Most personal injury claims in Houston, Texas, will settle at some point before a trial. Settling a case involves negotiations for a reasonable resolution that both sides can live with.
There are many incentives for injury victims and defendants to settle a case. From the perspectives of the plaintiff and defense, having control over the outcome of your case is one of the main motivations for settlement.
There are many situations in which a skilled personal injury attorney can evaluate your case. The outcome of any personal injury case can depend on various factors, which can include the following:
- Is liability contested?
- Is it a catastrophic injury?
- Is the defendant arguing you are partly at fault?
- How much insurance coverage is available?
- In a car accident, how bad is the property damage?
- Are there gaps in medical treatments or delays in getting medical treatment?
- Are there multiple parties to the case?
- Which insurance company provides coverage for the defendants?
There are many misconceptions about personal injury settlements. In this article, a leading Houston personal injury attorney discusses the facts versus fiction regarding personal injury settlements.
Fiction: Texas Does Not Caps Damages
Texas has caps on damages for such things as punitive damages and medical malpractice claims. Also, the state has passed laws that do not cap but have the effect of limiting personal injury damages in most cases concerning medical bills in personal injury cases.
The state has recently limited relevant evidence in lawsuits against trucking companies and required bifurcation of a trial in some situations.
Fiction: All Personal Injury Claims Get Large Settlements
There is a common misconception that all personal injury cases result in very large settlements or jury verdicts. While it is true that some cases do result in very large awards or settlements, the amount of a settlement depends on the specific facts of the case.
The value of a settlement includes many different factors. People hear about cases in the news and sometimes believe that because someone was burned by hot coffee, their case is worth that much or more. Or a very large verdict is in the news, and the assumption is that other cases are worth the same amount.
However, the news reports do not tell the whole story and are not an accurate estimation of other cases. True, maybe in one case out of a hundred, the trial verdict is huge, but there will be 99 other cases with similar facts where the amount is much less or worse, and the plaintiff got no money.
Each case must be evaluated by a top-rated personal injury lawyer after the attorney has the facts.
In Texas, legal damages include both economic damages and non-economic damages. In cases where a defendant was grossly negligent, such as in an accident with a drunk driver, punitive damages may be sought.
Legal Damages for personal injury in Texas can include:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Lost wages or reduced earning capacity
- Physical impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury
To get damages, you must prove your case to a judge or a jury if a lawsuit is filed and the case is tried. Or convince the insurance company you will win the case at trial to secure a settlement.
Don’t make the mistake of attempting to value your case based on input from non-lawyers or reading about a very large verdict. Doing so is a prescription for disappointment or worse.
Fiction: The Insurance Company will Deal Straight with You
In Texas, insurance companies are largely not regulated in their claims-handling practices. If it is the other person’s insurance company, they owe no duty to a person claiming from that policy.
While you may be encouraged by an adjuster not to get an attorney, there is a reason for that encouragement. The reason is the insurance company believes they will save a substantial payment if they do not have to deal with a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Because insurance companies operate for profit, the incentive by the adjuster is to pay as little as possible on every claim. If you do not know the true value of your case, do not expect to be enlightened by the adjuster handling the claim.
If an insurance company can get by paying you ten or $0.15 on the dollar, they will do so in a heartbeat. Also, expect adjuster tactics such as the following from the adjuster handling your claim:
· Unnecessary delay
· Always asking for more documentation
· Requiring a recorded statement to be used against you
· Discounting your case by suggesting comparative negligence
· Lowballing you
· Asking for an unlimited medical release.
If you are going to handle the case yourself, you may consider taking advantage of a free consultation from a top-rated personal injury attorney before dealing with the insurance adjuster.
Fiction: If You Are Partially at Fault, You Can’t Get Money for a Personal Injury Claim
Texas is a proportionate responsibility state. You can recover personal injury damages if you are less than 51% at fault. In every personal injury case, the actions of everyone are evaluated, and a percentage of fault is assigned by a judge or jury.
If you are less than 51% at fault, you can collect damages you prove in a personal injury claim. However, if you are partly at fault, your damages will be reduced according to the percentage of responsibility on your part.
As an example, if you were in a car accident and a jury assigned you 20% of the responsibility for the accident and the defendant received 80% responsibility for causing the accident, your damages would be reduced by 20%. If a jury found that your total damages were $100,000 and you had 20% responsibility, you would net $80,000 as your recovery. If, however, your responsibility for the accident was 51% or greater, you would get no money.
Fiction: Hiring a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer Reduces the Amount of Money You Get
It is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to imply that you will get less money if you hire an attorney. Some may argue that that tactic may be unethical it does not stop many insurance companies from using it to save how much they have to payout on a case.
If an adjuster is suggesting that you should not contact an attorney, that is your first red flag. Almost universally, if the insurance company wants to discourage you from getting an attorney, that is exactly what you should be doing.
Insurance companies look after the best interest of the insurance company and not of the personal injury victim. Adjusters go to classes to learn how to best negotiate a low settlement on personal injury claims. In the more serious cases, a senior adjuster will be utilized who has been trained on how to reduce the payment.
Many studies prove that personal injury victims net more proceeds with a competent personal injury attorney. This is almost universally true with severe or catastrophic injury cases.
Attorneys who handle personal injury cases generally do so on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means the attorney only gets paid if you get money. It costs you nothing upfront to get the best attorney near you. Additionally, your interests and your attorney’s interest or a line because the more money they get you, the more money they make.
If you’re going to handle a claim without an attorney or not, you should always take advantage of a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
Contact The Houston Personal Injury Lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm for Help
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy
Houston, TX 77069