Under Texas law, when someone is injured, the person or company who caused the injury must usually pay for the injury. This might include medical bills, or repairing and replacing property.
In some cases, there is no need to go to court.
For example, if a driver clearly caused an auto accident, the driver’s insurance company will probably make a settlement offer. This is an offer of money to settle the case, and end the disagreement. If you agree to a settlement offer, you usually cannot file any more lawsuits for injuries connected to that accident or event.
Some research shows people are more likely to receive money for their injuries if they settle instead of going to court.
The question is, how much do they settle for?
If you have medical bills and car repairs costs, or cannot work while you are injured, you need enough compensation to pay for your debts.
Sometimes you are not happy with a settlement offer.
Insurers and other companies understand that smaller settlements mean higher profits. So they will offer the least amount of money they can convince an injured party to accept. It’s not personal, it’s business.
In fact, many of our clients have been offered settlements that will not even pay for the medical bills! (That is, until we started making the phone calls.)
The only thing that will convince an insurance company or other business to offer a higher settlement is if they believe it will be cheaper than court.
That is why you may want an attorney for the settlement process, even if you really do not want to go to court.
Sometimes the person or company that injured you says it was not their fault. An insurance company might say their driver did not cause the accident, and deny the claim.
If a settlement offer is too low, or the claim is denied, you may need to file a lawsuit. However, you may have a few other options:
In many cases, two sides can’t reach a settlement agreement. But sometimes, their disagreement can be resolved without going to court. There are other ways of deciding disputes. This is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution.
One of the faster, cheaper and less stressful ways to solve a disagreement is with mediation. Mediation is a discussion process, led by a mediator.
A mediator is not a judge. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong.
A mediator is an objective person that helps two different sides reach an agreement.
Mediators are trained at listening to both sides and helping them understand each other. The mediator looks for areas of agreement, and helps each side feel they get what is most important to them.
Arbitration is a bit more like a trial. But it is still cheaper and faster than an ordinary trial.
In some cases, a contract may require arbitration instead of a lawsuit. In these cases, a judge may order arbitration.
An arbitrator is an experienced attorney – often a retired judge – who understands the area of law connected to the disagreement. The arbitrator has a hearing. Attorneys from both sides present evidence and witnesses tell their stories.
The arbitrator follows the law. But an arbitration is less formal than a trial. In many cases, people do not want an arbitration. Unlike a trial, if the arbitrator makes a mistake, it is very difficult to appeal the decision.
If a mediation is unsuccessful and one side does not want arbitration, the only way to solve the disagreement may be a trial in court.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit in Austin, the person or company that harmed you may suddenly decide to settle. Filing a lawsuit communicates that you are serious. When you have an attorney, the other side understands that you have someone strong fighting on your side: a warrior for the injured.
If they do not, you may have a trial to decide the case. Before the trial, there is a process called discovery. During discovery, both sides’ attorneys exchange evidence like documents.
Both sides also take depositions. Depositions are question and answer sessions with a witness. They are like witness testimony, but they are not taken in court. They are in an office, or somewhere both sides agree to.
Depositions are recorded, but there is no judge present. Under Texas law, most depositions cannot be longer than six hours.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you will probably have to tell your story. You may have to sit for a deposition and answer questions.
If your case moves to a trial, the evidence all gets presented in court for a judge and sometimes a jury. They look at all the documents and witness testimony and decide what they believe happened.
In many cases, witnesses must answer the deposition questions again, in court where the judge and jury can see them testify.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you do not have to be in court every single day that your case is heard. An Austin personal injury attorney is there to represent you, present evidence and talk to the judge and jury.
But if you are a witness offering evidence in your personal injury case, you will probably have to go to court and testify.
If you have been in an accident, call the Austin personal injury attorneys at Justinian & Associates. We offer an entirely free consultation. Call, text or email us to schedule a meeting. A seasoned personal injury lawyer will hear your story and explain your rights under Texas law.