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Personal Injury FAQs

Personal Injury FAQ

Will FVF charge a fee for an initial consultation?

No. FVF is dedicated to educating our clients, a process that begins with an informal conversation at no charge. As potential clients tell their story, we are intent on listening and taking note of the particularities that make each case unique. Our primary goal is to work with clients and their families to design a coherent strategy focusing on physical recovery and financial stability. We serve our clients best by explaining and advocating for their legal rights as personal injury victims.

What is my injury claim worth?

This is an important question and one that clients often ask first. By law, a personal injury claim can include compensation for economic as well as non-economic damages. Property damage, past and future lost wages, medical treatment, hospital bills, surgery costs, rehabilitative care, and assistive devices are all considered economic damages and typically recoverable through a claim.

Non-economic damage can include pain and suffering, psychological trauma, and other emotional distress suffered after a serious accident. Every case is unique, so have one of our Austin injury attorneys review your case to determine the value of your claim, including understanding whether or not any portion of your settlement is subject to taxation. We can evaluate your losses and help you pursue full and fair compensation so you can recover with peace of mind. Our law firm works with a team of experts to accurately assess and build the strongest claim possible.

How are damages calculated in a personal injury lawsuit?

Damages in a personal injury case are calculated based on the extent of expenses related to your injuries and property damage, the underlying circumstances of the accident, and whether or not damages are awarded in a settlement or a jury trial. Not all accidents are worth the expense of hiring a personal injury lawyer, but it is always a good idea to contact an attorney after an accident so that you can be educated about how you can best proceed.

Not only can a personal injury attorney help you seek the help you need after being hurt, but if you do have a valid claim, making sure you have taken the proper steps after your injury — such as seeking medical attention — can help you reach your maximum fair compensation. 

Other factors that impact how much in damages you might be awarded are the level of experience of your attorney and how far they are willing to go to hold the liable parties responsible for your injuries, such as taking the case to trial. Insurance companies generally want to settle for as little as possible, but juries are often not afraid to assign the full extent of responsibility to those whose negligent or reckless behavior has caused harm.

What are the elements of a personal injury claim?

Before filing a personal injury claim, you must first consider whether you have a valid case. Personal injury laws require those filing a claim to be able to prove several things. A valid personal injury claim must be able to show that:

  • The party that injured you owed you a duty. This can be something as simple as the duty to drive in a safe manner or something more complex such as the duty to prevent injuries on one’s property.
  • The party that injured you breached the duty. The defendant must have acted in a negligent way or failed to act, thus breaching their duty to you.
  • You suffered from injuries. The injuries can be physical, emotional, financial, or all of the above. You must have documented evidence of your injuries to move forward with a case.
  • The breach of duty caused your injuries. If a negligent driver was speeding and caused your car accident, the driver’s breach of duty is what caused your injuries.


If you are able to demonstrate sufficient evidence of the above items, you are likely to prevail in your claim. Our Austin personal injury law firm can review your specific situation and advise you on whether you have enough evidence to pursue a case against the negligent party.

How can a personal injury lawyer help me after a catastrophic injury or death?

In the case of catastrophic injury it is critically important to seek prompt medical attention. Although common injuries associated with workplace accidents, motor vehicle accidents, or electrical failure may not present with any symptoms until days or weeks after the event, a skilled medical diagnostician will be able to identify damage and plan a course of treatment.

Getting the right care immediately is important for several reasons:

  • First, the law allows personal injury victims to seek compensation for bodily injuries. This includes losses leading up to a settlement or trial, as well as future losses, for example loss of income. Making a compelling case for lost wages is significantly more feasible with expert documentation from a medical professional.
  • Second, a delay in personal injury victim’s medical examination and treatment may create a “treatment gap.” Insurance companies may refer to such a gap in an attempt to refuse compensation.
  • Misdiagnosis and mistreatment of an injury resulting from a serious accident may exacerbate the original injury. This may lead to continued convalescence and recovery time, which may add to the financial burden that a personal injury victim experiences. In addition, faulty medical diagnosis and treatment plans may complicate a legal case against the at-fault party.
  • A catastrophic accident is profoundly disruptive not only to the victim but to their family. In addition to the physical injuries, victims and their families typically experience tremendous confusion and anxiety about how to proceed most strategically. Most families have little if any knowledge of personal injury law, medical insurance coverage limitations, liability structures, and litigation. A personal injury lawyer is invaluable in guiding a victim through a maze of hospital policies, insurance agents, and applicable regulations.
I was in a serious accident caused by a driver in a company vehicle (such as an 18-wheeler or other commercial motor vehicle). What should I do?

In the case of a personal injury associated with a commercial motor vehicle accident, it is critically important to seek medical attention as needed. Common injuries of the neck and spine, or even a concussion, may not present with any symptoms immediately; these may arise in the days and weeks after an accident. Being examined by a skilled medical diagnostician is important both for physical recovery and potential legal evidence of injury. Experienced personal injury attorneys continuously work with medical experts to ensure that a case is composed of sound evidence.

