Plano Personal Injury Lawyer
Table of Contents
- Personal Injury Law
- Duty of Care Owed
- The Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
- Consider an Example
- The Covered Damages
- The Position of the Insurance Company
- An Experienced Plano Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you have been injured by the negligence of someone else, it leaves you in the challenging position of being physically injured and watching your medical bills pile up while your earnings dwindle – and you are forced to cope with the pain and suffering that you’re dealing with. It is a lot, but the surest path forward toward recovery is with an experienced Plano personal injury lawyer in your corner.
Personal injury law is a broad category of the law that addresses those losses (called damages) that are caused by someone else’s negligence. This someone else has to be someone who owed you a duty of care. For example, if you climbed over a 10-foot-high padlocked fence to stroll on someone else’s property, that person might not owe you any duty of care (or at least not much). Generally, however, commercial property owners owe their guests, customers, clients, and other invitees a duty of care – the same way that motorists owe one another a duty of care – and we will explore this concept further.
The legal duty of care mentioned amounts to a responsibility that we owe one another. In a nutshell, this duty of care involves engaging in a degree of care that is in keeping with the level of care that others would afford in a similar situation. As such, if you slip (and subsequently fall) on a spill that had just happened in a restaurant, the property owner or manager responsible may not have neglected his or her duty of care – due to the fact that he or she may not have even known about the spill and – regardless – did not have time to effectively address the matter. It is a very different story, however, if all the following apply:
- the dangerous spill in question had been on the floor for some time
- the property owner knew about it
- The property owner simply ignored the inherent danger
This is an example in which other reasonable restaurant owners would very likely have cleaned up the spill in a reasonable amount of time, and the duty of care owed was thus breached.
In order to bring a successful personal injury claim, the following critical elements must be present:
- The at-fault party – whose insurance company you file your claim with – owed you a duty of care.
- The at-fault party neglected that duty of care in some way.
- In doing so, the at-fault party caused you to be injured.
- You suffered legal damages as a result of your injuries.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand how personal injury claims work is by providing a straightforward example, and since the duty of care that motorists owe one another is obvious and fairly well understood, a car accident is a prime example. While there are many forms of driver negligence that can lead to dangerous accidents, a common cause is driver distraction. Consider how the elements of a personal injury claim play out in the following example involving a distracted driver who causes a car accident:
- A driver who is distracted by texting plows into the rear of a forward vehicle at a stop light. This driver failed to live up to the duty of care he owed the forward driver.
- The rear-end accident caused the forward driver to break her wrist, and this break represents the injury suffered.
- The forward driver experienced steep medical bills, lost hours and earnings on the job, and significant pain and suffering that left her emotionally rattled. These effects represent the legal damages the forward driver experienced, which will be addressed in her car accident claim.
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, there are several important categories of damages for which you can seek compensation.
If, for example, the accident in question is a traffic accident of some kind, you can seek compensation for property damage to your vehicle
The medical expenses that often attend personal injury claims can be exceptionally high. The fact is that serious injuries do not necessarily heal and that is the end of that. They can lead to the need for ongoing medical treatment and care and to secondary health concerns that can be very serious in their own right. Some of the medical costs that are commonly associated with personal injury claims include:
- Emergency care at the scene of the accident
- Emergency transportation from the scene of the accident
- Surgical care and follow-up care
- Hospital stays
- Medical treatment, care, tests, and procedures
- Care from doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals
- Pain management
- Prescription medications
- Physical and/or occupational therapy
- Adaptive physical devices and adaptations to home, office, and/or vehicle
- Home health care
- Assistance with the activities of daily living (for those who suffer certain catastrophic injuries)
While you recover from your physical injuries, you can expect to be off the job and to experience a decrease in the income you bring home. This is difficult enough, but if your ability to earn into the future is affected, the financial consequences can be devastating. If your ability to do your job is compromised or is completely destroyed, it can have as serious emotional consequences as it does financial consequences. Many of us derive important emotional strength from our careers, and having this dashed by someone else’s negligence can have a profound effect on one’s future.
Pain and Suffering
The physical and emotional pain and suffering associated with being injured by someone else’s negligence in a frightening accident can be difficult to overstate. The physical pain can be physically debilitating, and the psychic pain can haunt its victims. The emotional consequences that are commonly associated with personal injury claims include the following:
- Increased anxiety and/or anxiety attacks
- Terrifying accident flashbacks
- Sleep disturbances that can include insomnia, nightmares, and/or night terrors
- Depressive episodes and feeling of hopelessness
- A tendency to self-isolate and to distance oneself from loved ones
- Severe mood swings
- Increased irritability
- Emotional lability
- Difficulty moving forward in life
It is critical that your personal injury claim adequately address every facet of your damage in order to help ensure that you receive just compensation that allows you to pursue the help you need to reach your fullest recovery.
You will file your personal injury claim with the insurance provider of the at-fault party, and while this is fairly straightforward on the surface, the fact is that it may be anything but. While the insurance company is paid to cover your related damages, it is – first and foremost – a for-profit business that, like other businesses, is very invested in keeping its profits high (and its settlements as low as possible). In its efforts toward this end, the insurance company has wide-ranging techniques at its disposal.
Early Settlement Offer
You have been injured by another party’s negligence, and you are about as vulnerable as you can be. You’re healing from physical injuries – not to mention the emotional pain and suffering you’ve endured – while also contending with seemingly never-ending medical bills and the financial consequences of lost earnings. When the insurance company gets back to you swiftly with an early settlement offer within this context, you may be very tempted to accept (out of financial desperation if nothing else). The insurance company is well aware of the effect its early settlement offer is likely to have on you, and is hoping you buy in. The fact is that, if the accident and your attendant injuries are serious, calculating the extent of your damage is likely to be a complicated process, and accepting a settlement offer before you’ve accomplished this task will leave you with no legal recourse down the road when you encounter additional expenses and further damages. The most important point to keep in mind is that it is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who is familiar with your claim before signing off on a settlement offer.
If the insurance company gets right back to you with a claim denial, you may feel like – who am I to disagree – and this is exactly the effect the insurance company is going for. Claimants often buy into the insurance company’s overall attitude that it has the final say in these matters and that what it says goes. While this notion gets a lot of play, it is far from the truth of the matter. Ultimately, the law will decide if your claim is viable and what your legal damages are. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your personal injury lawyer will likely advise you to move forward with a lawsuit – allowing the court to make the final determination.
If the insurance company’s response is to attempt to shift blame off its policyholder and toward you, it may help to know that this is a common insurance tactic. In your vulnerable state, the insurance company may have no trouble convincing you that you are responsible for the accident that left you injured, but it’s important for cooler heads to prevail. Your dedicated personal injury lawyer will not move forward with your claim if he or she does not believe it’s viable, which means that fault (beyond your lawyer’s estimation on the matter) is not something you need to concern yourself with.
Prolonging the Claims Process
Personal injury law claims are complicated, and you can expect yours to be lengthy. This does not. However, give the insurance company carte blanche to artificially complicate and prolong the process, which is generally an attempt to smoke out claimants who are losing hope to begin with. There are strict rules and restrictions in place to help stop these less-than-honest practices, and your personal injury lawyer will fight for your rights throughout the process – and will be sure to highlight any industry restrictions the insurance company breaks in its efforts to break you.
Casting Doubt on the Severity of Your Damages
The insurance company may also engage in a song and dance related to the severity of your damages, which it will attempt to downplay. Ultimately, your claim will turn to evidence to support your stance on the matter, but there are some steps that you can take that are nearly universally helpful in these situations:
- Don’t talk about the accident at the scene – even a simple, I’m sorry, can be transformed to a blanket acceptance of guilt by the insurance company. In other words, the less you say about the accident that leaves you injured, the better.
- This also applies to social media. Don’t post about the accident, and it is a good idea to simply give social media a hard pass until your claim is resolved. You can rest assured that the insurance company is watching and waiting for you to post something that it can use its gift for spin to turn against you.
- An insurance rep is going to contact you and will want to get a formal statement about the accident that left you injured. The insurance company recognizes that you may have a need to get the matter off your chest and that you might be more than ready to open up. Resist this urge. Again, the rep is attempting to elicit a statement that it can misconstrue in some damning way. You aren’t required to make a statement, and you are well advised to defer to your personal injury lawyer when it comes to the insurance company.
- Carefully follow the medical instructions and advice provided to you by your medical team. This is what’s best for your health and what’s best for your personal injury claim. When you demonstrate that you take your injuries as seriously as you expect the insurance company to take them, it makes it more difficult for the insurance company to cast doubt on this element of your claim.
The negligence of someone else caused you to be injured, and as a result, you almost certainly have a long list of questions. The answers to those questions that are asked most frequently may help.
What is the statute of limitations that I keep hearing about?
The statute of limitations for personal injury law has to do with how much time you have to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party (generally through his or her insurance company). In the State of Texas, you generally have two years from the date of the injury-causing accident to file a lawsuit. While this may strike you as ample time, it’s important to factor in your vulnerable state and the complexities of your personal injury claim – which can gobble up a considerable amount of time.
What can I do if I don’t have the money for a personal injury lawyer?
You are facing considerable expenses as a result of someone else’s negligence, and it is no wonder that you are worried about affording the additional expense of an experienced personal injury lawyer. On this point, there is good news. Most reputable personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, and this is just a fancy way of saying that your lawyer won’t get paid until your claim is resolved with either a settlement or a court award – at which point, he or she will receive a prearranged percentage of your compensation.
What if I do share some of the responsibility for the accident that caused me to be injured?
Many accident victims worry about whether their own fault in the matter will preclude them from recovering on their losses, but it shouldn’t. First of all, it is human nature to assume we did something wrong when we are in an accident, but this is a matter for the evidence and your personal injury lawyer to puzzle out (with your input regarding what happened). Even if you do share some of the blame, however, this will not necessarily stop you from recovering on the percentage of fault that the other party is responsible for. As long as the percentage of fault assigned to you is not over 50 percent, you can move forward with your personal injury claim in the State of Texas.
Am I required to hire a personal injury lawyer?
You are in no way obligated to hire a personal injury lawyer, but continuing on your own can leave you at a distinct disadvantage. Your dedicated personal injury lawyer’s experienced guidance can mean the difference between just compensation and compensation that falls considerably short of the damages you’ve suffered.
If you’ve been harmed by someone else’s negligence, the practiced Plano personal injury lawyers at The Patel Firm are fully committed to skillfully advocating for your rights and for your rightful compensation. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call our office today at (361) 400-2036.