The increase in fatal accidents in Houston, Texas is officially outpacing the rest of the state. While Houston has plenty to offer its residents in the way of food and culture, it is, unfortunately, a dangerous place to drive.
If you were recently injured in a car accident in Houston, you’re probably wondering what to do next. You may face massive medical bills, a reduced capacity to work, and other financial strains.
The first thing you should do is consult a car accidents lawyer. With the right representation, you can begin the process of filing a personal injury claim and recovering some of your financial damages.
First, let’s talk about the factors that can affect your car accident claim’s value. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the damages you can recover.
When you’re filing your personal injury claim after a car accident, you will need to assess the damages you’ve sustained as a result of the car accident. Damages refer to the amount of money you can legally recover after suffering from someone else’s negligence. Damages include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
If you share any liability for the accident, you cannot recover all of the money you’ve lost because of the accident. In fact, depending on how much liability you share, you may not have a case.
Texas relies on modified comparative negligence, which means that you can only file a claim if you are less than 51% responsible for an accident. If you share no liability for the accident, you can fight to recuperate 100% of your financial losses. If you are, say, 25% liable for the accident, you can fight to recuperate 75% of your financial losses.
Severity of Injuries
In order to file a personal injury claim, you will need to prove that you have sustained significant injuries. These injuries must impact your life substantially or for a long period of time. This can include (but is not limited to):
- internal bleeding or organ damage
- severe burns
- multiple broken bones
- spinal damage
- head trauma
- limb amputation
- loss of vision or hearing
Medical bills make up the largest portion of most personal injury settlements. Plaintiffs with severe injuries or permanent disabilities tend to have the highest claim value because they require extensive and ongoing medical treatment.
Delays in Medical Care
When you’re filing a personal injury claim, the defendant isn’t the at-fault driver. Instead, the defendant is their insurance company, which is now on the hook for your damages. Insurance companies and their lawyers have a single goal: undermining your case and giving you a smaller settlement.
If you don’t receive medical care immediately after an accident or put off recommended ongoing treatment, this will negatively impact your claim value. The insurance company will use delays in medical care as evidence that your injuries aren’t that serious or life-altering. Plus, you will not have the same level of medical debt to present when demanding compensation.
If you’re struggling to find the right medical professionals to provide care, talk to your car accident lawyer. Car accident lawyers can often put you in the touch with the most injury-specific medical professionals in your area.
Statements Made at the Accident
At the scene of the accident, the first thing you should do is call the police. If you or anyone else involved in the accident requires emergency medical treatment, you should also make sure that an ambulance has been dispatched.
If you do not require emergency medical treatment, you should document the accident to the best of your ability. This includes taking photos and videos of the damage and any other features that could help reconstruct the accident, like nearby stoplights. Finally, you should exchange information with the other driver(s).
This last part is where some accident victims make a mistake. When collecting information from the other driver(s), make sure that you do not say more than you have to. Do not chat about the accident and certainly do not apologize or admit fault, as these kinds of statements can be used by the defense to undermine your claim and lower your settlement.
There are two types of damages accounted for in a personal injury claim. The first and most obvious is economic damages. Economic damages can be quantified objectively by calculating accident-related bills, expenses, and loss of financial stability.
To be more specific, economic damages can include:
- current medical bills
- projected future medical bills
- bills related to property damage, such as car repair bills or towing costs
- lost income resulting from a reduced capacity to work
Naturally, the more economic strain you’ve faced as a result of the accident, the higher the value of your car accident claim. It is important to thoroughly document all related expenses and diminished pay.
In addition to economic damages, your car accident claim will also include non-economic damages (ie intangible damage). Calculating non-economic damages is far less straightforward, as these damages account for the negative impact the accident has had on your life in ways that aren’t strictly financial.
Non-economic damages can include:
- pain and suffering
- emotional distress
- loss of consortium
- diminished quality of life
- loss of enjoyment of life
Because you can’t turn to bills to calculate a specific and provable figure, you will need the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer to include non-economic damages in your claim. Lawyers have a thorough knowledge of state and local laws as well as an awareness of legal precedent. They can help you come up with a figure that is reasonable and fair.
If you’re filing a car accident claim, we urge you to stay off of social media. This can be hard for many, as social media is baked into our day-to-day, but it is now permissible to include social media posts in the legal discovery process. If you’re not cautious, what you post online can harm your case and reduce its value.
How does this work? As we mentioned earlier, the defense will use any evidence that it can find to invalidate your claims. Something as simple as posting your attendance at a social function can come into play as evidence that you are not suffering as much as you say.
While going private on social media can help, it’s not a bulletproof precaution. Your best bet is to keep a low profile and stay off of social media. Even posting about your accident-related suffering isn’t recommended.
Many car accident victims had pre-existing conditions from previous accidents, injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. If the defense team discovers that you have one or more pre-existing conditions, they are likely to use this as a way to undermine your case. They will claim that the injuries you are facing now have more to do with your pre-existing condition than the accident.
If you have pre-existing conditions, make sure that you tell your car accident lawyer right away. When the defense team asks for copies of your medical records, clear everything with your lawyer before sending it along. While having a pre-existing condition can complicate your personal injury claim, letting your lawyer handle the proceedings should prevent the condition from making a huge dent in your settlement.
In fact, it is illegal in the state of Texas to use a pre-existing condition against a victim in a lawsuit. Though there are legal protections in place, you still must tell your lawyer everything that the defense team could find out about your health.
Quality of Legal Representation
Perhaps one of the biggest factors that can impact the value of your claim is the quality of your legal representation. Many injury victims assume that they can represent themselves, particularly when learning that most personal injury cases do not go to court. However, filing a claim without a lawyer will almost definitely lower the value of your claim.
No trustworthy car accident lawyer will make you any promises or guarantees. However, you can take a look at their track record to get a sense of their experience levels and skills.
Don’t let the value of your claim go down because you don’t have the right representation. Choose a car accident lawyer with experience and a great reputation for the best fighting chance.
Hire a Car Accidents Lawyer in Houston, Texas
If you were injured in a car accident caused by someone else, it’s time to find a car accidents lawyer. The O’Hara Law Firm is proud to represent accident victims in Houston, Texas and fight for their financial justice.
To get started, contact us today. Tell us about your case so that we can offer your informed opinion before you have to make any decisions.