When a person suffers injuries or loses a family member due to the neglect of another, the law of torts is involved. A “tort” is the violation of the rights of another person; a common example of a tort is an automobile collision case. A driver has the right to use the roadway and expect not to be injured as a result of doing so;. If that driver is injured or killed by the negligence of another driver then the injured driver or his family members have a cause of action against the negligent party. Typically, many drivers in Texas have insurance; the current state mandated liability insurance requirement is $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per occurrence. This means that the most any one person can recover for his or her injuries is $30,000.00 and the maximum amount of coverage available for everyone in the car is $60,000.00. Most automobile insurance policies also provide coverage for Personal Injury Protection which provides a minimum of $2,500.00 in no-fault benefits for medical expenses and lost wages for the insured and members of the insured’s household. Additionally, Uninsured-underinsured coverage typically provides coverage for an additional $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00. per occurrence. The insured can choose to increase protection with as much coverage as desired; amazingly, the cost for obtaining substantial Uninsured=Underinsured coverage is only a few hundred dollars more per year than purchasing a minimum limits policy. In other words, it would cost just a few dollars more to protect yourself with limits of $250,000.00 per person and $500,000.00 per accident. In light of the fact that roughly 25% of the drivers in Houston have no insurance, the Uninsured-Underinsured coverage is the best way for a driver to obtain appropriate protection for him and his family.
Less common than automobile cases are injuries and deaths caused by defective products. This area of law is called product liability. Essentially, in order to prove a defective product case, the consumer must prove that that the product was in essentially the same condition at the time of the injury as when it left the manufacturer’s factory. Products can be defective because of manufacturing defects, design defects and marketing defects, which include the failure to warn of a product’s dangerous propensities. Cases involving bad drugs, like phen-fen, are products liability cases.
Rarer still are injuries and deaths caused by medical malpractice. This type of case is the most difficult tort to prove, and these cases are extremely expensive to handle because of the necessity to hire experts, most of which have to come from out of state because local doctors are loath to testify against their brethren. Lawyers call that reluctance to testify a “conspiracy of silence.” The Texas Legislature has imposed a maximum recovery of $250,000.00 for non-economic damages, including physical pain, mental anguish and physical impairment. This damages cap makes it very difficult for lawyers to represent people in malpractice cases who are not wage earners. Additionally, the law requires the Plaintiff to produce an expert report within 120 days of filing a lawsuit; the defense usually challenges the sufficiency of the report and is also given an interlocutory appeal for the court of appeals to review the matter. The appellate process can take years, which again discourages many lawyers from taking malpractice cases.
For more information regarding personal injury cases, visit our resource center.