.
- Protection from Underhanded Tactics: Insurance companies often try tactics like delaying claims, underestimating injuries, or shifting blame to diminish or deny claims. An attorney will spot and counter these tactics, protecting the injured party’s interests.
- Peace of Mind: With an attorney handling negotiations, the injured party can focus on recovery, secure in the knowledge that a professional is fighting on their behalf.
Why You Shouldn’t Go It Alone
While it is technically possible for an individual to negotiate with insurance companies, the expertise, experience, and objectivity that a personal injury attorney brings to the table can make a significant difference in the outcome. It’s not just about getting compensation; it’s about getting what’s justly deserved.
Without understanding the nuances of insurance claims and legalities, it’s easy to fall into traps or miss key steps in the negotiation process.
Personal involvement can cloud judgment. Decisions made out of stress, fear, or emotion might not serve the injured party’s best interests in the long run.
Without a clear understanding of all potential damages, an injured party might accept a settlement that’s a fraction of what they’re entitled to.
The Possibility of Trial
While many personal injury claims are settled out of court, there are situations where a trial becomes necessary. Whether it’s due to unyielding insurance companies, disputes over facts, or complex cases involving multiple parties, having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side becomes indispensable when going to trial. Here’s why:
- Preparation and Investigation: Trial preparation begins long before the court date. An experienced attorney will meticulously gather evidence, consult with experts, and even reconstruct accidents if necessary. They will investigate every aspect of the case to present the strongest argument possible.
- Understanding Legal Procedures: Navigating the legal world can be perplexing for the uninitiated. From filing the correct paperwork within set deadlines to ensuring all legal protocols are followed, an attorney’s expertise ensures that no procedural mistakes jeopardize the case.
- Expert Witness Coordination: Often, personal injury trials require testimonies from expert witnesses, such as medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, or financial analysts. An experienced attorney knows who to call, how to examine them, and how to counter the opposition’s experts.
- Jury Selection: An often-overlooked aspect of trials, jury selection can significantly impact the case’s outcome. Attorneys have experience and training in choosing jurors who might be more favorable to the case while challenging potentially biased jurors.
- Compelling Presentation: A trial is not just about facts but also about persuasion. Experienced attorneys know how to present your story compellingly, using visual aids, demonstrative evidence, and compelling narratives to resonate with the jury.
- Cross-Examination Skills: One of the pivotal moments in a trial is cross-examining the opposition’s witnesses. An attorney’s skill in questioning can cast doubt on the opposition’s case or solidify your position.
- Legal Strategy Development: Experienced attorneys can anticipate the opposition’s tactics and build counter-strategies. They’ll adapt on the fly, redirecting their approach based on the unfolding events of the trial.
- Settlement Negotiation: Even during a trial, settlement negotiations can continue. An attorney can gauge when it’s wise to consider a last-minute settlement or when pushing forward is the better option.
- Protection of Client’s Rights: Perhaps most crucially, a personal injury attorney ensures that their client’s rights are upheld throughout the trial process, ensuring that the opposition doesn’t take advantage of legal complexities.
Tips for Finding the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
Looking to maximize your settlement money after a personal injury? In this section, we’ll explore how to find a qualified personal injury lawyer who can help you successfully navigate this process and come out victorious on the other side. When conducting research and evaluating potential lawyers for your personal injury case, it is vital to take into account various factors that can assist you in making a well-informed decision.
1. Qualifications and experience: In your search, look for a lawyer who specializes in personal injury law and possesses a proven track record of successfully handling similar cases. Give consideration to their years of experience, previous settlements or verdicts, and any accolades or awards they have received.
2. Reputation and client reviews: Take the time to research the lawyer or law firm online and read reviews from past clients. Look for testimonials or feedback that highlight their professionalism, responsiveness, and ability to communicate effectively.
3. Resources and team: It is essential to consider the resources and support staff that the lawyer or law firm has. A well-equipped team can assist in handling your case more efficiently and effectively, ensuring that no important details are overlooked.
4. Communication and accessibility: Evaluate how the lawyer communicates with their clients. Seek someone who is responsive, approachable, and keeps you updated throughout the legal process. Availability and accessibility are crucial factors to take into account.
5. Fee structure: Familiarize yourself with the lawyer’s fee structure and ensure it aligns with your budget and expectations. Some lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only receive payment if they win your case. Others may charge an hourly rate or a flat fee. Discuss the fees upfront before making a decision.
6. Case strategy and approach: During initial consultations, inquire about the lawyer’s case strategy and approach. They should be able to clearly explain how they intend to handle your case and the steps they will take to maximize your settlement.
7. Professional networks and affiliations: Find out if the lawyer is part of any professional associations or legal organizations. Membership in such groups can indicate a commitment to staying up to date on legal trends and developments.
8. Compatibility and trust: Ultimately, select a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable and can build a trusting relationship. Personal injury cases can be lengthy, so it is crucial that you have confidence in your legal representation.
When conducting research and evaluating potential lawyers, take your time and carefully consider these factors. Remember, finding the right lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your personal injury case.
Want to Secure Maximum Compensation? Contact Us.
At Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group, our track record of success speaks volumes. With a highly experienced team and vast resources at our disposal, we’re equipped to handle even the most complex cases. The best part? We work on a contingency basis – you don’t pay unless we win. Still unsure? Let us put your concerns to rest with a free case evaluation. Call 817-207-4878 (HURT) now and let our expertise work for you.