Injuries associated with commercial motor vehicles such as delivery trucks, buses, or tractor-trailers, and UPS or postal service vehicles are often severe, leading to long and complicated recovery times. Those who operate them are under pressure to execute the duties of their employment quickly, which may lead to compromised safety. They may be distracted or sleep-deprived, causing impaired judgment. Even moderate or mild injuries, however, when associated with a commercial motor vehicle incident often require the skill and expertise of a legal professional.

Commercial motor vehicles and the operation thereof are highly regulated at the state and federal levels by a network of laws and standards. Navigating this network without specialized expertise is exceedingly difficult. Moreover, those industries that depend on commercial traffic for profit are highly motivated to protect themselves against any and all legal action, including and especially a personal injury claim. 

For this reason, they often acquire multiple different kinds of insurance policies, placing integrated layers of bureaucracy between themselves and a personal injury victim. The primary purpose of an attorney in such a case of personal injury is to navigate the client through these layers of bureaucracy. In so doing, the attorney ensures that the client is not deterred from seeking compensation for injury and loss.

Among the first steps that a personal injury attorney takes in the case of a commercial motor vehicle accident is to issue a Letter of Preservation asking responsible parties for various forms of documentation and evidence. This evidence includes logs and records pertaining to the vehicle, eyewitness testimonies collected by first responders at the scene of the crash and any other documentation generated by the 911 authorities, clean-up crews from the scene, and records kept by emergency service providers. 

Important evidence may also be retrieved from an Engine Control Module (ECM) or Event Data Recorder (EDR), which function like the black box computers of an airplane, capturing the events and circumstances leading up to a catastrophic accident. In catastrophic incidents involving an employee operating a motor vehicle, a person driving while “on the clock,” a personal injury attorney’s central function is to investigate the multiple, interconnected companies or organizations involved, the policies and standards governing their industry, the insurance structures that protect them, and then to assess the issue of liability. 

Determining liability, which is the attorney’s first task taking on a personal injury case, is imperative to establishing a strong case on the client’s behalf.

I was injured at work and my employer has no worker’s compensation insurance. What should I do?

In the case of serious and accidental injury at work, you would be well-served to speak with a personal injury attorney who has experience with premises liability, third party liability, industrial product liability, and workplace safety standards. Because the state of Texas does not require employers to obtain worker’s compensation insurance, workplace accidents often become the center of personal injury cases. It could be a strain or sprain due to rigorous activity, a slip and fall on a slick surface, a falling object from a purely secured elevated location, or an electrical injury associated with tools or machines. Even if the injured employee is partially at fault, an employer without worker’s compensation insurance may be held accountable for damages associated with an employee’s injury.

Employers who opt not to purchase Workers Compensation policies, so-called non-subscriber employers, may be liable and exposed to legal action under the Texas Labor Code if an employee is injured while performing the duties of the job. In the case of a non-subscriber employer, the most important thing for an injured employee is to establish the cause of the injury and the circumstances of responsibility at their workplace. This often requires extensive investigation and the gathering of evidentiary documentation and eyewitness statements. More often than not, responsibility falls to more than one party in the event of a workplace injury.

Bringing legal action against a non-subscriber employer, a personal injury victim may be able to recover damages including past and future lost wages, medical expenses, past and future impairment, mental anguish, and physical and emotional losses. In the event of a fatality, the Texas Labor Code permits an employee’s family to bring legal action against non-subscriber employers in a wrongful death accident case.

I was injured at work and my employer has Worker’s Compensation insurance. Can a personal injury lawyer help me seek more compensation than I’m getting from my employer?

A workplace accident can happen in a range of different industries. It may be a restaurant worker sustaining a severe burn from a commercial-grade dishwasher or stove. It may be a construction worker being struck or crushed by falling materials. Or it may be an electrician being injured by equipment failure or improper security measures. Even accidents that appear to be clear-cut cases of the employee’s own carelessness should be evaluated with respect to liability by experienced attorneys and qualified experts.

For the most part, an employee who is injured on the job while covered by workers’ compensation may not bring legal action against his or her employer. Further, an employee who is covered by worker’s compensation, and is injured on the job as a result of a co-worker’s negligence, will in most cases receive worker’s compensation benefits but is prohibited from bringing legal action against the co-worker.

There are, however, some exceptions to this rule in extreme circumstances. The exceptions typically pertain to the source and cause of the injury, and the party responsible for the functioning of that source process or material. For example, in the dishwasher example, the employee may be compensated for injuries and losses by the worker’s compensation policy in part. But he or she may also be in a position to bring legal action against the manufacturer of the dishwasher if a qualified investigator discovers that the machine is defective and that the defect contributed to the injury. 

