If you have been involved in a serious accident and have suffered a life-changing injury, you will have many questions, worries, and fears about what your future holds for you. You will want to know not only the legal remedies that are available to you, but also about your medical care, financial obstacles, and living adjustments you will encounter. I have handled many cases just like yours and I will try to address some of your questions in this article. By the way, every one of my clients who has suffered a serious, life-changing injury has found a way to accept it with grace and dignity and has found a way to stay positive about the future. Every one of them has my deepest respect and admiration. I dedicate this article to them.
In this article you will learn:
- What is meant by serious bodily injury
- How serious injuries can happen
- Who you can sue for your injuries
- What your attorney should be doing for you in a serious injury case
- What your case is worth
What is a serious injury? In general, we can start with the definition given to us by the Texas legislature. Section 49.07(a)(1)(b) of the Texas Penal Code defines serious bodily injury as an “injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ”. This can mean, among other things, the loss of a limb, brain injuries, loss of an organ, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, burns, or the loss or impairment of vision, hearing, taste or smell. Impairment can range from a permanent limp to an injury that renders someone totally reliant on others to perform their acts of daily living.
How do serious injuries usually happen? While there are many accidents that can result in serious bodily injuries, the most common are car wrecks, auto-pedestrian accidents, auto-bicycle collisions, electrocutions, falls, and burns. In a car wreck, serious injures can happen even if the occupant is fully seat-belted and even if the airbags deploy. If the occupant’s vehicle is hit at high speed or by a heavy vehicle, such as an 18-wheeler, serious injuries can occur. Outside of car wrecks, serious injuries can occur on commercial premises, parks, playgrounds, and boat docks, to name a few. There have been cases of electrocutions on the grounds of commercial properties resulting from exposed wires negligently left where people can come into contact with them. Falls can happen when scaffolding is not properly installed or when a utility hole is not properly covered. Head injuries can happen when a heavy object falls from store shelf. These are just of the few cases I have seen in my years of practice.
Who can I sue for my serious bodily injury? The most obvious answer is, of course, the negligent party. Sometimes, however, there are other parties whose negligence contributed to your accident that can be brought in to court to help pay for your injury. Because the negligent party seldom has enough insurance to compensate for a serious injury, the lawyer handling the case needs to study the incident carefully to see what other parties can be brought into the case and made to pay. This can include a driver who was not directly involved in the collision but whose negligence “set up” the collision, an auto maker for making an unsafe vehicle, a road construction company for not setting up a work zone safely, a bar or restaurant for over-serving a customer, or an apartment or bar owner whose poor security measures resulted in someone being shot or sexually assaulted.
What should my lawyer be doing if I hire him to represent me for a serious injury? Your lawyer should have enough experience and expertise to know if and what other parties can be brought into the case. He should be in frequent communication with you to monitor your medical progress. He should also be paying close attention to your medical records to spot the need to bring in certain medical specialists. The attorney should have resources at his disposal to hire certain specialists such as videographers to film “day in the life” videos, a psychologist, an accountant, an actuary, and a life care planner.
What is my case worth? The value of your case is made up of both, objective and subjective evidence. Objective evidence involves anything you can put a solid number on and includes past and future medical expenses, past and future lost income, and the past and future cost of medical equipment. Then, there is the subjective evidence that has no solid number you can put on it, such as your pain, suffering, disability, scarring, deformity, and loss of consortium with your spouse.
Other factors that come into play involve certain intangibles unique to each case. These can include aggravating factors that add to the horrors of the accident, such as the defendant’s behavior prior to impact, or his excessive speed, or evidence that he was recklessly going in and out of lanes passing vehicles, or evidence that he was drunk. Or, his behavior after the accident, such as trying to flee or displaying signs of severe intoxication. It can also include evidence that a property owner repeatedly ignored warnings about a dangerous condition on his property.
How your injury has affected your ability to interact with your loved ones is also an intangible, yet important, factor. Do you have young children you will no longer be able to carry or play ball with? Will you not be able to walk your daughter down the aisle? Is your wife seen as a woman who is bravely taking care of you and keeping her spirits as well as your spirits up during the worst of your suffering?
Other intangibles include how the jury perceives the parties. Is the defendant seen as a likable guy, or is he seen as a liar and a scoundrel? What about you? Will they see you as a likable guy who has taken a bad hand dealt to him and is trying to be positive about it? Or will they see you as insincere and as someone who is over-stating his case in hopes of a big jury award?
The jury will put all these factors together and render a money judgment that they feel is true to the law and the evidence. Of course, before a jury is even selected, the adjuster and the defense attorney will make a settlement offer they feel takes all these factors into account. It will be up to you and your attorney to decide whether to accept their offer or take your chances with a jury.
Conclusion: If you have any questions about a serious accident or serious injury, call me. I have handled many serious injury cases and have the resources, knowledge, and experience to help you.