Motor vehicle accidents happen almost every minute of every day and can have the potential to turn a person's life upside down. While some accidents are relatively minor and end up causing nothing more than property damage, others can result in severe personal injuries and can even turn out to be fatal.
Do you know what to do if you suffer personal injuries in an auto accident in Texas?
The Texas personal injury attorneys at Samples Ames want to help you prepare yourself for an auto accident lawsuit. So we have put together the following 10-step guide to help you gain a better understanding of what to expect from a personal injury lawsuit in Texas.
Step 1. Preliminary Investigation
If you have been critically injured in a car accident, the first responders will probably arrive at the scene and transport you to the nearest treatment facility, where you can receive emergency medical care. Be that as it may, even if you have minor injuries (minor cuts and bruises), you still need to get yourself checked out. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your injuries will heal on their own. Do the safe thing and go to the doctor.
That said, if you can, carry out some preliminary investigation on your own to preserve as much evidence as possible. This could mean photographing the crash scene with your smartphone (especially any road debris, tire marks and road signs), writing down the names and numbers of witnesses, and obtaining traffic and video surveillance footage from highway cameras and local businesses.
Step 2. Medical Treatment for Injuries
As we said before, receiving proper medical treatment after a motor vehicle accident is important. As it happens, it may be the most critical step in getting your life back on track.
When you visit the doctor, be sure to explain all of your symptoms clearly and accurately, without exaggerating. This will help your doctor recommend the best possible treatment for you. This will help you regain your health faster and make you as comfortable as possible on your road to recovery.
You also want to make sure that you follow through with your prescribed treatment. Why? The primary reason is the obvious one: it will help you get better. But your medical records are the best way to document and authenticate the nature and severity of your bodily injuries. This ongoing authentication will considerably improve your chances in court if you file a personal injury claim later.
Step 3. File Claim With Your Insurance Company
You must notify your insurance provider of the car accident straight away as they can help you repair your car or compensate for the total losses, provided it is outlined in the collision coverage of your policy. Your insurance provider will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurance firm. If you fail to notify your insurance provider, on the other hand, you will have to pay for all the expenses out of your own pocket. You will also have to discuss the terms of settlement for your property damage claim with the at-fault driver's liability insurer, which could very well take months.
You may also be approached directly by the at-fault driver's insurance adjuster, asking you for a recorded statement. They might use their skills to get you to accept a nominal amount of money for your "inconvenience" and sign a release.
Keep in mind that choosing to sign a release in order to accept quick cash will never benefit you! Your injuries or damages can turn out to be far more than you anticipated, but once you have signed the insurance company’s release, you will probably never be able to re-open your personal injury claim.
Step 4. Initial Consultation With a Car Accident Attorney in Texas
Consider the fact that insurance companies have teams of legal advisers and adjusters who will start reviewing your personal injury claim pretty much immediately after the accident. It is, therefore, crucial that you hire a board-certified personal injury lawyer in Texas without delay in order to level the playing field.
This is where we come in.
The team of Texas personal injury attorneys at Samples Ames has decades of collective experience in protecting the interests of car accident victims throughout the Lone Star State. We have the experience, expertise and resources to handle any insurance company. Our competent and devoted personal injury lawyers will work hard to ensure you are fairly compensated for your injuries and property damages.
Step 5. Medical and Liability Investigation
Once we are on board, our team of Texas auto accident attorneys will go through your medical reports and medical history to determine the severity of the physical, mental, and psychological injuries you have sustained as a result of the motor vehicle accident. This will, in turn, help us put a fair value on what you are owed.
In addition to obtaining your medical records, we will also conduct an investigation into the scene of the crash, pick up copies of police reports, and call witnesses to help confirm that it was the other driver's negligence that caused the accident and resulted in your injuries.
Step 6. Settlement Demand
When your injuries have partly or fully recovered, we will make a settlement demand on your behalf to the at-fault driver's insurance carrier. This demand would set out the specifics of the car accident and the subsequent medical treatment while also paving the way for your settlement negotiations.
During the negotiation process, we may go back-and-forth with proposals and counter-offers multiple times before finally reaching a mutual settlement amount.
Step 7. Case Settles or a Lawsuit Is Filed
Once the at-fault driver's insurance adjuster has proposed the final settlement offer, it is up to you to decide whether you want to settle out of court or keep going forward. But you don't have to worry about making the wrong decision. We will provide you with guidance on whether the offer of the insurance adjuster is fair or whether it makes more sense to file a lawsuit. However, as we have already said, the final call still rests with you.
Step 8. Discovery
If you choose to file a lawsuit, the case will go into the discovery period. This is the part of the trial that allows each side (you and your attorney and the other driver and their attorney) to bring forth evidence, documents, and reports to share with the other side.
The discovery period may involve written questions (often called interrogatories), documents such as medical treatment records, wage loss documents, and photographs of the accident scene and depositions (or statements taken under oath). When this exchange of information is concluded, the court may order mediation before the commencement of the trial.
Step 9. Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates dialog between the two parties so that they are able to reach a mutual settlement outside the court. Keep this in mind: While mediators can enable rational discussion between the two parties, they do not have the authority to make any party settle the case.
In most personal injury mediations, you will be in a room with your Texas auto accident representative, and the other party's attorney will be in a different room. The mediator would move between the two rooms to give both parties a chance to speak, to explain their views of the case and their proposals for how it should be resolved. After the positions of all parties are "on the table," the mediator will try to find a middle ground that both parties can live with.
Step 10. Trial
If the mediation failed to reach a settlement, the case would be brought before a jury. The jury will listen to each side's arguments and evidence and then give the jury the charge. The judge will provide directions that must be followed by the jury when evaluating the facts and deciding who wins the case.
If the jury finds that the defendant's negligence caused the accident and, as a result, the plaintiff's injuries and property damages, then the jury will determine how much money the plaintiff needs to be awarded in damages. In Texas, as long as you are less than 51% at-fault, you will win the case and be able to recover. However, the court shall reduce the amount of damages to be recovered by a percentage equal to your percentage of fault if any.
Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience. What's worse is that the process of recovering money for property damage, physical injury, or both, can be a long, complicated and expensive journey. Our team of seasoned personal injury auto accident attorneys will work with you at every step of the lawsuit process. We will do everything we can to ensure that your needs are being met, both throughout and after the case.
Do you have any questions for the team of Texas car accident attorneys at Samples Ames? Give us a call and let us know how we can help. Reach out to us online or call (469) 466-2600 (Dallas) / (817) 605-1505 (Fort Worth) to schedule your free consultation right away. Remember — you don't pay unless we win!