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I Was Hurt Months Ago… Can I Still File a Claim?

The place where an injury occurs generally determines how much time there is to file a claim for damages. If, for example, someone gets hurt in Houston, TX, Texas law applies, and personal injury attorneys who are familiar with Texas law are likely most capable to handle the matter. For most Texas injury cases the statute of limitations is two years, though there are certain exceptions. 

Why Are Texas Personal Injury Attorneys Best Qualified for Claims for Injuries Sustained in Houston, TX?

A Texas attorney is licensed to practice before all state courts in Texas. They have had to pass a 2 1/2 day exam about Texas law and how to practice in Texas courts in order to get a Texas license. They will also be up to date on each court’s local rules and requirements, all of which will help them give the best advice about the claim. 

Work-Related Injuries Have Their Own Set of Rules

Injuries sustained in the course and scope of employment are governed by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. If an employer carries workers’ compensation insurance coverage, an injured employee’s sole remedy against the employer and against fellow employees is a workers’ compensation claim.

The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act requires a claimant to give notice of the injury to the employer within 30 days of the injury. Workers’ compensation claims have their own extensive sets of procedures, deadlines, and rules. As long as an employer receives the E-1 report of injury within 30 days, the claimant should be able to pursue a claim.

Claims Deadlines Under Texas Law

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.003 is the Texas Statute of Limitations that sets a general deadline of two years following the date the injured person’s cause of action accrued. In many cases, the claimant’s cause of action accrues at the time of injury, so in those cases, a lawsuit must be filed by the second anniversary of the injury. 

Factors Affecting Texas’ General Two-Year Limitations Period

There are a number of things that can affect how courts will count the two-year limitations period:

Statutory Exceptions

  • If a child under the age of 18 is injured, the two-year period starts on the injured person’s 18th birthday
  • The two-year period does not run while the injured person is of unsound mind
  • The two-year period pauses while a defendant is not present in the state of Texas

These and other exceptions to the two-year rule apply in narrow circumstances as defined by Texas courts. A good Texas claimant’s attorney will know how to analyze the facts of each case and advise whether any exceptions apply.

Medical Malpractice Claims

In medical malpractice cases, where the claim is that a health care provider’s substandard treatment caused an injury or worsened an underlying condition, special rules and procedures are set out in Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

A person claiming medical malpractice has to give a health care provider 60 days’ notice of the claim before filing suit. Sending the required notice extends the limitations period by 75 days, so the deadline could be as late as 2 years plus 75 days from the date the cause of action accrued.

Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act Claims

In certain cases under Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the limitations period can extend to two years plus 180 days if the court determines that the defendant knowingly or intentionally caused the claimant not to file suit within the two-year limitations period.

Claims Against a Unit of Government Under the Texas Tort Claims Act

Injury claims against the State of Texas or a local government fall under the Texas Tort Claims Act, which allows only restricted and limited claims in certain situations. Among other things, the Texas Tort Claims Act requires the claimant to provide written notice of the claim to the governmental unit within six months of the date of injury if the governmental unit does not have actual notice of the injury.

When Did the Cause of Action Accrue?

In some situations, a claimant does not discover his or her injury for some time and could not through ordinary care have made that discovery. In such cases, courts apply the “discovery rule” and start counting the two-year limitations period from the date that the claimant knew or should have known about their injury. This can postpone the two-year period for years in some situations.

Statutes of Repose

The exceptions and extensions can postpone the limitations deadline for many years. Another type of legal deadline, a statute of repose, puts a hard limit on the number of years the claimant has from the date of injury to file the lawsuit. For many types of injury cases in Texas, the term is 15 years.

Can I Still Pursue an Insurance Claim if I Miss the Deadline To File a Lawsuit?

No. Once the deadline for initiating legal action in court has passed, the would-be defendant’s insurance company will not make a settlement offer of any kind. In exchange for the premiums they collect, liability insurers promise to pay for damages awarded against their policyholders. They also promise to pay for the legal defense of their policyholders. As long as there remains a chance that a court of law might impose monetary damages on the policyholder, the insurer has an incentive to offer money to settle the claim and eliminate that chance.

Why Do Insurance Companies Ever Pay to Settle Claims?

Insurers typically look at the types and amounts of damages their policyholder might be ordered to pay, together with the probability their policyholder will be held responsible. They also take into account the legal fees and other expenses of continuing to defend the case. They will compare the claim to the countless thousands of similar claims and lawsuits they have covered in the past, and they will arrive at a settlement value. If the insurer can settle the claim at or below that settlement value they will generally do it.

Once the limitations deadline passes, though, the legal risk falls to zero, as does the cost of continuing defense against the claim. And the settlement value, in turn, becomes zero.

Can I Handle the Claim Myself?

An injured person doesn’t have to hire an attorney in order to pursue a claim. In many cases, though, a self-represented claimant can find himself or herself at quite a disadvantage:

Mismatched Resources

An insurance company’s business is the defense of claims, and they have legions of claims adjusters, medical bill auditors, and private investigators, among others, standing by to find the cheapest way possible to deal with each incoming claim. Most injured people can’t match a gang like that on their own.

Mismatched Experience

With the volume of cases they handle, insurance carriers have vast amounts of actual data from similar claims and suits in the past. They use big data analytical techniques to generate settlement values. Few injured claimants have any frame of reference at all through which to evaluate their own cases.

How Can Personal Injury Attorneys Help?

Lawyers who frequently represent injured claimants typically have extensive experience with judges and staff of many courts. They’ll be acquainted with insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, independent medical evaluation doctors, and other professionals who play a part in the claims process. They have a pretty good sense of recent jury awards, too, so they know what claims are worth and what juries tend to decide.

The location of an injury determines which deadlines apply, as well as which courts have jurisdiction and venue. Context matters, too, such as whether the injury was work-related. It’s a lot to sort out. If you think you might have an injury claim, and you’d like to consult with some experienced, compassionate personal injury lawyers, get in touch with Houston Injury Lawyers at 713-366-4878.

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