Austin Personal Injury Lawyer
Being injured as a result of someone else’s negligence puts you in the especially difficult position of facing physical, financial, and emotional challenges, but an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer has the keen legal insight and drive to help.
If you have been injured by the negligence of someone else, it leaves you at an extreme disadvantage. You have medical concerns to address; your earnings may have decreased, and the pain and suffering you experience can make everything else that much more difficult. Obtaining compensation that covers your losses (or damages) in their entirety is critical, but the vulnerable state you find yourself in can make doing so extremely difficult. Having an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer on your side can mean the difference between obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled and not doing so.
Common Types of Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury claims are generated by accidents that are caused by the negligence of others, and while they can come in many different forms, some of the most common categories include:
- Traffic accidents of every kind, including car, truck, bike, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents
- Accidents involving company vehicles
- Premises liability claims, such as slip and falls and dog bites
When such an accident causes the victim to ultimately succumb to the injuries he or she suffers as a result of the other person’s negligence, the resulting claim is called a wrongful death claim, which is very similar to a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Claims and Negligence
Personal injury claims are based on negligence. If someone owes you a duty of care and fails to live up to this duty, the negligence on his or her part can lead to a personal injury claim. The duty of care involved amounts to a responsibility to someone else’s negligence. For example, every time we get behind the wheel, we owe a significant duty of care to everyone else on the road. In other words, we have a responsibility to one another’s safety. When motorists choose, instead, to drive negligently, it endangers others and can lead to serious accidents that lead to personal injury claims.
The Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
Every successful personal injury claim must include four specific elements.
1: A Duty of Care Was Owed
The at-fault party whom you bring the claim against must have owed you a duty of care. As mentioned, motorists owe one another a significant duty of care, but it doesn’t stop there. Commercial business owners and managers also owe their visitors, customers, clients, and other invited guests a duty of care that extends to maintaining their premises in the reasonably safe condition necessary to allow for safe passage of these guests. If the property in question is boarded up with caution signs warning you to stay out, the duty of care the property owner owes you is likely far less than the duty of care that is owed to you by the manager of a grocery store in which a spill that was left unattended caused you to slip and fall. There are many situations in which we owe one another a duty of care, and failure to live up to this important responsibility can result in personal injury claims.
2: The Duty of Care Was Breached
In order to bring a personal injury claim, the party whom you file your claim against must have breached the duty of care that he or she owed you. For example, if a drunk driver caused you to be injured, his or her negligence amounts to a breach in the duty of care owed to you, which fulfills this element of your personal injury claim. The standard for property owners – in premises liability claims, such as slip and falls – is the level of care that other reasonable property owners apply in similar situations. If the actions of the property owner in question do not comport with the standards set by most other property owners (who face the same kind of circumstances), it can amount to a breach in the duty of care owed.
3: This Breach Caused Injuries
It is not enough that someone negligently breaches the duty of care that he or she owes you. In order to bring a personal injury claim, the negligence involved (or the breach in the duty of care owed) must lead to injuries. For example, if you slip and fall in a restaurant (on a spill that should have already been cleaned up) and suffer a broken leg, the restaurant owner’s negligence caused you to be injured, and this element of your personal injury claim is met.
4: The Injuries Resulted in Legal Damages
Finally, the injuries that you suffer as a result of the other person’s negligence must cause you to suffer actual legal damages (or losses), which can include:
- Property damage (such as to your vehicle in a car accident)
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Your Complete Damages
In order to fully recover compensation for the losses you’ve suffered, you’ll need to ensure that your damages are well represented in your personal injury claim, and if the accident that leaves you injured was fairly serious, you can expect your damages to be extensive.
Your Medical Expenses
Serious accidents often cause serious injuries that can lead to dangerous secondary health concerns and to the need for ongoing medical attention, all of which translate to steep medical costs. Consider the following common medical expenses:
- Emergency treatment at the scene of the accident and emergency transportation from the scene of the accident
- Surgical care and follow-up care
- Medical tests, procedures, and treatments
- Treatment and care from doctors, specialists, and medical professionals
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Pain management
- Adaptive physical devices and adaptions to home and car
- Home health care
- Assistance with the activities of daily living
Settling your claim before your prognosis is established and your future medical needs are understood can leave you in a very difficult position. Experienced personal injury lawyers are well versed at helping clients better understand their overall medical costs and at ensuring that these expenses are well represented in their personal injury claims.
Your Lost Earnings
While you tend to your physical injuries and the medical care that you need, you will likely be off the job and may experience a considerable loss in earnings, which can be financially devastating. If these losses lead to a decrease in your ability to earn overall and/or to an altered career trajectory, your losses can be even more significant – and more difficult to overcome.
Your Pain and Suffering
The pain and suffering associated with personal injury claims are often one of the most difficult categories of loss to quantify and qualify, but your pain and suffering can also be one of the most difficult damages to overcome. The psychic pain that is often addressed in personal injury claims can include any combination of the following:
- Severe mood swings
- Emotional lability that can include crying jags and depressive episodes
- Increased anxiety and panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances that can include nightmares or night terrors
- Accident flashbacks
- Feelings of hopelessness
- A tendency to push others away and/or to self-isolate
Another unfortunate aspect of these negative consequences is that they can distance you from the members of your support team just when you need their support the most.
A Car Accident Claim
A good way to address the elements of a personal injury claim is via an example, and because traffic accidents are so common, a car accident represents an excellent example.
Duty of Care Owed
Every motorist on the road is responsible for driving safely, following the rules of the road, and generally allowing everyone else on the road safe passage, and when driver negligence interferes with this responsibility, it amounts to a breach in the duty of care owed. The duty of care that one driver owes another is generally quite easy to establish, but determining who is at fault for any given accident can be more challenging.
Duty of Care Breached: Driver Negligence
Driver negligence generally represents the duty of care that has been breached in a car accident. Common forms of driver negligence include:
- Distraction – When a driver’s attention is focussed on anything other than the task of driving safely, he or she greatly increases the risk that a dangerous accident will occur. The most startling and dangerous distraction of all is texting behind the wheel, which interweaves all three forms of distraction (cognitive, physical, and visual) and translates to driving blind for an average of five seconds (for each text that is read or sent).
- Impairment – While there is no doubt about just how dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is, some motorists continue to engage in the deadly habit.
- Exhaustion – Drivers who are impaired by exhaustion can experience cognitive and physical deficits that rival those of drunk drivers and that make them especially dangerous drivers.
- Excess Speed – Excess speed makes whatever risk you encounter on the road that much more dangerous. When a driver speeds dangerously, he or she helps to ensure not only that car accidents are more likely to happen but also that they are more likely to be fatal.
- Aggressive – Aggressive drivers throw the duty of care they owe other drivers out the window and often proceed to drive as recklessly as they can manage. The hallmark of aggressive driving is speeding dangerously, but aggressive drivers tend to engage in multiple dangerous practices behind the wheel.
The immense impact of even a relatively minor car accident can cause very serious injuries that can take nearly any form, but some of the most common types include:
- Broken Bones – The power and energy behind car accidents can easily lead to broken bones, which are painful injuries that are slow to heal and that can also lead to serious secondary health concerns, such as chronic pain and physical limitations.
- Traumatic Head Injuries – Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are typically caused by either a blow to the head or by the severe shaking of the head, and because they affect the brain, these injuries are dangerously unpredictable and can lead to a lifetime of healthcare needs.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – Spinal cord injuries are generally caused by a blow to the head, neck, or shoulders, and even when relatively mild, they are closely associated with serious pain and serious decreases in range of motion. When the damage to the spinal cord is severe, it can lead to permanent paralysis.
- Cuts and Burns – The energy and heat generated by car accidents are closely associated with severe cuts and burns, which are painful injuries that are susceptible to dangerous infections, and that can lead to permanent disfigurement.
It is not difficult to imagine the severe damages that victims of car accidents suffer, including property damage to their vehicles, medical costs that are often ongoing, losses in earning potential, and immense pain and suffering.
Frequently Asked Questions
Being injured by someone else’s negligence can leave you especially vulnerable and unsure about how best to proceed. The answers to those questions that are most common to victims of other people’s negligence can help.
Do I really need a personal injury lawyer?
If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you can file your own accident claim with the at-fault person’s insurance provider yourself, which means that you are not required to have a personal injury lawyer. This said, however, having a dedicated personal injury lawyer on your side significantly improves your ability to fully recover on your complete range of physical, financial, and emotional damages.
Will my case go to trial?
Many injury victims are concerned about taking their claims to trial, which – in your vulnerable state – can be intimidating. The truth is that the vast majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court. Only if the insurance company refuses to negotiate with you in good faith will your personal injury lawyer advise you to file a lawsuit against it, and the very act of filing may be enough to spark the insurance company’s desire to address your claim more fairly.
How can I afford a personal injury lawyer?
If you are concerned about how you are going to pay your legal expenses after suffering all the financial setbacks that come with being injured by someone else’s negligence, you are not alone. The fact is, however, this is one concern that you can put aside, and this is because the vast majority of personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that their pay is contingent upon your compensation, and your lawyer won’t be paid unless your claim settles or generates a court award – at which time your lawyer will receive a pre-arranged percentage.
What if I am determined to share fault?
Many accident victims are too discouraged to seek the compensation to which they are entitled because they believe they may share fault for the accident that leaves them injured. First of all, your personal injury lawyer has the experience and legal know-how to help establish the issue of fault in your claim, but even if you do share a percentage of the fault involved, this does not bar you from seeking just compensation (for the percentage of your damages that the other person is responsible for) in the State of Texas. As long as the percentage of fault you bear is not more than 50 percent, you can seek compensation for your damages.
Won’t the insurance company cover my losses fairly?
Personal injury claims can be confusing because, while the insurance company is paid to cover the damages you suffer as a result of their policyholder’s negligence, it is also a for-profit business that is fully invested in maximizing its profits. This puts you in the unenviable position of having to negotiate for a fair settlement in the face of the insurance company’s opposition. The very best way to help ensure that your best interests are upheld throughout the settlement process is with a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side.
What ploys on the part of the insurance company should I watch out for?
The insurance company may engage in any of the following in its attempt to keep your settlement as low as possible:
- Claim denial from the outset
- Early lowball settlement offers
- Shift blame toward you
- Denial regarding the severity of your damages
- An intentionally complicated and lengthy claims process
Seek the Professional Legal Guidance of an Experienced Austin Personal Injury Lawyer
The formidable Austin personal injury lawyers at The Patel Firm recognize how difficult your situation is and are fully committed to skillfully advocating for your rights – in pursuit of your rightful compensation. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us for more information today. To schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney in Austin, call our office today at (361) 400-2036.