In Texas, How Long Does A Car Accident Injury Case Take?
If a negligent motorist injures you in a traffic collision in south Texas, after you’ve obtained medical attention, discuss your legal options and rights with a skilled Edinburg auto accident attorney.
A good accident attorney can review the facts of the case, question the witnesses, assess the medical and police reports, and explain what it takes to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Fairly early in the personal injury process, a good accident attorney should also be able to give you a rough estimate of the compensation amount that you can expect to receive and a rough estimate of how much time the entire legal process may take.
In the end, the amount of compensation you obtain, and the amount of time that the entire process takes, will be based on these three factors:
Liability: When deciding the value of an injury lawsuit arising from a traffic crash, the key question is “Which driver was at fault?” If a defendant in a personal injury case is only partially liable for injuries, a plaintiff will receive only partial damages.
In Texas, a personal injury plaintiff may recover damages only if that plaintiff was less than 51 percent at fault in the accident.
Causation: In personal injury cases, the second important question is “Precisely what caused the injury or injuries?” Is the injury traceable directly to the accident – and thus to a defendant’s negligence?
Were any injuries pre-existing? Is the medical evidence sufficient to prove the plaintiff’s claim?
Compensation: The final issue is the extent of the injuries and expenses. How much insurance coverage is available? If the lawsuit prevails, how much compensation will be required to satisfy the plaintiff’s right to full compensation?
If a defendant has no insurance, or inadequate insurance, and no other resources, a lawsuit may not be wise, but a good personal injury lawyer will examine every potentially applicable insurance policy and determine if there are any other potential sources of compensation.
HOW LONG DOES THE PERSONAL INJURY PROCESS TAKE?
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, you should know that one of the leading requirements is patience.
While the simplest cases can be concluded in well under a year, some cases will take more than a year to resolve, and the more complex cases – involving large amounts of cash, multiple defendants, and multiple attorneys – may take years when you include the appeals.
A quick settlement can usually be achieved sooner, but you’ll probably have to accept a lesser amount.
There are three reasons why injury cases take so long:
– Factual or legal complications may delay the case.
– A large sum of money is sought.
– The victim bringing the lawsuit (that is, the plaintiff) hasn’t yet reached the “maximum medical improvement” point, so the final amount of compensation needed cannot yet be precisely determined.
What are the factual or legal complexities that can hold up the personal injury process? Determining liability – determining which driver was at fault – can be difficult, and so can determining the compensation amount that a victim deserves and needs. Auto insurance companies usually will not make a settlement offer until liability is determined.
The injury victim and his or her personal injury attorney must prove the defendant was driving negligently and that the negligence caused the victim’s injury or injuries.
Below is an explanation of how a typical personal injury case arising from a traffic collision might proceed from start to finish:
DAY ONE: MEDICAL TREATMENT
The sooner a traffic crash victim in Texas obtains medical treatment, the better. If at all possible, seek medical attention immediately after an accident, and within 24 hours at the latest.
If you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit, and you delay seeking treatment, the insurance company might allege that you weren’t really injured at all.
Following your doctor’s orders is imperative not only for your case, but for your health.
Except when a plaintiff has sustained egregious injuries that will require lifelong medical care and treatment, most settlement negotiations do not commence until a crash victim has attained “maximum medical improvement,” the point at which recovery and recuperation are for all practical purposes complete.
Although there are exceptions for some circumstances, in most cases a plaintiff cannot know how much compensation to request before the maximum medical improvement point is reached.
NEXT: RETAINING AN EXPERIENCED TEXAS INJURY ATTORNEY
The attorney you choose can make the difference. You’ll need an attorney who is well-versed in both out-of-court negotiations and courtroom advocacy.
Most personal injury cases are settled by the attorneys for both sides meeting and negotiating a settlement, but when a reasonable settlement isn’t going to be offered, your attorney should be ready to go to trial on your behalf.
And while your attorney must be experienced, he or she must also be someone who gives you confidence and assurance, someone you like and trust.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO
After a traffic accident, an insurance adjuster will probably contact you in the first few days. If you were injured, most personal injury lawyers would advise against speaking with the adjuster or providing a written or recorded statement.
Anything you say could be misinterpreted or twisted, and if you sign any insurance documents, you could be signing away your legal right to pursue a lawsuit. If you’re offered a settlement, the amount might be far less than your lawsuit is worth.
Settling a case before you complete your medical treatment – or before you receive a complete diagnosis – is always a mistake. Let an injury lawyer do the talking and negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf.
After a traffic injury in south Texas, consult a qualified Edinburg auto accident attorney before you meet with or even speak with an insurance adjuster.
NEGOTIATIONS SUBSEQUENT TO MAXIMUM MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT
Depending on the nature of the injury or injuries a victim has suffered, it can take a personal injury attorney two or three months to gather evidence and prepare for out-of-court negotiations. That’s also roughly the amount of time it takes many victims to reach maximum medical improvement.
Insurance companies need time to conduct their own investigations, but they’ve also crafted strategies that can drag out the negotiations. If the negotiations reach a stalemate, your options are probably two: accept a low settlement offer or take the case to trial.
If you file a lawsuit too early, you might get tripped up by having insufficient medical evidence and documentation.
For this reason, in most cases, most accident attorneys would recommend waiting to file a lawsuit until the victim reaches (or has almost reached) the point of maximum medical improvement.
In other cases, there may be a good legal reason to take formal action sooner.
After a lawsuit is filed, it can sometimes take up to eight weeks for a defendant to be “served” with the legal papers. Defendants are then given time to file a response.
The “discovery” process is next, as attorneys for both sides exchange evidence and take depositions and interrogatories (testimony and statements) from potential witnesses. Out-of-court negotiations may continue during the discovery phase.
In the state of Texas, the amount of time that can transpire between filing a personal lawsuit and the first day of a personal injury trial depends entirely on the court and the jurisdiction, and in the lengthiest scenario, it can take about two years, but in other jurisdictions a trial may start in a year or less.
The length of a personal injury trial depends entirely on the complexity of the case, so a personal injury trial could last anywhere from a single day to a month or more.
Victims of negligence in this state can obtain both compensation and justice, but you’ll need evidence to prove your claim, an injury lawyer to argue your case, and a great deal of patience.
By Chris Brasure
Brasure Law Firm, PLLC was founded by Chris Brasure in 2006. His legal accomplishments are diverse and numerous. He is a fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation, was a delegate in the American Bar Association House of Delegates and holds a BA in political science and speech communication from Baylor University. He then went on to obtain his law degree from Baylor University Law School. Chris believes that education is absolutely critical to one’s success, so his firm now offers The Brasure Law Firm Scholarship to give back to the community and to help students who are seeking to pursue a higher education.