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How Long Can You Wait to File a Personal Injury Claim?

Filing a personal injury claim can be tricky if you’re not familiar with personal injury law. Not only do you have to take into account the time limit to file your claim, but you also have to consider the damages you’re eligible to be compensated for. Below we’ll explain the timeline and what you can expect when you file your claim with an experienced lawyer in Houston, TX.

The Statute of Limitations in Houston, TX

The short answer to knowing when you can file a personal injury claim is knowing your state’s statute of limitations. In Houston, TX, you will have two years to file your personal injury claim in accordance with Texas law. The clock starts on the date that the injury occurred.

Exceeding the Statute of Limitations

In Houston, TX, as anywhere else in the United States, there’s little you can do if you exceed the statute of limitations. Unless you have an exception (which is rare), you cannot get compensation. Exceptions include claims involving minors, certain medical malpractice claims, and a few other circumstances.

If a minor is injured, for example, the two years typically will not start until that child turns 18. In a medical malpractice case, the statute of limitations may be different depending on when the injury was discovered. And under Texas law, any sexual crimes involving a minor can have injury claims made against them for up to 15 years after the incident occurred.

The Best Time to File

Although the statute of limitations in Texas is two years, this isn’t a suggestion for the best time to file your case. Deciding when you should file depends on your individual circumstances. The most important thing to remember is that once you settle your case, you can’t get reimbursed for any unexpected additional costs.

It’s better to wait until you have a clear idea of your damages so you can make a claim that accurately reflects what you believe your compensation should be. Usually, this will be after you have finished all medical treatment or know what your continued treatment (like ongoing physical therapy or psychiatric appointments) will cost. It also means that you should have the evidence you need for your claim, which brings us to the following section.

Evidence Needed for Your Claim

Medical Bills and Ongoing Treatment

The foundation of your case is that you suffered injuries. In order to prove that these injuries exist, you’ll need proof that you saw a doctor and were examined. You should also provide your medical bills for the treatment of these injuries. Let your lawyer know if you are still undergoing treatment, as this will play an important role in the damages you request later, as stated above.

Medical History

Besides the medical bills involving injury treatment, you should also collect documentation about your medical history before the accident. This will help to protect you against arguments from the defendant that pre-existing physical or mental conditions are the true cause of your injuries. It is true that you cannot get damages for a pre-existing condition, but you are definitely entitled to damages if the accident made them worse.

Primary Evidence

You’d be surprised at just how much primary evidence there is available. For personal injury cases involving car accidents, the police on the scene likely will have pictures and an incident report that was written up. For accidents with commercial trucks, the trucks’ black box device records crucial information that can reveal the truck’s role in the accident. As for medical malpractice, there may be camera footage and email correspondence that reveals negligence.

Eyewitnesses

While eyewitnesses aren’t necessary for your claim, they will greatly help. It is the standard in personal injury cases to prove that the defendant party acted with negligence, meaning that they displayed behavior in a way that no reasonable person in a similar situation would. Having someone who viewed your accident and testify that the defendant did not act with reason will add strength to your case.

Pay Stubs or Proof of Earnings

Any time you are spent recovering from your injuries is time that you could have been working instead. Personal injury law acknowledges these losses by allowing you to include lost wages in your claim. You’ll need your proof of earnings to show what you could have made. If damage is permanent, your claim can also include loss of future earning potential.

Journal of Recovery Process

It can be difficult to evaluate the emotional suffering you experienced after the accident, especially when settling your case will likely take months. The best thing you can do soon after the accident is to start keeping a journal about your recovery process and how you’re feeling. When you’re discussing damages with your lawyer, you can pull out your journal and reflect on the entire healing timeline.

What Damages You Can Include in Your Personal Injury Claim

Your claim includes more than just your physical suffering. You also can request damages to rectify your lost wages, pain and suffering, mental distress, travel expenses, and household assistance.

This list includes both specific and non-specific damages, which means that your claim will consist of requests that will directly reimburse you for charges (like bills) and requests that reflect your recovery process (like the anxiety you feel about getting behind the wheel after being hit by a drunk driver).

You Filed Your Claim: What’s Next?

Whether you filed your claim a few months after your accident or much closer to the two-year deadline, you’ve only just begun the process of getting your settlement. After receiving the complaint, the defendant will hire a lawyer or contact their insurance company, which will also hire a lawyer. Then the negotiations begin with the understanding that the case will go to trial if a mutual agreement is not reached.

Discovery

Each side will try to uncover as much information about the incident as possible to prepare for negotiations. Expect this process to take a few months. In the meantime, both lawyers must appear in court, set a trial date, and answer the judge’s questions about the case. Don’t be thrown off if the defendant asks the judge to throw away your case based on a lack of evidence. These motions often get thrown out, and your lawyer will know how to respond.

Settlement

Most of the time, personal injury cases settle before reaching trial. You can settle your case at any point, including before you file the complaint in the first place! Most defendants, whether it’s the person responsible for your injuries or their insurance company, will want to avoid appearing in court and risking having to pay even higher damages.

Trial

It’s rare for your personal injury case to proceed to trial, but not impossible. If your case goes to trial, you will appear before a judge or a jury, who will determine whether the defendant is responsible for your injury and what damages you deserve. A jury may also award punitive damages, which are additional damages designed to punish especially reckless behavior.

Aside from filing your claim within the proper time limit, the most important part of your case is hiring a skilled lawyer. Our team has years of experience and the agility to navigate even the most difficult cases. Contact us at Houston Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We look forward to meeting you!

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