Frequently Asked Questions About Houston Personal Injury Cases
An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal rights
If you've been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault, you may not know where to turn. That's where a Houston personal injury attorney can make a meaningful difference. We've helped thousands of clients move forward after their lives were changed by serious injuries, and if you've been hurt, we can help. That's why we created this guide to personal injury cases in Houston.
- What should I do if I've been injured?
- I keep hearing the term "negligence." What does that mean?
- How can I get my medical bills paid?
- I'm out of work, but I can just use my sick time. Do I need to file a lawsuit?
- How much is my case worth?
- Should I accept a settlement offer from an insurance company?
- How long will my case take to resolve?
You may have many other questions about your claim, and we encourage you to contact us to discuss them. Even if you do see your questions listed here, remember that every case is unique, and these questions and answers are not specific legal advice on your individual situation. That's why we urge you to contact the Houston personal injury lawyers at Tracey & Fox if you've been injured and need help.
The first thing you should do after sustaining an injury is to make sure you document everything. Take pictures of the scene and any visible injuries. Get names and contact information for witnesses. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, it may be necessary to call the police, who will prepare a report documenting the incident.
Your next step is to seek immediate medical attention, even if your injuries seem minor. Some injuries, such as internal injuries and traumatic brain injury, have delayed onset symptoms, and seeing a doctor right away is the best option to protect both your health and your legal rights. Again, document everything, including any medical expenses and mileage to and from the doctor's office. Follow all of your medical provider's instructions.
Finally, you need to contact us as soon as possible. Even if you're not sure whether you have a case, there is no harm in meeting with an attorney to understand your legal rights. If you can't come to our Houston office, we'll come to you.
Negligence is a legal term that refers to the behavior that causes a personal injury. Essentially, if a person or legal entity caused another person to become injured by carelessly acting or failing to act in a certain way, then the negligent person or entity is liable for damages - financial compensation for the person's losses as a result of an injury.
Central to the concept of negligence is the idea of a "duty of care" - that is, the responsible party owed the injured person some legal duty. For example, a medical professional has a duty to provide each patient with reasonably competent care, and a motorist has a responsibility to operate his or her vehicle safely and carefully.
In Texas, we use a system called "comparative negligence" in cases where multiple parties are partially at fault for an injury. For instance, one party may be 60 percent at fault and another person might be 40 percent at fault. Each person would be responsible for damages in proportion to that percentage of fault. This also means that even if you were partially at fault for your own injury, you can still recover damages from the responsible party, though they will be reduced by your percentage of fault. However, you cannot recover at all if you are at least 51 percent at fault for the injury.
Ultimately, the person responsible for your injuries is also responsible for your medical bills, but a liability insurance company typically won't pay until after you have completed treatment. Your first step should be to use any applicable insurance coverage you may have. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, that might include health insurance, medical payments coverage or workers' compensation.
If you don't have any applicable insurance coverage, we may be able to work out a "treat now, pay later" arrangement with your doctors. This is called an attorney's lien, and it is normally only possible to arrange when you have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Under such an arrangement, your doctors would provide treatment at no upfront cost and accept payment later, after you recover compensation for your injuries.
You are still entitled to compensation for lost wages even if you had other means of getting paid for that missed time, such as sick time. Depending on your employer’s policies, you may be able to “buy back” the sick time using money from your personal injury claim, if desired.
That depends on many factors, including the extent of your injuries and the total impact the accident has had on your life. A personal injury claim can cover all of the following losses:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings
- Loss of household services
- Loss of care and companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Modifications to your home or vehicle
Some cases may only be worth a few thousand dollars, but others may be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. We’ve consistently found that many of our clients’ claims are worth far more than they expected, once we have helped them analyze all of the ways in which the accident has affected their lives. That's why it's so important to meet with a Houston attorney for a free case evaluation.
Not without talking to your lawyer first! Settlement offers from insurance companies are usually "low-ball" offers that may not even come close to full compensation for your injuries. Many people don't even know that they can ask the insurance company for more money - and insurance companies are all too happy to take advantage. You should always review any offer from an insurance company with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting the insurance company's money. Remember, once you've accepted payment, you are normally not able to go back and ask for more.
That depends on the circumstances of your injury, the size of your claim and the insurance company's willingness to negotiate. Most cases settle within three to nine months after medical treatment is completed. If your case goes to trial, it may be one to two years before you actually go to court, although we can still negotiate a settlement with the insurance company at any time prior to the verdict. This may seem like a long time, and it certainly can be, but our legal team will be on your side every step of the way.