Whether you’re driving the open road or walking a corridor, an accident can occur at any time. And the injuries that ensue may be grievous enough to be called catastrophic. What does this mean? That those injuries likely need long-term rehabilitation and/or have led to permanent disability. The point is your life can be forever changed, and that’s why after an accident, you should speak to a catastrophic injury lawyer in Houston, TX.
Do You Need a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer in Houston, TX? Get Legal Advice Today
Let’s start by explaining the traits of catastrophic injuries. These are distinct from other injuries in their degree of seriousness. No particular legal definition can be attributed to catastrophic injuries, but they are often characterized by debilitating, long-term symptoms that demand lengthy, difficult recoveries. In some cases, a complete recovery is impossible.
Factors that may substantiate catastrophic injuries include:
- Permanent loss of quality of life
- Permanent disability, such as paralysis
- The need for constant assistance and/or live-in care
Examples of Catastrophic Injuries
Injuries often classified as catastrophic include:
- Severe burns
- Loss of limb or disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Organ damage
Each of these injuries may need extensive rehabilitation or multiple surgeries to restore some degree of health. As mentioned earlier, recovery isn’t always possible, and the patient must instead embark on a new life altogether.
A Lifelong Impact
Many times, catastrophic injuries impact people for the rest of their lives. Regardless of your circumstances, a catastrophic injury lawyer can help fight for the compensation you deserve: compensation that can ease the emotional and financial tolls rendered to you and your loved ones.
Ways a Catastrophic Injury Claim Differs from Other Personal Injury Claims
Medically speaking, catastrophic injuries are more long-term and far more severe than other injuries. These injuries also have different legal characteristics. Because they typically involve more medical expenses, catastrophic injury cases usually require more compensation to pay for the greater damages suffered.
Before you can count on a higher settlement, however, you need an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer capable of crafting a thoughtful and well-planned legal strategy. Insurance companies are never eager to offer significant settlements. Just the opposite, they often work diligently to reduce the value of a claim or deny it altogether. You can help your lawyer counter these measures by meticulously:
- Documenting every medical appointment
- Writing the names and dosage instructions of all your medications
- Recording your day-to-day pain and suffering
- Calculating your lost wages
Compensation and Catastrophic Injuries
It’s important to understand that insurance plays a substantial role in personal injury cases. If, for instance, you’re filing a case against a corporation, any compensation awarded to you will likely come from their insurance policy. Likewise, if you’re in a car accident, any subsequent settlement will likely come from the defendant’s insurance provider.
To facilitate negotiations with an insurance company, your Houston, TX, lawyer will first gather all evidence from the accident and then use it to build a concise and cohesive case. They’ll also determine the value of your personal injury claim and develop a minimum settlement figure relative to your case. Your lawyer will then assemble these points into a demand letter and send it with the necessary supporting documents to the insurance adjuster.
The Negotiation Process
The adjuster will review your letter and, after just a few phone calls with your attorney, may make a settlement offer. Alternatively, the adjuster may point out strengths and weaknesses in your claim and offer a dollar figure that is lower than the value attached to your claim. If this happens, your lawyer will ask the adjuster to justify their offer.
This opens the door to negotiations, and your lawyer will likely respond by emphasizing the emotional points of your case. These may include such facts as:
- You endured a very painful injury
- The insured was entirely at fault for the accident
- Your medical costs have placed you under financial hardship
- You’re still dealing with the long-term or permanent effects of your injury
Understanding Texas Personal Injury Laws
Under Texas law, people with catastrophic injuries are entitled to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. The former are fairly easy to prove and include monetary losses caused by the accident. Examples include lost present and future wages, current and future medical expenses, and property damage – such as that related to a car after a motor vehicle accident.
Non-economic damages lack tangible economic values and are therefore slightly more difficult to prove. Examples include emotional trauma and pain and suffering. Your lawyer will use their knowledge of legal precedents and experience with previous catastrophic injury claims to help calculate the non-economic damages related to your case. To be clear, Texas law allows victims of catastrophic injuries to pursue both economic and non-economic damages.
Modified Comparative Fault
Texas is a modified comparative fault state, meaning any compensation you receive will reflect if you were partially at fault for the accident. In short, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage at which you are found to be at fault.
Let’s say your case is valued at $40,000. The court, however, determines you were 20% at fault. This means the compensation you receive will ultimately be $32,000 ($40,000 less 20%). In addition, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident – even if you sustained catastrophic injuries – Texas law will prohibit you from recovering any compensation.
Caps on Damages
Most states impose damages caps for catastrophic injury cases, and Texas is no different. In the Lone Star State, both compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded in such a case. Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages but are not bound by caps in Texas.
Punitive damages, designed explicitly to punish parties responsible for catastrophic accidents, are subject to caps. They cannot exceed two times the amount of compensatory damages awarded. Slightly different rules apply to medical malpractice cases. Economic damages remain uncapped. However, you may be unable to recover more than $250,000 in non-economic damages from each defendant involved in your case.
Statute of Limitations
Last but not least, Texas maintains a stringent statute of limitations on personal injury cases. You have just two years to file your claim, a window that also applies to catastrophic injuries. If you have a case against the state government, the time in which you can file your claim drops to just six months. Waiting to proceed with your case beyond these deadlines will likely forfeit any compensation you might have recovered.
When to Call an Attorney
After a catastrophic injury, many people struggle to understand the changes to their lives and bodies. They’re focused on the new reality they face.
But when you’re the victim, you must consider the financial help you’ll need in the near future. The statute of limitations we just mentioned will pass more quickly than you realize. You should therefore hire an attorney as soon as possible, especially after a catastrophic injury.
Personal injuries range from mild to catastrophic, and the latter can be severe enough to alter every aspect of your life. Medical treatment often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and insurance companies can reject even the most robust arguments. That’s why we’re here – to build your claim from the ground up and fight for your rights. Schedule a free case review today by contacting Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC.