The Austin Chronicle's "Best of Austin" is Back.

Hiring a Lawyer in Texas

What should I expect out of a phone call with FVF?

First and foremost, we are interested in hearing about your concerns, and finding out what you seek to accomplish by talking with or hiring a personal injury lawyer. By understanding your needs, we can determine whether we recommend you a hire lawyer, and whether our firm is a good fit for you. Once we understand your needs, we will take the time to make sure you are educated on your rights and responsibilities so you can make informed decisions moving forward, with or without us. Our standard phone consultation takes approximately thirty minutes. During the consultation, we want to learn:

  • The circumstances surrounding your injury or wrongful death claim.
  • What medical care, if any, you’ve received so far.
  • What your diagnoses or symptoms are.
  • What insurance companies, if any, are involved, including auto insurance (if applicable), commercial liability insurance, and health insurance.
  • What your immediate concerns are.

Once we have that basic information, we will take the time to educate you on at least the following:

  • Options for obtaining additional medical care.
  • Options for handling any medical bills you’ve received so far.
  • Options for handling any future medical costs you might require because of your injuries.
  • Options for handling insurance companies and adjusters.
  • Options for handling lost income.
  • What benefits you might have available from your own insurance policies.
  • How personal injury lawyers are compensated for their efforts.
  • Whether we believe we can add value to your case and, if so, how. We will not pressure you to hire us, and will give you an honest assessment of whether we believe hiring a personal injury attorney is in your best interest.
How much does a phone consultation cost?

Nothing. We do not charge for a phone consultation, and will never ask you to pay us a retainer or an hourly rate. If, however, you agree to become an FVF client, we will get paid on a contingency fee basis. This means FVF will be paid a percentage of what we are able to recover on your behalf from the insurance companies. If we are unsuccessful in obtaining a recovery for you, we do not get paid. You only stand to benefit by contacting us.

What documents or information do I need to have before I call?

It is not necessary for you to have any information before you call, except for the very basic facts of the situation. We will gather as much information as we can and provide as much guidance as we can under the circumstances. Since every case is different, we never know exactly what information or documents will be helpful, so we are happy to take it one step at a time. However, any ofthe following information can be very helpful:

  • photographs and/or video of where the incident occurred, vehicles involved (if any), and physical injuries
  • the types and amounts of insurance coverage you have, such as Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Personal Injury Protection
  • police report and any other law enforcement investigative materials; -medical bills, medical records, or receipts for medical supplies
  • your health insurance information
  • information for any insurance companies that are involved; and -witness information. It is common for us to gather this information after our consultation, and you should not feel it is necessary to have any or all of this information before you contact us
Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are the most common type of monetary compensation an injury victim can seek in Texas. The purpose of compensatory damages is to make the injury victim whole for their losses. There are two categories of compensatory damages or losses: economic losses and non-economic losses. Proving economic and non-economic losses can be very challenging, and a personal injury victim should strongly consider consulting with a lawyer to learn more about their rights.

Economic Losses

The first category of compensatory damages is called “economic” damages. Economic damages are designed to compensate a personal injury victim for the economic losses they probably sustained as a result of the injury. Simply stated, economic losses are those losses that an injury victim can account for. In most cases, this includes lost earnings and medical expenses. In some cases, this can include other types of economic losses, such as costs the victim incurs to pay for services the victim is no longer able to do themselves, or services someone has lost as the result of an injury to a loved one. For example, paying a lawn service, pool service, or housekeeper if the victim can no longer do these chores on their own. Beyond the economic losses a personal injury victim sustains up to the time of trial (known as “past damages”), the victim can also seek compensation for losses they are likely to sustain in the future (known as “future damages”).

Lost Earnings

It is common for personal injury victims to lose earnings in some capacity as the result of an injury. Loss of earnings after an injury can come in many forms. For example, if the victim has to use sick leave because of their injury or medical care, the victim can seek reimbursement for the value of the sick time used. Similarly, if the victim is an hourly employee and cannot earn wages, the victim can determine how much time they would have worked, and use that information as a basis for calculating the amount of wages lost because of the injury.

Proving lost earnings can be much more complicated, though. For example, for those who work on a commission, it can be difficult to prove that a certain amount of commissions would have been earned if the victim had not been injured. Or, for victims who have recently started a new business venture, it can be difficult to project how the venture would have gone. For these types of cases, lost earnings can sometimes be proven. The method for doing so, though, depends on the unique circumstances of each case. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer can be very helpful in these situations.

While calculating the victim’s lost earnings up to the point of settlement or trial can be straight-forward, calculating future lost earnings can be much more challenging. In some cases, where the nature of the injury will permanently impair or compromise the victim’s ability to continue doing their job, the losses can be devastating. Obtaining compensation for these future losses often requires the victim to consult with a variety of experts, who, working together, can develop an opinion on the victim’s future restrictions, work-life expectancy, future earning capacity, and the total amount of earnings the victim will lose over their lifetime. Hiring a personal injury lawyer that understands how to properly prove a victim’s future lost earning potential can literally increase the value of a case by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.

