Dallas Personal Injury Settlements: Myths vs. Reality
When it comes to personal injury claims, misconceptions abound. Some are overly optimistic, while others are overly pessimistic. Hopefully, the following will correct some of these misconceptions so that you can enter the personal injury settlement process with reasonable expectations.
Myth #1: You’ll Probably End Up at Trial if You Insist on a Generous Settlement
Reality: Most Personal Injury Claims Settle Out of Court
Well over 90% of all personal injury claims are settled out of court. This is a good thing because settling out of court is cheaper, quicker, and easier than going to trial. If all cases went to trial, the courts would be so clogged you’d need to wait decades for a trial date.
You might file a lawsuit even if you plan to eventually settle your claim. After all, filing a lawsuit beats the statute of limitations deadline. It also allows you to use the pretrial discovery process to gather evidence, return to negotiations, obtain a more generous settlement due to your newfound evidence, and then withdraw your lawsuit.
Personal injury lawsuit settlement amounts often far exceed the settlement amounts received by victims who never file lawsuits.
Myth #2: The At-Fault Party Will Have To Pay the Settlement Out of Their Own Pocket
Reality: Insurance Pays for Most Personal Injury Claims
You might be reluctant to sue your next-door neighbor and best friend, for example, over a dog bite claim. Don’t worry; even if your claim amounts to tens of thousands of dollars (and many dog bite claims do), your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance or renters’ insurance policy will probably pay the claim. The same is true for other types of personal injury claims, especially car accidents.
Myth #3: Courts Frequently Award Punitive Damages
Reality: Punitive Damages Are Relatively Rare, and Statutory Limits Apply
To qualify for punitive damages, the defendant’s behavior must have been outrageous. An intentional assault that left you seriously injured would probably qualify, but even then, it’s not a guarantee.
Cours are so reluctant to award punitive damages, however, that even an injury caused by a DUI accident might not qualify for punitive damages.
You must prove that you qualify for punitive damages by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a more demanding standard than the standard you need to prove that you qualify for economic or non-economic damages. Furthermore, Texas limits punitive damages by statute.
Note that the damages cap does not apply if the defendant’s misconduct constituted a felony.
Myth #4: You Cannot Recover for Anticipated Future Expenses
Reality: You Can Collect for These Expenses if You Build a Strong Case
Suppose you suffer permanent injuries that will require kidney dialysis for the rest of your life and force you to retire at 45 years old. You will need to claim damages for medical treatment for the rest of your life and for your lost earnings until retirement.
You can claim and collect these damages if you can find a defendant with the resources to pay them. You will need to prove your eligibility for these damages, however. The typical way of proving eligibility for long-term future damages is through the use of expert witness testimony. Future damages are not easy to prove, but they are provable.
Myth #5: It’s Difficult To Recover for “Pain and Suffering,” “Emotional Distress,” and Other Intangible Losses
Reality: These Losses Often Amount to Most of a Personal Injury Victim’s Compensation
Texas refers to intangible losses as “non-economic damages.” Suppose, for example, that you suffer catastrophic injuries in an 18-wheeler accident. If you establish your right to compensation and the extent of your pain and suffering, you can be certain that Texas courts can and will place a substantial economic value on it.
Texas, unlike some jurisdictions, does not impose statutory limits on non-economic damages in personal injury cases, except for medical malpractice cases.
Myth #6: Most Personal Injury Settlements Are Worth Six Figures or More
Reality: The Average Personal Injury Settlement Is Worth Much Less Than That
Don’t let the TV shows fool you. The average settlement for a personal injury is somewhere in the low five figures. Car accident injury settlement amounts average about this much, for instance.
Nevertheless, even such an average is nearly meaningless because amounts vary dramatically. Imagine what you’d receive for a broken thumb versus what you might receive for a spinal cord injury that left you paralyzed.
Myth #7: “My Cousin Vinny,” the Criminal Defense Lawyer, Can Get Me a Large Personal Injury Settlement
Reality: You Need an Attorney Who Specializes in Personal Injury Law
You wouldn’t allow your pediatrician to perform open-heart surgery, would you? You’d hire a cardiologist for that job. But if you had a brain tumor, you would hire a neurosurgeon, not a cardiologist. The same principle applies to law. Don’t hire Vinny unless he is an experienced personal injury lawyer with a strong track record.
Myth #8: The Insurance Adjuster Is Your Friend
Reality: The Insurance Adjuster Is Your Opponent
Insurance companies are for-profit entities. That means they exist to make money, not to ease your suffering. They make money by accepting your premiums, and they lose money by paying out claims. They will resist your claim by either trying to minimize its value or by denying it altogether. They also have many tricks up their sleeve. That is why you need a lawyer to help you fight back.
Myth #9: Personal Injury Cases Typically Drag On For Years
Reality: Sometimes They Do, But Normally They Don’t
Most personal injury claims resolve within a few months. Some of them only take a few weeks to resolve. It is true, however, that a few personal injury cases do drag on for years. However, these cases are in the minority.
Myth #10: You Can’t Afford a Good Attorney if You’re Broke
Reality: Yes, You Can Too Afford a Top-Tier Attorney
Here’s a comforting reality: personal injury lawyers almost always work on a contingency fee basis. When you hire a personal injury lawyer, you pay nothing in advance, and your legal fees come out of your winnings.
If your legal fees are one-third of your total compensation, which is a typical amount, you can do the math yourself – one-third of zero is still zero. That means you only pay legal fees if you get compensation. Your legal fees are always a percentage of whatever amount your lawyer obtains for you.