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Texas Personal Injury FAQ and Protecting Yourself in the Mobile App Age

Pokémon Go has taken the country by storm. This augmented reality game is getting kids (and kids-at-heart) out of the house to find digital critters hiding among us.

Despite its warnings to players to be aware of their surroundings, mobile app Pokémon Go is causing dangerous side effects: personal injuries.

Despite its warnings to players to be aware of their surroundings, mobile app Pokémon Go is causing dangerous side effects: personal injuries.

Over on the Wall Street Journal last week, there was a top trending piece, ‘Pokemon Go’: Why You Should Play. Cheers to a digital game that’s encouraging an active lifestyle.

A word of warning, though. On the Washington Post we read of unexpected side effects of the game’s recent launch: injuries on the rise. Some players distracted by their screens have landed in the emergency room after tripping, falling or running into something. No one wants that.

Another hot app generating unfortunate headlines is Snapchat. The app introduced a whole new way of communicating via filtered selfies – pretty neat. Not so neat: snapchatters are getting in accidents while distracted by the app. There’s a public awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, but snapping and driving is just as dangerous and hasn’t reached the public consciousness yet.

Since we rely on our internet-connected phones to educate and entertain us, we at the Houston personal injury law offices of Michael P. Fleming & Associates have rounded up some answers to new questions about personal injury law in Texas as a warm reminder not to lose sight of the dangers around us.

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On our Houston personal injury FAQ page we’ve answered a number of common questions about personal injury law. From how much a personal injury case might be worth to how long one has to file a personal injury case in Texas – take a look at these questions and answers that we hear most often.

New Frequently Asked Questions about Texas Personal Injury Law

There are some additional questions we’ve heard lately that we wanted to offer advice on as well. There are some unique and noteworthy specifics in the way Texas personal injury law works that we’ll cover here. Click on a question below to jump to the answer, or just keep reading.

More FAQs about Texas Personal Injury Law

What is personal injury protection coverage in Texas?

Personal injury protection (PIP) is an extension of car insurance that is required in Texas, but which can be rejected in writing by the insured. PIP coverage in Texas covers medical expenses, the cost of someone to take care of the injured party, and eighty percent of lost wages.

How do personal injury lawyers get paid?

Most Houston personal injury lawyers, including our offices, are paid on a contingency fee basis – meaning if a client receives a settlement or judgement, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the money damages awarded. If a client does not receive a settlement or judgement in their favor, a lawyer is not paid and the client owes nothing.

Rates may vary from firm to firm, however there is a somewhat standard rate of 33% if the case settles before suit, 40% if there is a settlement after suit is filed, 40% if the case goes through a trial, and 45% if there is an appeal. These are the percentages the lawyer would receive in addition to the case expenses being reimbursed out of the client’s share.

We explain standard contingent percentage fees in our answer to the FAQ: “How much does a personal injury case cost.

For further information, contact our Houston personal injury law offices, where attorney Michael P. Fleming has close to 30 years of experience handling injury cases.

How personal injury mediation works

In mediation, a personal injury case may be resolved outside of a trial.

In mediation, a personal injury case may be resolved outside of a trial.

Many personal injury cases are resolved through mediation rather than completion of trial and judgement.

During a mediation session, the plaintiff, defendant and their lawyers meet with a third party mediator to come to an agreement about the points of conflict and a fair result.

During a typical mediation session (which can last all day), each lawyer gives their perspective of the case and presents their idea of a reasonable settlement. Parties usually have a chance to speak directly to each other. However, the remainder of the time is spent apart, as the mediator goes back and forth between parties in an effort to reach an agreement to settle the case.

A mediator does not advocate for a certain side but discusses the issues and requests of each side. A mediator will also privately discuss weaknesses with each side in an attempt to cause each party to be more realistic about success at trial. If the mediation is successful, the parties leave with a settlement agreement and the matter is resolved. We explain mediation in depth here.

How are personal injury settlements paid out?

After the settlement amount is announced or a verdict of damages is awarded, fees and costs are deducted from the amount. Medical bills are deducted from the amount; the right of repayment to health insurance and medical costs is sometimes called a “personal injury lien” or “medical lien.”

Along with a lawyer’s contingency fee, a client should expect that there may be arbitration fees, discovery fees, court fees and the cost of any needed expert witnesses.

A good personal injury lawyer will walk a client carefully through the contract before signing.

Claim, damages, settlements – what is the difference?

There’s some language that you will be hearing during the course of your case. Here we’ll define some of the common terms.

What is a tort? A tort is an act of injury or other wrong that leads to a civil legal liability. A personal injury tort legal case has two parts: liability and damages.

What is a claim? A personal injury claim is the legal assertion that one is entitled to money as relief for the injury sustained due to another’s liability.

What is liability? Liability, or fault or responsibility for an injury, can be proven in three ways: an intentional wrongdoing (intentional wrong), a wrongdoing as the result of negligence (negligent wrong), or a wrongdoing as a result of an inherently dangerous act (strict liability).

What are damages? In law, damages are compensation for an injury or loss. The monetary amount of damages is dependent on the nature and extent of the injury.

What is a settlement? A settlement in the civil legal system is an alternative to resolving a tort claim through a trial and judgement. Instead, the parties may come to an agreement where the defendant pays the plaintiff some amount of money.

Are personal injury payments taxable in Texas?

Texas does not tax personal injury settlements or verdicts. The federal government (IRS) also does not tax damages in a settlement or verdict of a personal injury lawsuit. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, such as in the case of settlements or judgements from breach of contract lawsuits involving personal injury.

For more information, call our office at 888-529-0018 or contact us to speak to a Houston personal injury lawyer.

Are personal injury settlements community property in Texas?

If there are specific amounts allocated in the settlement for things like medical expenses or lost wages (community property items), then those amounts would be considered community property. A settlement for pain and suffering or disfigurement would be separate property. The issue gets more confusing when there is a lump sum settlement with no carve-out for certain elements of damages. Then, the presumption of community property kicks in and the entire settlement might be considered community.

Are personal injury settlements public record in Texas?

Snapping and driving is becoming as serious as texting and driving; snapchatters are getting into accidents while using the app on the go.

Snapping and driving is becoming as serious as texting and driving; snapchatters are getting into accidents while using the app on the go.

The answer depends. Here are four different scenarios that involve personal injury settlements:

  • A personal injury settlement case is not public record when a case is settled “out of court” before a lawsuit is filed. In this example there is no public record of the claim or the settlement. A confidentiality agreement prevents each side from discussing the settlement with third parties (absent a court order).
  • When a case is settled after a lawsuit is filed but before a trial, there is a record of the suit being filed but there is usually no mention of the settlement amount (in the case of a minor plaintiff, there may be a record as the judge has to approve it).
  • A case is rarely sealed – it is difficult to do and involves a public notice and hearing.
  • An award is a public record if there is a trial and the jury or judge reaches a verdict. This is filed and open to the public.

Legal Representation for Personal Injury Cases

At Michael P. Fleming & Associates, we know that smart phones enhance and improve our lives in many ways. Yet we’re also fully aware of the dangers that arise when people are not mindful of their surroundings while on their mobile phones. If you’ve been involved in an injury due to a distracted mobile device user, we can help protect your rights.

Our Houston personal attorneys represent clients who have been seriously injured in cases involving the latest mobile apps. Our goal is to help our clients get the medical and financial compensation you deserve.

For a free consultation about your situation, contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates online or call us now at 713-221-6800.

By |July 29th, 2016|Categories: Car Accidents, Personal Injury|