Non-Economic Losses

The second category of compensatory damages available in Texas are designed to offset an injury victim’s non-economic losses. Put simply, non-economic losses are those losses that are difficult, if not impossible, to account for. Examples of non-economic losses include physical pain, disfigurement, physical impairment, and loss of consortium (in certain cases).

Non-economic losses can vary dramatically from person to person and case to case, and are largely determined based on what the parties expect a jury would award in any given case. Because every jury is different from the next, it is difficult to predict how a jury will value a victim’s non-economic losses. However, having a basic understanding of what the personal injury victim can ask a jury to award can help guide an injury victim’s ability to present a viable, well-substantiated claim to a liability insurance company or jury.

Proving Medical Expenses

Like lost earnings, many personal injury victims have medical bills that are necessary for treatment of their injuries. While the law clearly allows injury victims to be reimbursed for their medical bills, the law is murky on how medical bills are calculated for purposes of a personal injury claim. Commonly referred to by lawyers and insurance companies as the “paid versus incurred” rule, an injury victim can recover the sum total of:

  1. The amount the injury victim has actually paid for “reasonable and necessary” medical care up to the time of settlement or trial;
  2. The amount that has been paid on behalf of the injury victim for “reasonable and necessary” medical care (i.e. from the victim’s health insurance company) up to the time of settlement or trial; and
  3. The amount the injury victim still owes for “reasonable and necessary” medical care up to the time of settlement or trial.

For injury victims who choose to use their health insurance to pay for medical treatment following an injury (which is a choice they do not necessarily have to make), it is important to account for the money the injury victim’s health insurance company has spent on their medical care before settling their claim with the liability insurance companies (i.e. an at-fault driver’s insurance). Because most health insurance companies have the right to get paid back from any money the victim collects from the liability insurance company (through a process called subrogation), failing to account for that money when resolving a case can have very negative consequences for the injury victim, including cancellation of their health insurance.

A personal injury victim can also seek compensation for medical bills the victim will likely pay or incur in the future. Proving future medical costs can be extremely challenging, and failure to do so properly can cost the injury victim a substantial amount of money. It is not sufficient for a personal injury victim to simply voice concerns about their future medical needs. Instead, the law demands the victim prove the future costs through competent evidence. Generally, this requires an expert in the relevant field of medicine show what medical care will likely result because of the injury, as well as the likely cost of the future care. In addition, in cases involving serious injury (such as brain injuries, spine injuries, or catastrophic injuries), the injury victim can benefit from a life care plan, which consists of a thorough analysis by a certified life care planner of all aspects of the victim’s likely future medical needs. Speaking with an attorney about your future medical concerns can help make sure you do not get taken advantage of by an insurance company, and can help ensure you can afford to pay for your future medical care. This is true even for injuries the victim might consider minor; it is better to be safe than sorry.

Physical Pain and Suffering

Because physical pain is subjective, proving it typically requires, at a minimum, the injury victim to explain what they’ve gone through. Testimony or statements provided by close friends or family members can also help substantiate the injury victim’s story. In addition, photographic and video evidence of the injuries can help paint a picture of the extent of the injuries, and, in certain situations, can provide the type of “shock” value that help an insurance adjuster or jury relate to what the victim has gone through. In some circumstances, it can be very useful to hire a videographer to record the victim’s struggles after an injury. These “day-in-the-life” videos can do an excellent job of helping the jury see, first-hand, the injury victim’s pain and suffering.

Like all compensatory damages, an injury victim can seek compensation for their future pain. This requires evidence of a reasonable probability that the injury will continue to affect the plaintiff in the future. In most cases involving long-term or permanent injuries, it is very important to prove future pain by consulting with an expert in the field of injury. A medical doctor can help an injury victim establish what the future probably looks like, and provide an opinion of the victim’s likely future pain.

Can I get a car accident settlement for pain and suffering?

Yes, if you were hurt in a car accident, pain and suffering is “compensable,” meaning you can recover money. Pain and suffering can be challenging to calculate, and how much your accident pain and suffering settlement depends largely on how badly you were hurt, how serious your pain and suffering is, and whether your pain and suffering will be permanent.

Like any other compensable loss following a car accident, pain and suffering is something you have to prove. There are several ways you can prove how your accident pain and suffering is impacting your life:

  1. Keep a journal. You can document the extent of your pain and suffering by keeping a daily or weekly journal. You can rate, on a scale from 1 – 10, how bad your pain was that day, how long it lasted, and how frequently it occurred.
  2. Get proactive medical care. By using diligence to get medical treatment, you will create a thorough medical records that documents your struggle. This can be extremely valuable to document what you have gone through and increase your car accident settlement for pain and suffering. Further, a doctor will be able to provide an opinion on whether your symptoms will be permanent, which can also dramatically increase your car accident settlement for pain and suffering.
  3. Interview friends and family. While you are the person experiencing the car accident pain and suffering, your friends and family can help support your case. It can be very useful to talk with them to learn their perspective on how your pain and suffering is impacting your life.

