When you get into an accident in Texas, you might have the right to recover compensation for your injuries. One way to get money is by filing a lawsuit – or “filing suit” – against the person who caused you to get hurt. Here’s what you need to know about what that means for you.

What is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is a formal legal complaint that’s filed with your local court. It basically tells the court that another person (the defendant) was negligent and hurt you (the plaintiff) in some way.

By filing a lawsuit, you’re asking the court to step in and order that person to compensate you for the harm they’ve caused. A lawsuit must comply with very specific laws and procedures established by the state of Texas.

Is Filing Suit My Only Option After an Accident?

No, and, in fact, it’s rarely your first option. Instead, insurance is the primary source of compensation after a car accident in Texas. If someone else is responsible for causing an accident, you’ll probably turn to their insurance company for compensation.

When you pursue benefits from an insurance provider, you don’t file a lawsuit. At least, not at first. The first step involves filing an insurance claim for benefits. A claim is a formal request to receive insurance benefits for your injuries.

Along with the claim, you’ll also have to submit a demand letter. This lays out how you got hurt, why you think the insured driver is at fault, and the amount of damages you’re requesting.

Another driver’s insurance company might deny your claim or try to drive down its value. Be prepared for the insurer to do whatever they can to get out of paying what you need and deserve.

When an insurer refuses to pay – or if what your damages exceed policy limits – you might want to consider filing suit. This means you take your dispute to the courts. If you don’t reach an agreement, a judge (and/or jury) will ultimately decide the outcome. Most personal injury lawsuits settle privately before going to trial.

Who Can I File a Lawsuit Against?

In Texas, you can file a lawsuit for damages against anyone who directly or indirectly causes you to get hurt. Even someone who is only 5 percent responsible for your accident can be liable for resulting injuries.

Under the state’s comparative negligence rules, liability for an accident is apportioned to everyone who contributes. The larger your role in causing the accident, the greater your financial responsibility for resulting damages.

At the same time, the damages in a lawsuit can be reduced if you share fault. If you’re 20 percent to blame, your damages would be reduced by 20 percent. If you share more than half of the blame, you’ll be barred from recovering anything, at all.

What Can I Ask For When I File Suit in Texas?

When you get hurt in an accident, you might sustain various physical, emotional, and financial injuries. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you can ask to be compensated for all of these. These are known as “compensatory damages.”

Compensatory damages are split into economic and non-economic damages. Economic help to cover the verifiable financial costs and losses you have and will experience because you got hurt. Examples include:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation
  • Nursing care
  • Past and future lost wages, and
  • The cost of replacing or repairing damaged property.

When you file a lawsuit to recover economic damages, you’re asking to be put back in the financial position you were in before the defendant caused you to get hurt.

Non-economic damages are paid to compensate you for injuries that are more difficult to value. This includes things like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement, and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.

These types of injuries affect everyone differently. So, they’ll be valued differently from case to case.

In certain situations, you might also be able to ask a court to impose punitive damages. These are paid to punish the defendant if their conduct was really reprehensible.

Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer If I Want to File a Lawsuit?

Yes. Lawsuits can be complicated. Insurance companies and defendants will fight you every step of the way. Hiring a personal injury attorney in Austin can put you in the best position to get the money you need and deserve after an accident.