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What is Personal Injury in El Paso, Texas?

Personal Injury

Personal injury in the City of El Paso encompasses situations where a person suffers an injury due to another person’s negligent or wrongful conduct. Unlike common bodily injury, which refers to harm caused to a person’s body, personal injury has a broader scope. Notably, personal injury also includes emotional, economic, and mental damages caused to a person. Car accidents, slip, and fall accidents, medical malpractice, animal assaults, and defective goods are all common causes of personal injury in El Paso. Victims of such incidents can obtain compensation for their injuries from the wrongdoer. For example, a Texas jury recently awarded a total of $730 million in damages to the survivors of Toni Combest, a 73-year-old great-grandmother who was killed in a truck accident in 2016. In reaching its decision in the wrongful death suit, the jury found that the truck driver acted negligently by leaving the authorized lane and causing the collision. 

Personal injury cases in El Paso are primarily governed by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which provides rules to determine negligence, liability, limitation period, and compensation of parties in such instances.

What is a Personal Injury Claim in El Paso? 

A personal injury claim generally refers to a legal dispute that arises when a person’s negligence or wrongful conduct results in an injury to another person. Though acts that constitute personal injury claims may qualify as crimes, personal injury cases do not involve the government prosecuting the wrongdoer. Instead, it typically entails the injured party seeking compensation against the person or business that has caused the injuries. Personal injury claims can result from accidents as well as intentional acts. 

To sustain a personal injury claim in El Paso, the plaintiffs have to successfully prove that the defendant negligently caused injuries to them. Under Texas law, a defendant can be adjudged negligent if the person owed a duty of care to the claimant, and the breach of that duty causes damages to the claimant.  

Generally, everyone owes others a duty of care to conduct themselves reasonably and safely like a reasonably prudent person would act under similar circumstances. Duty of care also arises from special relationships like a doctor’s duty to patients and teachers to pupils. The law also imputes special duty on persons and entities that perform certain activities. For example, drug manufacturers have a duty to state the side effects and provide other warnings about their products. Breach of this duty of care can take different forms. The claimant’s task is to prove to the court that the defendant acted unreasonably in violation of the standard of care imposed by law. For example, the liability of a driver may arise from injury caused to a pedestrian while driving in violation of traffic rules or under the influence of intoxicating substances. 

After arguing that the defendant breached a duty of care, the claimants would also proceed to establish that the breach caused them an injury or harm. Harm suffered can be physical, emotional, or financial. For the court to grant compensation, the defendant’s actions or inactions must be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s suffering. Meaning that the injuries the plaintiff suffered is a foreseeable result of the defendant’s behavior. If the claimant is partially to blame for the injury suffered, the court may only grant compensation corresponding to the degree of the defendant’s fault, in line with the shared-fault principle. It is also important to note that Texas follows the 51% bar rule. This means that claimants deemed to be 51% or more at fault for their injuries may not be granted compensation by the court.

Texas law refers to compensation granted in personal injury claims as damages. Damages can be either compensatory or exemplary. The court grants compensatory damages to reimburse a victim for the injury caused by the defendant. Injuries compensated for can be economic and non-economic. Economic injuries are typically special damages that are particular to the claimant, such as medical costs and loss of future earnings. Special damages are financially quantifiable. Meanwhile, non-economic damages cover injuries that are not financially quantifiable, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and inconvenience. 

In contrast, exemplary damages are imposed to punish the defendant. The court usually adopts this measure when dealing with cases involving fraud, malice, or gross negligence, or if the initial damages cannot adequately compensate the victim for a permanent loss. Section 41.008 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, however, limits punitive damages claimable in a case to a maximum of $750,000.

The City of El Paso experienced a total of 16,268 auto crashes in 2019 alone, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Many personal injury cases are handled at the county level. According to statistics provided by the Texas Office of Court Administration between 2010 and 2021,  District and Statutory Courts in El Paso county handled a total of 700,690 personal injury claims, including:

  • 396,071 motor vehicle cases
  • 22,388 medical malpractice cases
  • 1,827 on other professional malpractice
  • 2,274 product liability (asbestos) cases
  • 9,145 product liability cases
  • 268,985 cases involving other kinds of injuries and damages.

How to Find a Personal Injury Lawyer in El Paso? 

Residents of El Paso can find qualified attorneys to handle their personal injury cases through different means. One common way is to seek recommendations from family and friends that have handled similar issues. After receiving such a referral, make sure to do some due diligence, such as verifying that the attorney is licensed to practice in the state as well as whether the attorney has a good success rate, especially in personal injury claims.  General practice lawyers can also refer individuals to their colleagues that particularly specialize in handling personal injury claims.

Concerned persons can also find personal injury lawyers in El Paso by searching the internet. Many lawyers and firms maintain websites to provide information about them, including contact information and case history. Additionally, professional bodies such as the El Paso County Bar and State Bar of Texas also provide a directory of their members, where residents can find attorneys near them, including the attorney’s information, credentials, and area of specialization. 

Whichever way one chooses to find a personal injury lawyer in El Paso, it is essential that such a lawyer is available to guide clients through their claims, competent enough in the substantive and procedural aspect of the claims, has experience in litigating cases, and has the necessary negotiation skills essential for settlement. 

What does a Personal Injury Lawyer do in El Paso? 