Maximizing your settlement for pain and suffering is not as simple as telling an insurance company what you are going through. Instead, you have the best chance at securing an outstanding car accident settlement for pain and suffering by working with an experienced attorney. The car accident attorneys at FVF have helped clients recover millions of dollars, and are happy to evaluate your case for free.

Disfigurement

Physical disfigurement is defined as that which impairs or injures the beauty, symmetry, or appearance of a person, or that which renders unsightly, misshapen, imperfect, or deformed in some manner. Common-sense examples of physical disfigurement include scarring (whether from a laceration, burn, surgical incision, or otherwise) and amputation of a limb.

The compensation an injury victim can expect to be awarded for physical disfigurement is influenced by many factors, including physical and emotional characteristics of the victim themselves, severity of the disfigurement, and the location of the disfigurement. For example, an injury victim who earns money as a model who is no longer able to work because of disfigurement should expect to be compensated for those economic losses as well as the embarrassment and suffering the victim endures because of the disfigurement. Also, an injury victim can expect to be awarded more compensation for disfigurement that is difficult to conceal, such as facial scarring.

To seek compensation for future physical disfigurement, the injury victim should obtain a medical opinion that the disfigurement is permanent. In some instances, the victim can learn more about procedures available to minimize or eliminate the disfigurement, as well as the costs associated therewith. Properly presented, the victim can seek compensation for those future medical costs, as well as the future embarrassment and self-consciousness the victim is likely to experience because of the disfigurement caused by the injury.

Physical Impairment

Physical impairment is one of the most important types of compensatory damages available to a victim who is injured by the carelessness of another. Texas does not have a strict definition of physical impairment for purposes of a personal injury case, but physical impairment is typically understood as the lost enjoyment of life that results from the victim’s inability to participate in sports, hobbies, or other recreational activities. Like all non-economic damages, the amount of compensation an injury victim should expect for physical impairment depends greatly on the actual loss the victim has sustained.

An extremely active or competitive person who loses their ability to participate in an activity (or activities) they enjoy should expect to be compensated substantially more than a person who is only temporarily sidelined from activity. Similarly, a victim who loses their ability to earn income as a competitive athlete should expect to be compensated not only for that economic loss, but for the loss of the enjoyment gained through participation in the activity. It is important to understand that the affected activity does not need to be athletic in nature, but can be any activity the victim enjoyed or participated in prior to the injury.

Obtaining compensation for physical impairment typically requires proof that the injury victim lost some (or all) ability to perform some type of activity. Testimony from the victim and the victim’s close friends and family can help substantiate the physical impairment claim. Photographs and videos of the victim participating in the activity before the injury can also be extremely useful. And, like many other categories of compensatory damages, it can be critical to have an expert opine about the injury victim’s limitations, as well as how the limitations will likely continue to exist in the future.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a unique category of compensatory damages, since the right to seek compensation does not belong to the injury victim. Instead, the right to seek compensation belongs to the spouse, children, and/or parents of the victim. Loss of consortium is based on the loss of love, affection, protection, emotional support, companionship and care that can accompany serious injury of a family member. In Texas, a spouse can seek compensation for loss of consortium in most injury cases. A child can seek compensation for loss of consortium in the event a parent sustained a serious, permanent, and disabling injury, or in the event a parent is killed. Finally, a parent can recover compensation for loss of consortium for the death of a child.

Unlike many types of compensatory damages, loss of consortium does not usually require the testimony or opinion of an expert witness. Rather, proving loss of consortium requires the person seeking compensation to tell their story. Photographs and videos depicting the relationship can also help substantiate the loss, and help demonstrate to an insurance adjuster or jury the extent to which a person’s life has been altered because of injury to or death of a loved one.

Non-Compensatory Damages (Punitive Damages)

In some circumstances, an injury victim can seek damages that are not designed to compensate the victim for their losses. Instead, these damages, called punitive damages, are a civil penalty designed to punish the wrongdoer for their conduct. Because the law does not take civil penalties lightly, presenting a case for punitive damages requires the injury victim to prove the wrongdoer was engaged in some type of egregious or reckless conduct when the wrongdoer caused the injury. Drunk or intoxicated driving, as well as texting while driving, are probably the two most common types of egregious conduct that result in the assessment of punitive damages for Texas personal injury victims.

Obtaining the evidence necessary to prove egregious conduct can be time consuming and challenging. Even when the wrongdoer was arrested in connection with the injury-causing event, the government and the wrongdoer will often attempt to roadblock the victim’s access to pertinent information while the crime is being investigated. Additionally, in our experience, law enforcement has done a very poor job investigating cell phone usage in car crashes, making it very difficult (but not impossible) to prove after the fact.

Even when the personal injury victim is able to successfully prove the egregious conduct, the law in Texas caps the amount the wrongdoer has to pay as a civil penalty. However even with the caps, proving egregious conduct that allows for recovery of punitive damages can dramatically increase the overall value of a case.

Personal Injury Questions

Learn More Learn More

Latest News & Articles

FVF Papers Learn More