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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. What Is the Texas Tort Claims Act?

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    If you recently suffered injuries and a government agency is responsible, you must follow a different procedure than with a traditional personal injury case. Claims against the government are highly specialized and require quick assistance from an attorney with specific experience in municipal claims. Claims against the government have a small window of opportunity, so if you’ve suffered harm at the hands of a city, county, or state entity in Texas, contact a personal injury attorney for a case evaluation as soon as possible.

    The Texas Tort Claims Act

    Claims against the government fall under the Texas Torts Claims Act’s jurisdiction. In the past, it was virtually impossible to file a claim against an at-fault government entity, even if that entity were clearly negligent. Prior to 1969, government officials enjoyed sovereign immunity against culpability whenever an individual tried to file a lawsuit against them. Thanks to the Texas Tort Claims Act, however, individuals can file claims against the government, assuming the following conditions apply:

    • The government employee in question was acting within the scope of his or her employment.
    • The at-fault party was not responding to an emergency call, reacting to a life-or-death situation, or subject to any other exemption outlined in the Act.
    • The claimant filed within an appropriate time.

    The Importance of Acting Quickly

    If you believe that a government entity’s negligence played a role in your injuries, it’s essential to act as quickly as possible. While most personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years in Texas, claims against the government could be as short as 45 to 180 days. The state of Texas allows up to 180 days to file a claim, but several local bodies have even shorter time limits. The city of Dallas, for example, has a 90-day statute of limitations, while Austin’s time limit is a mere 45 days.

    Schedule a free initial consultation with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible, even if you’re not sure you have a case. Your case evaluation is at no cost and your attorney will take on the case with a contingency-fee basis if you qualify. This means you won’t owe any fees unless you win a settlement or court judgement.

    Caps on Damages

    Under the Texas Tort Claims Act, there are also special caps on damages. Damage caps limit the amount a victim of negligence can collect regarding personal injury claims. If you’re suing the state government of Texas, for example, your damage caps are $250,000 per person or $500,000 per accident. Local entities have smaller damage caps, at $100,000 per person or $300,000 per incident.

    Examples of Municipal Claims

    There are several instances in which you may be able to collect damages from a municipal entity. Examples include:

    • A slip and fall incident at a public park
    • Assault or battery arising from negligent security on a municipal property
    • An accident with a municipal vehicle not on an emergency call
    • Being struck by a vehicle as a pedestrian or bicyclist
    • Car accidents arising from negligent road maintenance
    • Injuries sustained while using public transportation – for example, municipal busses or trains

    If you sustained injuries in any kind of accident involving a state, local, or municipal body, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options as soon as possible. Remember, you have a limited time in which to act and defend your right to compensation. Neglecting to file a claim within an appropriate amount of time could lead to dismissal of your case. Ask a Houston personal injury attorney about your rights under the Texas Torts Claims Act today.

  2. Can I Obtain Traffic Camera Video of a Car Accident?

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    Thanks to today’s technological world, video cameras are everywhere you look. If you sustained injuries in a car accident, it’s more than likely that a surveillance camera captured evidence of another driver’s negligence. Obtaining copies of this footage could prove invaluable to your car accident claim by providing evidence of negligence to an insurance company. Video surveillance footage can help you obtain fair compensation for the harm you suffer following a car accident – but how easy is it to get the footage?

    The answer to this question will depend on the nature of the video itself. There are different traffic cameras, as well as private footage that could prove valuable in a car accident investigation.

    Traffic Cams

    If your accident took place at an intersection with traffic cameras or on a highway with surveillance video, you’ll need the help of an experienced attorney to obtain footage. These cameras have ownership between both private and public entities – the Texas Department of Transportation may own some, while they may contract others out to private contractors and entities. All have different regulations and procedures for releasing footage to a civilian – and most will require a subpoena.

    A subpoena is a legally binding demand that compels an individual to release the information outlined within the order. There’s no harm in asking for a copy of a traffic cam video, but most entities will report that they cannot release videos unless compelled to by the court. A personal injury attorney will be familiar with the process of filing a subpoena and can efficiently obtain the footage you need to use as leverage in the negotiation process.

    If you’ve already hired an attorney, tell him or her about any surveillance cameras you noticed as soon as possible. If you haven’t yet consulted with a personal injury attorney, we highly recommend doing so – case evaluations are always free and come at no financial risk to you. If an attorney believes you have a case, he or she will take it on a contingency-fee basis. This means you’ll owe no attorney’s fees unless you win a settlement or court judgment.

