Brown County Personal Injury Lawyers
When you’ve been injured in an accident, the consequences can be severe, both to your physical well-being and to your financial security. When that accident happens because someone else is at fault, the insurance company for the person at fault has the responsibility to help make the injured person whole. The challenge for people who have been injured is that, even in cases where fault seems obvious, there is still meticulous detail required to build a successful personal injury case. Furthermore, simply winning isn’t enough–the settlement amount must be a fair one.
The Brown County personal injury lawyers at Woodley & Dudley have over 80 years of experience helping clients fight to get fair compensation. We work with both English and Spanish-speaking clients and serve people across Comanche, Mills, Eastland, and Coleman counties.
How To Win a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Texas
Winning a personal injury case means following a methodical process, wherein four elements of negligence must be proven. It has to be emphasized that all four of these elements must be legally established, otherwise there is no personal injury case
Duty of Care
The first step is proving that the defendant–the person who caused the accident–owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, who suffered the injuries.
There are some cases where duty will be obvious. The driver of a vehicle owes a duty of care to everyone else on the road. While one should never say “never” in the field of law, it’s difficult to imagine a motor vehicle accident case where duty wasn’t self-evident.
But other cases–notably in premises liability–might be filled with shades of gray regarding duty of care.
Texas law classifies the visitors to a property in three different categories to help determine duty of care:
- Invitees: These are people who have been explicitly invited onto the property. An invited guest to a house party or a place of business is owed a duty of care. Customers, even though they may not have received a formal invitation, are still considered invitees, presuming that they are on the property during normal business hours.
- Licensees: The licensee is someone who is on the property for their own benefit. The salesperson who knocks on the door of a home or business is one example. A house guest that drops by uninvited would be another.
- Trespassers: This is someone who came onto a property without a legal right to do so.
The duty of care owed to these three types of visitors escalates with each category. Invitees are owed a high duty–meaning that potential injury spots must either be removed or adequate warning needs to be given.
On the other end of the extreme, trespassers are owed a duty of care that ranges from low to non-existent. A burglar certainly won’t be owed a duty of care, but a child that is attracted to the swimming pool in the backyard might be.
The circumstances of each individual case matters. A Brown County personal injury lawyer is there to help put the details of the case together and work to legally establish that duty of care exists.
Breach of Duty
Now that we know a duty of care exists, it must then be shown that the defendant breached that duty. The simple fact the plaintiff was injured is not, in of itself, proof of a breach. Courts understand that sometimes genuine accidents happen, and no one is at fault. To assign blame to the defendant and get compensation from their insurance company means showing that the defendant failed to exercise the reasonable standard of care that an ordinary person facing the same circumstances would have.
Breach of duty is a point that can become extremely contentious in a personal injury case. In a car accident case, did the driver do everything realistically possible to avoid the accident? Or were they texting, speeding, or otherwise doing something that a responsible driver would not have? In a premises liability case, was the plaintiff warned about possible slip and fall areas? Or was nothing said?
It’s not necessary for the defendant to have acted perfectly, but they are expected to act reasonably. What defines a reasonable effort to avoid the accident? If a case goes to court, that’s for a jury to decide.
The plaintiff has shown that a duty of care which was owed them has been breached. It’s easy to think that now the case has been won, but in fact, the plaintiff is only halfway there. The next step is demonstrating that the breach of duty is the actual cause of the injuries.
Isn’t this obvious? Not necessarily. What if a person had pre-existing medical conditions that caused an injury to be worse than it otherwise might have? Back injuries are a common result of anything from a car accident to a slip and fall. What if the insurance company’s defense team shows that the plaintiff already had a bad back?
Demonstrating causation is one reason why seeing a doctor immediately after an accident, even one where no serious injury seems apparent, is so strongly advised. Some injuries don’t start to manifest themselves until days later. The longer the plaintiff waits to seek medical treatment, the more difficult it is to show causation.
Whatever the circumstances, plaintiffs can be assured that the insurance company will drill down on past medical history looking for ways to sever the link between the accident and the injuries. A Brown County personal injury lawyer needs to be equally vigorous in establishing that yes, this accident did cause the plaintiff's injuries.
Winning a personal injury case isn’t complete until the plaintiff has received financial damages that fairly reflect the scope of their loss. Woodley & Dudley has both experience and tenacity at fighting each dollar our clients deserve. Call today at (325) 246-3250 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
Once the first three parts of negligence–duty, breach, and cause–have been established, the plaintiff can be said to have “won” their personal injury case. But that victory will be empty if they don’t get appropriate damages. The final step of the process involves adding up the costs of what the injuries have done to the plaintiff’s life.
That starts with the immediate costs of medical care. These are easily documented by the bills received from the hospital and doctor’s office. Other immediate costs that can be demonstrated are lost wages.
But the actual cost of the injuries is more, and this is the point of the process where the right issues have to be raised. For instance:
- How long will rehabilitation take and what will the cost of that rehab be?
- Is the plaintiff going to continue to miss time at work and how much income will be lost?
- Is this missed time at work going to hurt the plaintiff’s career development, potentially adding up to more lost income in the future?
- Were the injuries severe enough to require a home being refitted with rampways and otherwise being made more accessible?
- Does the plaintiff require therapy to deal with the mental aspect of recovery?
These are still measurable costs, albeit ones that involve looking downrange into the future.
Other costs of the injury don’t necessarily have a dollar amount attached to them, but are real, nonetheless. Namely:
- Will the plaintiff be unable to enjoy their hobbies for the foreseeable future?
- Is the plaintiff dealing with depression because of their new circumstances after the injury?
- Has the plaintiff lost the ability to enjoy time with family and friends?
These quality of life issues can’t be measured with money, but a fair settlement will seek to offer some level of compensation based on them. The amount of that compensation can depend on the quality of the Brown County personal injury lawyer working the case.
Collecting Damages: Modified Comparative Fault in Texas
It’s possible that a defendant may be primarily at fault for an accident, but not 100 percent. A court may conclude that the plaintiff bears at least a small level of responsibility for their misfortune. Similarly, on the issue of causation, the court might decide that the accident mostly caused the plaintiff’s injuries–but pre-existing conditions were at least a little bit of a factor.
Texas law allows for what’s called modified comparative fault. This means the blame is divided between the plaintiff and defendant on a percentage basis. A plaintiff will collect damages in proportion to the defendant’s share of responsibility.
For example, if damages are assessed at $1 million, but the plaintiff is considered 25 percent responsible for the accident, they can only collect $750,000 of that money–the 75 percent being based on the defendant’s fault. Furthermore, a plaintiff’s share of the blame must be below 50 percent, or they collect nothing at all.
It’s not hard to see how small details in a personal injury case can add up to a lot of money. On a $1 million settlement, each percentage point is worth $10,000. Insurance companies will wrestle for every percentage point they can get. A Brown County personal injury lawyer has to be ready to do the same.
The attorneys at Woodley & Dudley have over 80 combined years of experience doing legal battle with insurance companies. Even better, that includes extensive trial experience. We aren’t afraid to take an insurer to court and have the track record to back it up. That willingness–and the knowledge of it by the defense–can work to a plaintiff’s advantage in settlement negotiations.
“Meeting in person was set up to be very comfortable” - Sage Carlisle
“Woodley & Dudley has gone above and beyond” - Gabriel Rotramel
“Mr. Woodley and his associate Kimberly made the process seamless” - Sarah Dearick