The entire body of Texas personal injury law derives from several different sources. Three of the most important sources are statutes, regulations, and judicial precedent. Texas statutes affect personal injury claims in many different ways, some of which are critical.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which someone with a personal injury claim must either finalize a settlement, file a lawsuit, or forever hold their peace. Once you have filed a lawsuit, however, you have beaten the statute of limitations deadline no matter how long it takes your claim to finally resolve itself. In Texas, you generally have until two years after your injury to file a lawsuit. Several exceptions apply, however.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations Deadline
The most common exceptions to the Texas two-year personal injury statute of limitations deadline are:
- The discovery rule: The statute of limitations clock is stopped (“tolled”) if you reasonably fail to discover an injury until some time after it occurs. Your surgeon might have left a scalpel inside your body, for example.
- Wrongful death claims: In a wrongful death case, the two-year statute of limitations period begins on the date of the victim’s death, not on the date of the injury.
- Lawsuits against a state or local government entity: Texas law imposes an advance notification requirement with a 180-day deadline. Some individual localities, such as Austin, impose even shorter deadlines.
- Missing defendant: The statute of limitations is toiled for as long as the defendant is out of state or “whereabouts unknown.”
- Incapacity: The statute of limitations is tolled for a victim who is mentally disabled or unable to communicate.
- Minority (youth): Since a minor (under 18 years old) cannot file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations period doesn’t begin running until a child victim turns 18. Beware the statute of repose deadline, however.
All of these exceptions combined add up to only a minority of personal injury claims, but it’s still possible that one applies to your particular case.
The Statute of Repose
The statute of repose works like a “super statute of limitations.” The two statutes of repose that you might want to remember are:
- The product liability claim statute of repose. Once 15 years have elapsed from the date of the individual product’s first sale in commerce, you can no longer file a product liability lawsuit if the product injures someone.
- Texas also applies a statute of repose of 10 years for medical malpractice cases. You must file a medical malpractice claim, if at all, within 10 years of the occurrence of the malpractice, no matter how long it took you to discover your injury.
While the ordinary personal injury statute of limitations has exceptions, the statute of repose sets a hard deadline. In other words, you will lose your claim if you miss the statute of repose deadline, and no exception to the statute of limitations will save your claim.
The Texas comparative negligence law applies when more than one party’s negligence contributed to an accident. A party more than 50% at fault can receive no compensation whatsoever.
A party whose percentage of fault does not exceed 50% must suffer a deduction from their compensation equal to their percentage of fault. If they were 20% at fault, for example, they would lose 20% of their compensation.
“Fault” vs. “No-Fault” Auto Insurance
Texas is a “fault” auto insurance state. In practice, this means that every Texas driver must carry liability insurance, and you can sue an at-fault party after a car accident. Texas operates a “30/60/25” mandatory minimum auto liability insurance regime. If your car is registered in Texas, you must carry at least:
- $30,000 per person for bodily injury or death liability;
- $60,000 per accident for bodily injury or death liability; and
- $25,000 per accident for property damage.
Fewer than 10% of Texas drivers are uninsured, meaning you can generally file a claim against the at-fault motorist after a crash.
Insurance Bad Faith
Insurance companies pay most personal injury claims. Although Texas law requires insurance companies to deal with you honestly, the incentive structure militates against this. Insurance companies make money by accepting premiums, and they lose money by paying claims. For this reason, you may find that your “good neighbor” insurance company becomes your adversary the moment you file a claim with them.
You can expect the insurance company to play games with you, such as presenting you with a lowball offer. It is when these games get out of hand that you might have an insurance bad faith claim against the insurance company.
An insurance bad faith claim is a second claim, above and beyond the initial personal injury claim that brought you to the insurance company in the first place.
The Texas Dram Shop Law
Under the Texas dram shop law, a bar or a nightclub can bear liability for continuing to serve an obviously intoxicated guest. This liability applies to any harm that the intoxicated guest causes as a consequence of their intoxication, whether it be a DUI accident or a bar brawl.
A social host can bear liability for harm caused by an underage drinker. Interestingly enough, “underage” in this context means under 18, rather than under 21 (the legal drinking age in Texas). If the minor dies of alcohol poisoning this way, the social host can bear liability for the wrongful death of the minor.
One of the main purposes of the Texas dram shop law is to give injured victims the possibility of receiving full compensation. A profitable nightclub, for example, might be able to pay damages for a catastrophic injury even if a youthful DUI defendant cannot.
The Texas Product Liability Act allows you to sue the manufacturer or distributor for strict product liability. You must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous, but you do not have to prove that the defendant was at fault.
Wrongful Death Law
If the victim of a personal injury dies from those injuries, the surviving spouse, children, and parents can file a wrongful death claim. After three months of inaction, the victim’s estate executor can file this lawsuit. Damages include:
- The value of any lost savings or inheritance;
- Lost financial support;
- The value of lost household services;
- Emotional distress experienced by the surviving relatives; and
- Lost love, companionship, and more.
These damages go to surviving family members. Survivors or the estate can also file a survival action. Damages in a survival action consist of the damages that the victim would have qualified for if they had survived their injuries.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With an Experienced Galveston Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have ever tried to read a statute, you will know how confusing it can be to read. Law students have to be taught how to read statutes, and even fully qualified lawyers debate over what they mean. If you are concerned about the effects of a statute on your personal injury claim, consult with an experienced Galveston personal injury lawyer.
Contact the Texas Personal Injury Lawyers of The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today
Please contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd Personal Injury Lawyers to get a free initial consultation today. We have offices in Friendswood and Galveston, Texas.
Call us at (281) 992-8633.
The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd Personal Injury Lawyers – Galveston
2101 Mechanic St. Suite 253
Galveston, TX 77550
The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd Personal Injury Lawyers
312 S. Friendswood Dr.
Friendswood, TX 77546