Frequently Asked Questions Find Answers to Common Legal Issues
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The following questions and answers have been complied over the last 15+ years and are provided here as a service to help educate and increase public awareness of common legal issues. The answers below are, of course, somewhat general in nature.
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Ask around. Talk to the attorney you are dealing with about his fee. Fees usually range between 33 to 50 percent, but can vary from attorney to attorney and case to case. Ask these questions: How qualified is the attorney? Is he or she going to cover the expenses during the lawsuit? Is there a fee for assisting you in getting your car fixed? Is the percentage on the gross recovery or the net after expenses are paid? Satisfy yourself you have an attorney worthy of your trust and much of everything else will fall into place.
These types of cases require special knowledge, financial power and contacts with respected experts. Ask questions about the experience and knowledge of the attorney you hire. Is he board certified? He should welcome these questions. If your attorney represents more than one victim in a lawsuit, what provisions has he made to protect you if there’s a conflict between you and the other client? Is your attorney prepared to go to trial if you reject settlement offers? Has he or she explained issues to you such as statute of limitation and causation?
Texas is a one injury state. So if you know or should know that a dangerous product; a car wreck or some other negligence has harmed you, your time limitation for filing the lawsuit begins to tick. If several years go by before it becomes obvious that your injury or disease has become serious you may have lost your right to seek damages. This law forces people to file lawsuits when they would rather wait to see if they have a serious injury and forces juries to make decisions before all the facts are known. So be careful, get a complete medical exam while you still have the right to collect for your injuries or disease and talk to a lawyer.
Ask questions. A good lawyer won’t mind answering them. Find out if the lawyer is board certified and in what area of the law. Do the lawyer have experience in the type of work you need done? How much experience? Will the lawyer take time to sit down with you and explain things? Will the lawyer listen to what you have to say? Ask other professionals you know and get their opinion of your choice. Do you have other friends who might have used the lawyer you’re considering? Talk to those friends. Don’t feel intimidated by the lawyer you are considering and insist on spending some time with him or her. Never say you understand when you really don’t. You have the right to have explanations in clear, understandable terms.
The elements necessary for a successful lawsuit are:
- Breach of duty (e.g. driving drunk)
- Foreseeable connection of that breach to damages (e.g. a collision)
- The ability to collect.
An injured party has the right to collect for past and probable future damages. These damages fall into two groups. First, damages that can be calculated by an accountant (loss of earnings and medical expenses). Second, human damages (physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of relationship with a family member). Jurors have violated their oath if they have not considered each of these damages separately and fully if submitted to them by the court.
Statute of limitations refers to the need to file a lawsuit within a time limit. In Texas, many causes of action have a two-year statute of limitation, but not all. Some lawsuits, such as lawsuits against the government require a notice within a short time. The time begins to run when a cause of action accrues. A good example is someone negligently running into your car. The statute of limitations begins on the day of the accident. This issue can become more complicated. Sometimes, you have no way of knowing that you have a cause of action for years, such as discovering ill effects from taking a medication or being exposed to chemicals. It is important to seek the advice of an attorney and doctor if you suspect that you are having problems but don’t know for sure if it relates to the negligence of another or an unreasonably dangerous product.
It’s a method set up by the State Bar of Texas to give special status to attorneys who demonstrate competence in this area of the law. It’s much like a specialization for a medical doctor. To be board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, an attorney must show that he or she has several years of experience in personal injury trial law, taken special continuing education courses, been recommended by fellow trial lawyers and judges, and passed a day long exam regarding personal injury trial law. Other specializations require similar screening.
If you’ve been injured by negligence or by an unreasonably dangerous product get prompt and good medical treatment. See your family physician or go to the emergency room. If you have an attorney, ask for a recommendation. Follow these rules when seeking help for injuries that may involve a personal injury claim: 1) Go to a doctor who will voluntarily testify to the truth of your injuries and treatment if asked. 2) Be absolutely truthful. 3) Cover everything; give examples of how your injuries are affecting you. 4) Tell your doctor about conditions caused by the accident and about previous conditions that have been aggravated by the accident.