What You Need To Know About Personal Injury Damages in Texas
Written by Greg on April 27, 2016
After an accident in which you’ve been injured, you probably want to pursue damages as compensation for your injuries. You may have talked with friends and family members who have various opinions about what would be “fair” for your damages. However, these non-lawyers do not have the legal training and knowledge of the changes in the law in the state of Texas regarding personal injury damages. While the advice will be meant to help, it can provide you with incorrect information and inaccurate expectations.
Texas undertook pretty radical changes known as “tort reform” to personal injury damages recently that has adversely affected the value of every personal injury case in the state of Texas. Changes in how the medical bills are submitted and even the courts charge have hurt families and victims that have been injured through no fault of their own. Additionally, there are insurance funded groups that advertise against “frivolous lawsuits” and “greedy lawyers” that provide misinformation to the general public aimed at protecting insurance interests.
Reports of large verdicts regularly make the news and provide an inaccurate impression of the availability of multimillion dollar awards. The truth is that multimillion dollar awards are, in fact, rare. Reports of hundreds and thousands of verdicts and settlements that are not as newsworthy are just not reported even though they affect real Texas families.
The truth of the matter is this: in Texas, there are two main types of damages available to an injury victim in a personal injury case. These are economic damages and human damages.
Economic damages are those damages available to personal injury victims to compensate them for monetary losses as a result of the accident. Generally, these include loss of earning capacity (lost wages) and medical expenses necessary to treat the injury.
An example would be you are stopped at a red light waiting for the light to turn green and get rear-ended by a driver who is not paying attention.
You are taken by ambulance to the emergency room and told to follow up with your physicians for subsequent care. Possibly referred to a specialist for additional testing. Because of your injuries you’re unable to work and incur lost wages. Additionally, you have medical expenses for the doctor visits, medication and testing that you needed because of the accident. Your medical expenses reasonably related to the accident and your lost wages for would be considered economic damages.
Other economic damages include such things as household services that you may not be able to perform.
Your attorney will seek amounts for medical expenses and reduced earning capacity under the laws of the state of Texas. As indicated above, tort reform has impacted how medical expenses are awarded in personal injury lawsuits and also impacted lost earning capacity.
Noneconomic damages are those human damages that a personal injury victim seeks to recover after an accident. The most commonly known human damage is “pain-and-suffering”. These are damages that are not quite as easy to calculate as the amount of your medical expenses actually paid. And, these damages can vary depending on the jury hearing the case.
Typically, human damages can include:
* Physical pain and mental anguish
* Physical impairment
These damages can vary greatly depending on the evidence presented and the credibility of the parties. Over thousands of cases on a county by county basis personal injury attorneys and defense attorneys have developed a sense and opinions on the range of value for a particular case. Without a doubt, the most important element of a personal injury case is the testimony of a credible doctor regarding the medical needs and treatment of the victim as a result of the accident.
One real problem with personal injury cases from the victim perspective is that in accident is personal to the victim and their families. However, the people who will ultimately value the injuries and the losses are independent third parties known as “jurors” who do not know the plaintiff and don’t really want to be in court anyway. In Texas, because of the advertising of the pro-insurance crowd, and for other reasons juries tend to be skeptical of testimony concerning damages directly from the victim. It is hard for someone insured to step back and put themselves in the shoes of a stranger hearing the evidence.
Routinely, defense attorneys retain doctors who can make millions of dollars always testifying that the victim is not hurt as bad as they say and that the medical expenses were not reasonable or related to the accident.
It is very hard for most people who know the impact of their injuries on their lives to hear that an insurance company can pay a doctor who will testify that they are faking it or that their injuries which did not exist before the wreck were not caused by the accident. But the truth of the matter is this happens every day in courtrooms in Houston, Texas.
in very rare cases, punitive damages or exemplary damages may be appropriate. Politicians in the state of Texas have taken steps to reduce and eliminate punitive damage claims within the state. The burden of proof is much harder and the vast majority of cases do not qualify for submission of a punitive damage question to the jury. In short, the conduct of the defendant must be outrageous enough to justify these punishment damages. An example would be a drunk driver causing an accident after consuming alcohol all afternoon. Punitive damages are also capped by statute in the state of Texas and somewhat tied to the amount of actual damages which include economic and human damages.
Each case is unique and how it is valued depends on many factors from the liability of the accident, to the economic and human damages as well as the insurance coverage that may be available for the incident.
It is better to speak with experienced personal injury attorneys then to accept the opinions of non-lawyers about what the case is worth. Our law firm has been handling serious injury cases for over three decades and offer a free case evaluation to go over your rights and options after an accident.
Feel free to call us for a consultation directly with a personal injury attorney or browse our website for more information about how we may be able to help you.
Call (281) 587-1111 for an immediate consultation.