If you were hurt in an accident, you might have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. It depends on a few factors, including whether you can prove someone else caused the accident.
But before moving forward with a lawsuit, most injury victims want to know more about the process. If you’ve never been to civil court before, you might be unfamiliar with how to file, what court is like, and how long a personal injury lawsuit takes.
Let us give you an overview of personal injury lawsuits in Texas, and when you’re ready, give our personal injury lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek PLLC a call at (832) 690-7000. We offer free consultations.
What is the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline?
Step 1: Seek Medical Care for Your Injuries
To win compensation, you have to prove you were hurt. The best way to do that is through medical records that show the type and severity of your injuries. Without medical records, you’ll have a slight chance of winning a personal injury lawsuit.
Step 2: Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Before demanding money from another person or business, it’s best to talk with a lawyer about your rights. One of our personal injury attorneys will explain Texas injury law and how it applies to your situation. We’ll also give you a good idea of your chance of recovering an insurance settlement or winning a lawsuit.
Step 3: Go Through the Initial Investigation
We’ll investigate the accident that caused your injuries. We want whatever information you have, such as pictures of a car accident or your injuries. If you don’t have a copy of an accident report, we’ll get one. We’ll also reach out to witnesses for statements about what happened.
This initial investigation is crucial because it’s how we gather the evidence we’ll use to build your case and confirm who is liable for your injuries.
Step 4: Start the Claim Process
To start your claim, we’ll either notify the other person or business’s insurance company or send the other party a demand letter. This demand sets out the facts of your case and why that party owes you compensation. We’ll demand a specific amount and give a timeframe for a response.
Once you notify the insurance company, it has to open an investigation and assign an adjuster. It looks into whether its policyholder is liable, and if so, whether it has to pay a settlement. We handle the insurance claim process, including responding to letters, answering the adjuster’s questions, and providing the insurer with evidence. If you need to give the insurer a statement or answer questions, we’ll prepare you beforehand.
Whether we encourage you to file a lawsuit often depends on what happens with the insurance company. If you have a good chance of winning a fair settlement, going to court might not be necessary.
Step 5: File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
We’ll tell you when it’s a good idea to file a lawsuit. We often use filing a lawsuit to gain more information and to make sure the other side takes your claim seriously. We do the paperwork for you, appear in court on your behalf, and prepare you for each stage of litigation. We believe in always being ready for trial, even if a trial is unlikely.
Step 6: Go Through Discovery
After filing, the next phase is called discovery. During this time, both sides prepare for trial by demanding information from the other through several legal tools:
- Requests for admissions, which are true and false statements the other side has to confirm;
- Interrogatories, which are questions the other side has to answer;
- Requests for production of documents, which we can use to demand the other side turn over documents, information, and other evidence to us; and
- Depositions, which are when we question another party outside of court.
The length of discovery depends on the case. We might finish in fewer than six months or take over a year. Talk with us to get you an estimate based on your specific case.
Step 7: Negotiate an Insurance Settlement
Just because you didn’t settle before filing a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t mean you can’t still negotiate a settlement. The Texas court might require us to go through mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution with the other side. We may reach a settlement agreement after discovery and avoid a trial.
Step 8: Resolve Your Claim
There are several ways your case can end. You can drop the case if you learn you’re unlikely to win; you can agree to a settlement with the liable party; or you can go to trial.
Both sides prepare carefully for trial, and there are rarely surprises. Each side knows what the other will say and what evidence they’ll present to the judge or jury. How long a trial takes depends entirely on your case. The more complicated the matter, the longer it’ll take.
As the plaintiff, you have to prove the defendant is responsible for your injuries by a preponderance of the evidence, which means it’s more likely than not that the defendant is at fault. If you have a jury trial, then it’s up to the jury to decide if you’ve met your burden of proof and, if so, how much compensation to award you.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Filing a personal injury lawsuit means physically or electronically filing a complaint with the clerk of the court in the county that has jurisdiction over you and the legal matter. That sounds complicated, but that’s why we’re here.
We confirm which court has jurisdiction—it’s usually where you live or where you got hurt.
We write the complaint, which includes information about:
- You, the plaintiff;
- The liable party, the defendant;
- When and where the accident took place;
- How and why the defendant caused the accident;
- Your physical, emotional, and financial injuries; and
- The compensation you demand.
We file the complaint with the court and then make sure the defendant is served with the documents. Service of process, which is when the defendant receives a copy of the complaint and summons requiring them to come to court, is essential in litigation. The defendant has a right to know someone is suing them and to respond.
The defendant might file an answer or counterclaim to your complaint. After an answer or counterclaim, we might file a reply. All of these documents are called pleadings.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
One of the most common questions we get from accident victims is, “How long does a personal injury lawsuit take?” Every step of litigation takes time. After you file a complaint, it’ll be a few weeks before our first court appearance. Other pleadings add time to your case. Discovery usually takes several months.
Then there’s motion practice. We can ask the judge to make certain decisions before trial through motions. For example, we might file a motion to have specific evidence ruled inadmissible. We have to file separate paperwork and attend more hearings for motions.
Once we finish discovery, then we schedule the trial, which might not be for another month or more.
It looks and feels like a long time, but most injury victims don’t wait years for a settlement. We push our cases forward at a steady pace and pursue a fair settlement as soon as possible.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Another question we get is, “When should I file a lawsuit?” That depends on many factors, but a hard fact is that you must file a personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitation runs out. Every state has deadlines for different legal claims. In Texas, you have two years from the date you were hurt, with some exceptions.
What Can You Obtain From a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury claim is a civil lawsuit. If you prove the other person was at fault, they won’t go to jail. Instead, they’ll owe you compensation based on the value of your injuries. The only other remedy available in civil court is an injunction, which stops a party from doing something. That usually isn’t relevant in personal injury cases.
You may win compensation for your current and future:
- Medical bills,
- Lost wages,
- Property damage,
- Reduced earning potential,
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress, and
- Loss of consortium (loss of personal relationships).
Another question we get is, “How much are personal injury lawsuit settlement amounts?” They vary significantly. Review our case results and schedule a free consultation to learn what your case might be worth.
Contact Our Texas Personal Injury Lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek
If you believe you have a personal injury claim, contact us online or give us a call at (832) 690-7000 to set up a free consultation. We have years of experience helping everyday Americans recover compensation for injuries. We deal with insurance companies and the Texas courts each and every week.
This isn’t our first trial. This is what we do, day in and day out.