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Your Houston Personal Injury Case: The Basics

Houston is teeming with people. With nearly 2.2 million residents milling around the city, injuries can be an unfortunate part of life. Houstonians get hurt on the job, crash into each other on I-45, and scramble for shelter when a hurricane bears down. People suffer both economic and physical harm all the time, and Houston courts are where people go to recover for the injuries they sustain.

Houston personal injury law can help people fairly recover the cost of medical care, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other losses. For our purposes here, a "personal injury" is the physical harm suffered because of another party's negligence or intentional bad conduct. With relevant legal information like this in hand, you can make the right choices after an injury occurs in Texas' biggest city.

Lawsuit Time Limits

You've probably heard the term "statute of limitations" before. It's a legal term stating that you have a limited amount of time to pursue a lawsuit after an injury. That amount of time varies by jurisdiction. And while most everything is big in Texas, the statute of limitations isn't necessarily one of them. Generally speaking, you have two years from the time you learned -- or should have learned -- that you suffered an injury to file a suit in Houston.

So if a gas explosion damages your house, you have two years to sue CenterPoint Energy for damages. Same thing if your neighbor is injured jumping off your pool's diving board -- she would have two years to sue you. In the event of a death, loved ones of a deceased person also only have two years to pursue a wrongful death claim.

But not all types of injury claims have a two-year statute of limitations. Texas lawsuits for fraud have a four year statute of limitations, as do suits for collection of debt on an account. Beware that Texas law could change quickly, so the best course of action is to contact a Houston accident attorney for advice on your particular case.

Contingency Fees

If you pursue a claim for injuries, you will be the plaintiff. A multitude of Houston lawyers specialize in plaintiffs-side legal work. These lawyers often work for a "contingency" fee. Under this type of arrangement, clients pay nothing up front or during a case, but the lawyer gets a percentage of any winnings or settlement plus their costs. If someone sues you, claiming that you harmed them, then you will be the defendant. When looking for a defense attorney, the best place to begin is with your insurance provider. Often homeowners' insurance will provide legal defense for the homeowner's unintentional acts that cause harm -- sometimes even away from the home.

Harris County has no shortage of personal injury attorneys (as the billboards on Houston freeways can attest). Choosing legal counsel will be easier if you know what kind of claim you are dealing with. Here are a few examples:

  • Auto Accidents -- Houston auto accidents are quite common, just listen to any rush hour traffic updates during your commute. If anyone is injured, there's a good chance an auto accident attorney will get involved at some point. If you are injured (or injured someone else) as the result of a collision, you may want to look into local attorneys specializing in auto-related injuries. Note that your car insurance may cover at least some portion of your legal defense if you are sued after an accident.
  • Workplace Accidents -- The Texas Workers' Compensation Act, which was significantly changed by lawmakers in 2001, is a state-regulated insurance program that pays medical bills and replaces some lost wages for employees who are injured at work. It also protects covered employers from civil suit brought by the injured worker. The Act states that recovery of Workers' Compensation benefits is a covered employee's exclusive remedy against the employer for a work-related injury sustained by the employee or the death of the employee. There are some important steps that doctors and employees must take. The Texas Department of Insurance can help you get started.
  • Premises Liability -- What if you are injured on someone else's property or a guest is injured on yours? Legal liability will depend on one or more key facts including: whether the injured person was a social guest or a business guest, whether the venue complied with various codes, and several other factors.
  • Products Liability -- Some consumer products like medicines, foods, appliances, etc. can unfortunately prove to be unsafe. Houstonians become injured or ill from asbestos, lead and magnets in children's toys, spoiled food -- you name it. Whether the product is unsafe as designed or just poorly made, talk to a products liability attorney if you've been injured.

You may become hurt in any number of different ways. If you are injured, or fear that you may have harmed someone else, it's a good idea to talk to a local Houston attorney. Make the call sooner rather than later, as procrastinating may end up costing you.

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