If someone else's recklessness or negligence causes an accident and injures someone, victims can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation.
In a car crash caused by a driver who was speeding, injured people can file a personal injury claim to recover money they spent on medical treatment or vehicle repairs, for example.
When a child sustains a dog bite, their parents could pursue compensation to cover medical bills and hold at-fault parties accountable for their carelessness. The same is true when a person gets hurt due to a doctor's mistake and files a medical malpractice claim.
In other words, many situations can result in personal injury claims. The main purpose of this type of legal action is to hold responsible parties financially liable for the damages that victims suffered.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, there may be different types of damages available in a personal injury case. Here's more information about what victims can be awarded in Texas and what if the claims adjuster denies coverage for my injury?
Personal Injury Damages Available in Texas
The damages that an injured person can recover in a Texas personal injury claim fall into the following three categories:
Exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages
Understanding Economic Damages
Economic damages are the first set of awards that accident victims can recover in a personal injury case.
These damages compensate for the financial losses and other expenses incurred because of the accident. These are some common examples:
Economic damages include expenses related to the medical treatment victims must receive if they are injured in an accident.
These damages are usually the most important awards and depend on the extent or severity of the injuries.
In this regard, medical expenses may include the following:
Medical bills, including emergency medical care and ambulance costs
Hospitalizations, surgeries, and other medical procedures
Diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, CT Scans, lab tests, and MRIs
Different types of therapy, including physical, vocational, and occupational therapy
Medical equipment fees
Medications and medical supplies
Future medical expenses
To sum up, most personal injury cases include almost any medical care-related costs that victims need as long as they are reasonable.
Victims should seek medical care immediately after the accident, even if they have not been severely injured or have no visible wounds. It is essential to keep detailed records of all related expenses to support their claims if they file a personal injury lawsuit and must present the case in court.
Loss of Income
After an accident, many victims are unable to work. Unfortunately, this also means that they may lose their stream of income. Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for questions like how do I make up for lost wages until I get my settlement?
However, injured people can recover their lost income and loss of future earning capacity or job benefits if they win a personal injury case.
These are some of the damages that may fall into this category:
Lost wages or salaries
Lost job benefits
Loss of earning capacity due to injuries
Decrease in earning potential
Personal injury damages may also include loss of employment opportunities and other forms of compensation under certain circumstances. Victims should document all their losses to support their claims when filing a lawsuit.
In a Texas personal injury case, plaintiffs can also pursue compensation for property damage if it is caused by the other party's actions.
Common property damage awards include costs to repair damaged vehicles, buildings, or items if the defendant is found liable for the accident.
Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Although medical bills, property damage, and lost income are the most common types of damages in a Texas personal injury claim, each case is different. Under certain circumstances, victims may be able to recover other expenses related to their injuries. This group may include the following:
Housekeeping costs if the injured person cannot take care of household chores
Travel expenses for medical visits
Long-term personal care if injuries are severe and affect victims' ability to care for themselves
Home health services if victims need permanent assistance due to disabilities
Modifications to homes or vehicles if victims are disabled or impaired after the accident
As with the other types of economic damages, injured people should keep all bills and invoices for these expenses and losses. These documents will help them prove their claims are valid to recover fair compensation.
How to Calculate Economic Damages
When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs should be able to provide strong evidence to prove that they incurred these expenses to recover economic damages.
Evidence that victims can use to prove economic damages may include medical bills, tax returns, or income statements.
If injured people hope to recover future income damages, they may need expert testimony from medical, financial, or vocational experts.
Understanding Non-Economic Damages
Also known as "pain and suffering damages," non-economic damages describe the personal or emotional struggles and losses victims suffered in the accident.
This type of damages is usually available in most personal injury cases if victims can prove that they were mentally or emotionally harmed. In this scenario, the person who caused the accident may be found liable for the following:
Physical pain and suffering
Emotional distress and mental anguish
Disabilities and permanent impairment
Psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Scarring and disfigurement
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of quality of life
Reduced life expectancy caused by injuries
In a wrongful death case, which is also handled under personal injury law, the victim's spouse can recover compensation for "loss of consortium" if it interferes with their relationship.
These damages may include loss of companionship, affection, society, love, guidance, and sexual relationships. However, these awards are only granted if the personal injury class is successful.
How to Calculate Non-Economic Damages
Calculating the value of non-economic damages is challenging because there are no bills or invoices to quantify the losses. Instead, the value of these awards is determined by the extent of victims' pain and suffering.
Additionally, there's no standard formula for calculating pain and suffering damages. Any of the following methods can be used:
Multiplier method: Economic damages are multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5, which is assigned to the injured party's pain and suffering. The total amount is granted as non-economic damages.
Per diem method: A daily value is assigned to injured parties' pain and suffering. It is multiplied by the number of days that victims experience these mental or emotional consequences. The total amount is granted as awards for non-economic damages.
Multiple factors influence the amount of money a person can recover as non-economic damages in a personal injury case.
A person who suffers a disability, amputation, disfigurement, paralysis, or brain damage is often believed to suffer more than someone with an injury that can heal in a few weeks or months, for example. The same is true for people who need multiple surgeries. This depends on the facts surrounding the case.
Victims are strongly advised to keep a journal to document their pain and suffering throughout the case. If they write down their daily pain levels, mental state, or flashbacks and nightmares, and explain how the injuries have affected their lives, injured parties might be able to maximize these damages.
Understanding Exemplary or Punitive Damages
Punitive or exemplary damages do not seek to compensate victims for their financial, mental, and emotional losses but rather to "punish" at-fault parties for their actions.
These types of damages are rare and only available in only a few personal injury claims. They often apply if plaintiffs can prove the defendant's egregious, reckless, grossly negligent, or willful conduct.
Punitive damages also seek to determine future acts that demonstrate a disregard for other people's safety and welfare.
Caps on Personal Injury Compensation Under Texas Laws
Texas does not impose caps on economic and non-economic damages. However, there may be exceptions under certain circumstances, such as in cases involving government bodies or medical malpractice claims. Punitive damages are also limited.
Additionally, this state follows comparative fault laws. Therefore, although plaintiffs can recover compensation even if they share fault for the accident, the value of the case is reduced according to their percentage of fault.
If damages total $100,000, but plaintiffs' percentage of fault is 30%, the maximum amount they can recover is only $70,000.
In Texas, an injured person who is 51% or more at fault for the accident that caused the injuries cannot recover compensation.
Final Thoughts: Do Victims Need to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Under state laws, a person injured by someone else's actions can file a personal injury claim within two years from the accident date to recover economic, non-economic, and exemplary or punitive damages.
However, these cases are complex. Victims should start by filing insurance claims with the other party's insurance company and negotiate a settlement.
Since most insurance providers will make low-ball offers to pay the least amount of money possible, victims often need to file personal injury lawsuits and take the case to court to get fair compensation.
This process can be time-consuming for a person who was injured in an accident. However, victims can seek help from the best personal injury attorneys.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate their cases, handle negotiations with insurance providers, gather evidence to support the claim, and fight for victims' legal rights to recover compensation for all damages.
Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!
The legal team at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is willing to provide guidance to Texas residents planning to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation. Contact us today!