If you have been injured due to another person’s negligent or dangerous behavior, you have the right to seek compensation.
Texas Personal Injury Law
For most cases, you are able to file a personal injury claim anytime within two years of the accident. However, that timeline goes down to six months if the accident was caused by a government employee or entity.
In order to file a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove the following components were present at the time of the accident:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to conduct themselves in a safe manner.
- The defendant acted negligently, recklessly, or in a way that a reasonable person would view as irresponsible given the circumstances.
- The unsafe behavior of the defendant directly resulted in the injury of the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s actions.
These factors must be proven in order to establish the liability of the defendant.
The way negligence is factored into personal injury lawsuits varies by state. In Texas, we use a comparative negligence system. This means that the percentage of liability of each party is factored into the damages.
For example, if you were injured in an accident that was found to be 30% your fault, your potential compensation would decrease by 30%. If you are over 50% responsible, you can not claim damages from the other party.
Types of Damages
In Texas, there are three main types of damages you can receive following an accident.
Economic damages are calculated from financial losses you incurred from the accident.
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage (i.e., car damage from an accident)
These damages are easy to establish because there is an exact dollar amount associated with each cost, and receipts to show proof.
Non-economic damages are the intangible effects of the accident.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (harm to family relationships)
These costs can be harder to establish a monetary value for; you cannot pull out a receipt to show how much your pain and suffering cost. However, you should never feel like you cannot seek compensation for these damages. They are just as important as economic damages.
Punitive damages are set with the main goal of punishment. If the defendant chose to act in a way that was negligent and reckless, they should be punished for making that initial decision.
For example, if an individual made the choice to drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they actively chose to endanger others.
Punitive damages differ from economic and non-economic damages because they are not technically compensating for harm done to the plaintiff. Instead, the plaintiff is seeking these damages because they want to further punish the defendant for making an inexcusable decision.
In order to receive punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove:
- The conduct was grossly negligent
- The harm was a result of fraud
- The defendant acted out of malice
Punitive Damage Caps
Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the punitive damages can not be excessive. In Texas, there is a cap on the amount you can receive in punitive damages.
You will receive whatever amount is larger:
Or 2x the amount of economic damages, plus the value of the non-economic damages up to $750,000.
Austin Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were damaged in an accident and would like to file a claim, Smith & Vinson Law Firm can help. We will thoroughly investigate all aspects of your accident, collect evidence, and work to get you the highest possible amount of compensation. Give us a call at (512) 359-3743 to set up a free consultation with our Austin personal injury attorneys.