    Gaining Information From Private Surveillance Cameras

    If your car accident took place in a town, there’s a good chance that a local business caught some of the footage on a CCTV surveillance camera located on its property. In this instance, you stand a good chance of getting some valuable help with little red tape. While private businesses are under no obligation to give up or share their footage, they often will to help your case. Keep in mind, however, that larger chain stores may have unique rules regarding releasing surveillance footage, so prepare to take your request to branch manager or corporate if necessary.

    How Video Footage Helps

    If you can obtain video surveillance footage of your car accident, it could provide serious leverage in your claim. Video footage can provide hard-to-dispute evidence of a driver’s negligence, particularly if cell phone or distracted driving played a role. This could help adjust the focus from whether an insurance company will pay a claim, to how much an insurance company should pay out for your injuries, pain, and suffering. Video footage can kick start negotiations and expedite the car accident claim settlement, so you can move on with your life.

    If you recently suffered injuries in a car accident, your first step is to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. He or she can help you obtain any footage and negotiate with an insurance company on your behalf to achieve fair compensation for any damages you incurred.

  3. What Does “Pain & Suffering” Mean in a Personal Injury Case?

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    If you recently suffered harm in a Texas car accident and believe that someone else may be legally responsible, you may be able to gain compensation for both the monetary and nonmonetary losses that result. Monetary losses include damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and the cost of future care. Nonmonetary losses, on the other hand, address intangible damages such as pain and suffering. What does this term mean, and how does your personal injury attorney determine how much your emotional anguish is worth following an accident?

    Defining Pain and Suffering

    Not all injuries are immediately visible following a car accident. Some injuries manifest as emotional or physical distress, which are not as calculable as the cost of an X-ray or surgical consultation. For personal injury claims, there are two main types of pain and suffering:

    • Physical pain and suffering regards an injured party’s actual injuries. It includes the pain and discomfort that a plaintiff suffers throughout the course of his or her recovery, but also addresses any future pain he or she can expect in the future because of the defendant’s negligence.
    • Mental pain and suffering also results from the plaintiff’s physical injuries, but more so represents a byproduct of the victim’s experience. Mental pain and suffering can include emotional distress, loss in life quality, emotional anguish, fear, anxiety, humiliation, or any other psychological effect that can result from being involved in a car accident. Mental pain and suffering can also include treatment for PTSD if the experience was traumatic enough to cause the disorder. Like physical suffering, damages resulting from mental pain and suffering address not only current harm, but what a plaintiff can expect to incur in the future.

    How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Calculate Pain and Suffering?

    It can be difficult to determine what non monetary losses are worth. Judges do not provide juries much guidance for determining an appropriate compensation amount for pain and suffering – for example, there are no charts that juries can reference to determine an award. Rather, a judge simply instructs a jury to use its good sense to determine what’s reasonable and fair to a plaintiff.

    There are two main methods your attorney or an insurance company may use when calculating pain and suffering damages in a personal injury case:

    • The multiplier method uses a plaintiff’s total economic damages and multiplies it by a number between 1.5 and 4. The multiplier used often serves as the sticking point in negotiations, as it must be reflective of the plaintiff’s suffering. For example, a wrongful death or incapacitating injury will have a higher multiplier than accidents in which a plaintiff expects to make a full recovery.
    • The per diem method is less common, but an insurer may occasionally use it when determining damages for pain and suffering. This method assumes that physical and mental suffering are at least as equal to the amount of suffering involved with going to work each day. As such, it takes your daily work earnings and multiplies it by the number of days you expect to suffer. For example, if you require six months of rehabilitation for an injured limb, you might arrive at your non monetary damages by multiplying the amount you make in a day’s work by 180 days. If you make $150 a day, your non monetary damages would be around $27,000.

    No matter which method you use, a personal injury attorney will work hard to defend your right to fair compensation for both your monetary and non monetary damages under Texas law. If you believe that someone else is legally responsible for your injuries, contacting a Houston personal injury attorney is the first step.

  4. Should I Accept a Settlement After a Car Accident?

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    If you suffered injuries in a car accident resulting from another driver’s negligence, you may be able to collect compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and more. Receiving full compensation for your damages requires negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

    After the insurance company investigates your accident and determines that the insured was at fault, it might approach you with an offer. Should you accept it? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer – and successful litigation often requires the assistance of a personal injury attorney.

    How Much Is My Claim Worth?

    Knowing whether to accept a settlement requires basic knowledge about your claim’s worth. In Texas, you can collect two main types of damages following a car accident:

    • Economic damages address monetary losses for medical bills, lost wages, any loss in earning capacity, and the costs of therapy and rehabilitation.
    • General damages compensate for non monetary losses including loss in life quality, pain, suffering, or loss in partnership (in the case of wrongful death).