When aiming to receive adequate compensation for injury caused by negligent acts of another, it is crucial to contact a skilled personal injury lawyer for assistance. A personal injury lawyer can critically examine the specific circumstances surrounding a case and determine whether the victim has a viable claim. The attorney can also help victims explore their legal options for compensation. One can generally expect the following services from an El Paso personal injury lawyer:

  • Provide consultation for the victim on how best to go about the case
  • Drafting and reviewing  relevant paperwork, including court documents, letters of demand, and settlement agreements
  • Gathering, analyzing, and organizing evidence and witnesses
  • Representation in settlement negotiations with the other party or their insurance company 
  • Conducting the victim’s case in court, if the matter eventually requires litigation. 

Do I need a Personal Injury Lawyer? 

Not every personal injury case necessitates the hiring of an attorney. For example, a victim may not require the services of a lawyer in circumstances when the accident is not very serious, the losses or injuries caused are minor, and a reasonable settlement offer is on the table. However, the matter may not be as straightforward as it appears at first glance, or it may grow more problematic at a later stage. As such, it is in the best interest of a victim to have a personal injury attorney around, especially when:

  • The other party is certainly responsible for the injury, but the insurance company denies the payment of the claim.
  • Multiple parties or entities are involved or had fault for the injury. In such a case, the personal injury lawyer will assist in identifying the persons who will be designated as defendants and who will share blame in the case.
  • The other party offers a settlement, but it is insufficient. It is advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement or deciding to go to court.

Some of the common kinds of personal injury claims that require the services of an El Paso, personal injury lawyer include:

  • Car Accidents: auto crash claims are common personal injury claims in El Paso. In determining the defendant’s fault, the court may examine facts like compliance with traffic rules and regulations. 
  • Truck Accidents: considering the seriousness of truck accident claims in El Paso, such cases are governed by strict rules. The court may, in certain circumstances, pass liability to a driver’s employer if the accident occurred in the course of employment. This is known as the respondeat superior principle.
  • Brain Injuries: a person can claim compensation for brain injuries caused by another person’s actions. Besides economic damages awarded to cover medical expenses, loss of future earning capacity, and lost wages, the victim may also be entitled to compensation for emotional trauma and mental anguish caused by the physical disfigurement.  
  • Wrongful Death: this claim arises when the negligent acts of a person cause death to another person. Special rules apply to wrongful death claims in El Paso. Notably, only the deceased’s immediate family or household members, including the spouse, parents, or children, can institute the claim. Siblings of the victim cannot institute a wrongful death claim.
  • Medical Malpractice: this stems from negligent acts by medical personnel in the course of their profession leading to injury to a person’s health. Texas laws provide special rules for these kinds of claims. In most medical malpractice cases, the law limits non-economic damages to $250,000 per defendant and $500,000 overall. The caps are, however, more complex when medical malpractice leads to wrongful death.  
  • Motorcycle Accident
  • Slip and Fall Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Spinal Cord Injuries.

How Much to Ask for in a Personal Injury Settlement in El Paso? 

After gathering evidence relevant to proving a personal injury claim, both parties may meet to negotiate how much the victim should receive before going to court. This process is known as settlement. The amount of compensation a victim may receive in a personal injury settlement largely depends on the particular circumstances. For example, a person who suffered severe, debilitating injuries will likely receive a larger settlement than a person who suffered moderate injuries because their damages carry more of a financial and emotional burden. 

However, in most cases, insurance companies use a damages formula to calculate the amount to be paid out in a settlement. The company raises the total economic damages by 1.5 to 3 for small injuries and up to 5 for severe or permanent disabilities. The total is then added to any lost income suffered by the victim. Following this, details about the accident and the victim’s injuries will then be considered to review the amount reached.

It is important to note that another factor that determines what a victim gets in a personal injury settlement is the insurance limit of the other party. The insurance policy of the other party limits settlement offers, considering that it is unlikely for the insurance company to offer an amount that exceeds the insured person’s policy limit. Nonetheless, a victim that is not satisfied with a settlement offer can either negotiate for more or proceed to institute a personal injury claim in court. 

How Long does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

A personal injury lawsuit in El Paso may take between a month and two years to settle. The particular length of a case depends on several factors, including the severity of the victim’s injury, the complexity of the case, the court’s caseload at the time, and how apparent the defendant’s liability is. 

Plaintiffs are to note that they must act promptly if they intend to institute a personal injury action before a court.  This is because Texas law imposes a limitation period for personal injury cases in El Paso. Cases instituted outside the limitation period are considered statute-barred and may not be examined by a court. As such, the victim should keep track of time when negotiating settlement so as not to exceed the limitation period for their claim. The time limit differs case by case. Below is a list of typical personal injury claims and their respective limitation period:  

  • General personal injury: two years 
  • Medical malpractice: two years 
  • Product liability: between two and 15 years, depending on the case
  • Legal malpractice: two years 
  • Assault and battery: two years 
  • Wrongful death: two years. 

The law, however, provides for an extension of this limitation period in certain circumstances. For example, in cases where the victim is a minor, the time limit is extended until the person legally becomes an adult. Such persons have two years from the date they become adults to institute their personal injury claim. 

Likewise, special rules apply where the government is the defendant in a personal injury case. The victim is required to submit a formal claim with the government agency responsible for the injury. This must be done within six months of the date of the accident, and the claim must contain details about the accident as well as any harm or injury sustained as a result of it.