    Economic damages are easier to calculate, as you simply need to add up the total amount of your incurred medical bills, lost work hours, etc. It might be harder to determine the cost of your future medical expenses or loss in earning capacity, however. Additionally, most victims of car accidents don’t know how much their pain and suffering are worth.

    Fortunately, a personal injury attorney can use a special formula to put a monetary amount on your intangible losses. He or she can also give you an idea of what your future medical expenses will entail, based on his or her own experience as well as expert testimony.

    If you don’t know how much your claim is worth, you cannot confidently accept a settlement. Arranging a free initial consultation with an attorney can help you determine how much an insurer owes you for the full extent of your injuries.

    The Truth About Insurance Companies

    An insurer is responsible for paying your car insurance claim, but it is not committed to your best interests. Insurance companies are for-profit entities that are committed to paying as little on your claim as possible. Even the firm does determine that an insured policyholder is responsible for a car accident, it will not initially agree to pay what your claim is worth.

    The initial offer of settlement from an insurance company is a lowball offer. It’s a jumping-off point for negotiations and will not accurately compensate you for the harm you suffered.

    Personal injury attorneys have specific experience in negotiating with insurance companies. Not only do they know the value of your claim, they will aggressively negotiate on your behalf to obtain compensation that reflects the harm you suffered in a car accident.

    The Bottom Line

    Be wary of settlement offers from insurance companies. Never accept a first offer unless instructed to do so by your personal injury attorney. Let an experienced attorney negotiate on your behalf to achieve a fair settlement in your car accident case. If negotiations fall flat, you always have the option of pursuing litigation, in which a jury will rule on your case following a trial.

    Never settle for less than you deserve following your car accident claim. Never sign any statements or agree to recordings from an at-fault driver’s insurance company unless you’ve consulted your attorney. A personal injury attorney will defend your right to compensation under Texas law. Even if an offer does seems to accurately reflect the degree of your monetary and non-monetary losses, an experienced attorney can point out often overlooked and highly technical areas of law. Hire a Houston personal attorney to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

  5. How Can I Prove a Driver Was Texting?

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    Distracted driving plays a role in many Texas car accidents. Because the state prohibits texting and driving, cell phone use often constitutes negligence under Texas law. Victims of negligence may gain compensation for their injuries, pain, and suffering following a Houston car accident, but successfully winning a claim requires proving the other driver committed negligence. Fortunately, there are several tactics your personal injury attorney can use to determine if an at-fault driver was texting during the time of a crash.

    The Dangers of Texting and Driving

    According to the CTIA Wireless Association, Americans send around 170 billion text messages each month. We use our cell phones while working, playing, even during our commute. Unfortunately, many people text and drive, despite the fact that it’s illegal in nearly every state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 660,000 drivers engage in cell phone use behind the wheel, which poses extra danger to other drivers and passengers on the road.

    Another recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute determined that texting and driving creates a 23-fold increase in crash risk compared to drivers who do not use cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Since sending a text message takes an average of 5 seconds, a car may travel 100 yards without the driver looking at the road. Such actions create an incredible hazard for all nearby drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Proving that a driver was texting and driving at the time of a crash, however, requires a specialized process.

    Check Cell Phone Records

    Obtaining an at-fault driver’s cell phone records requires the assistance of an attorney. The civil claims process involves a process called discovery, in which your personal injury attorney will investigate your claims and formally request evidence from the appropriate parties. If a cell phone company or insurance company fails to furnish these records at your attorney’s request, then he or she will file a subpoena to compel the company to turn over the records.

    Subpoenas are legally binding requests that require a phone or insurance company to provide the information included in the request. Such information becomes subject to contempt of court charges if you do not follow these requirements. Your attorney will be familiar with the subpoena process and can request this information in an efficient manner.

    If you hire a personal injury attorney to handle your car accident claim, this falls under your contingency-fee contract. In other words, your attorney will handle the process of discovery at no charge to you – you won’t owe any attorney’s fees unless your lawyer secures a settlement or court judgment on your behalf.

    Review the Police Report

    After an accident, the local police will report to the scene and gather as much evidence as possible. This includes photographs of skid marks and damage to both vehicles, eyewitness contact information, statements from all parties involved in the accident, and more. Clues in the police report can indicate the presence of texting or distracted driving.

    For example, a witness may attest to the fact that a driver was texting at the time of the crash. If this applies, the witness can provide a statement for the court – called a deposition – that recounts what he or she saw.

    Additionally, pictures of skid marks or other forensic evidence could serve as proof of distracted driving. This evidence might suggest decreased reaction time or other signs that a driver’s attention was not on the road at the time of the accident.

    To collect a car accident claim, you must prove that the other driver committed negligence. Your attorney can prove cell phone use by using the tactics outlined above.