Similarly, if a delivery truck driver is injured on the job, and only compensated partially by their employer’s worker’s compensation policy, the driver may bring legal action against another party involved in the incident if that party is found to have acted negligently. For example, if the driver has left their delivery vehicle to deposit a package on foot, and is struck by another motor vehicle, whose driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, a legitimate legal case may be brought against the impaired driver beyond the delivery driver’s worker’s compensation coverage.

I was injured in an accident a while ago and am experiencing physical symptoms. What should I do?

It is never too late to initiate a conversation with a personal injury attorney. Moreover, it is never too late to seek the proper medical attention for something as traumatic as an accident involving bodily harm. Following a serious accident, some injuries may not appear until days or weeks after the injury. For example, spinal injuries and brain injuries may only present with very subtle symptoms initially. As the injured person gradually returns to normal activity, however, the effects of violent impact to the head, neck, or spine may become evident. An accident victim should be evaluated by a medical professional, even if the injury event is not recent. This will ensure that mild or moderate symptoms do not develop into more serious and debilitating conditions.

In the case of a traumatic accident causing physical harm, a personal injury attorney is especially valuable to a potential client because, even if the injurious event was not recent, they have experience working with medical professionals, medical billing, and insurance companies to restore the client’s well-being and financial stability. A skilled personal injury attorney puts an injured client in touch with expert diagnosticians that design an individualized plan for rehabilitation and recovery; then the attorney gathers materials from the diagnostician and care providers and communicates on the client’s behalf with medical billing groups, insurance companies, and representatives for the at-fault party. Injured victims have the right to an attorney who advocates for their physical and financial stability and prosperity.

A serious accident warrants a conversation with a personal injury attorney even if the event did not occur recently.

I was recently injured in an accident. What should I do to protect myself and my family?

Many people who are involved in serious accidents in the workplace, on the road, or during their daily routines are unfamiliar with the complex network of policies and standards that govern personal injury law. 

Many who sustain a personal injury or damage to their property are uncertain of their rights and responsibilities. Many of them are also apprehensive about retaining legal representation, or even speaking to an attorney about their experience. Uncertainty about physical health and recovery, medical expenses, insurance coverage, and employment tends to cause anxiety and avoidance. A commonly recurring question is about assessing the severity of an injury before determining whether legal representation is appropriate or necessary. At FVF, our commitment is to respond to any and all questions so that clients’ concerns are fully addressed.

Traumatic accident victims often choose not to seek legal counsel or representation because they assume that resulting issues of medical care and property repair will sort themselves out. Many do not contact a personal injury attorney until serious physical and financial problems have accumulated, at which time resolving the case in a satisfactory manner may be difficult. FVF has the experience to recognize that the sooner we speak to a potential client, the higher the likelihood that we will be able to help him or her.

The first thing that a personal injury attorney will explain to a person who has been involved in a serious accident is that different rules apply to bodily injury and to property damage (e.g., to a car). Medical insurance applies to injured parties, while premises liability insurance or auto insurance may apply to both material and bodily damage. The distinction is relevant whether you were working or not, driving or riding in a vehicle, or moving along on foot. It is further relevant whether you or someone else was the at-fault party.

If you have been injured in an accident wherein responsibility may be allocated to another person, the law protects your right to compensation for your physical and material losses. The most dependable and least stressful way to protect yourself and your family after a serious accident is to speak with a personal injury attorney. A skilled personal injury attorney will begin by educating you about your rights and the basics of your case, helping you to make a plan for legal and physical well-being.

What are my options for paying my medical bills or getting medical care after an injury?

Many personal injury victims, including those who have adequate health insurance coverage, do not seek medical care out of concern for the financial impact on their lives. Many worry about the burden of high deductible costs or co-pays. Nevertheless, you have several options for how to pay for your medical care when your injury was caused by the carelessness of another person. In reaching the conclusion that seeking medical care is a priority, it is important to recognize that the purpose of obtaining legal counsel is to discern the most prudent option.

Personal injury events resulting from an accident tend to get more expensive and more complicated as time goes on and the medical bills come in. The value of a personal injury attorney is that he or she functions as a representative voice on the client’s behalf, communicating directly with hospitals, care providers, and billing agencies. Often the most strategically sound option in the case of medical expenses that have accumulated following a personal injury accident is to speak with an attorney. It is also often the option that provides accident victims with the greatest peace of mind.

Health insurance providers have a contractual right to bring legal action against a negligent person (such as an at-fault driver) for the injuries sustained by a person covered by their policy. This enables them to recover expenses for medical care associated with personal injury. The process is called “subrogation.” In most cases, however, subrogation is both costly and time-consuming for an insurance company. For this reason, many health insurance providers are willing to collaborate with personal injury attorneys who bring legal action against an at-fault party on their client’s behalf. They may even be willing to reduce the “subrogation interest,” which is the amount that the personal injury victim is required to reimburse the health insurance provider once they have recovered damages. Hospitals and other medical providers often work with personal injury patients to defer payment until a legal case has been settled or resolved.

Texas hospitals have a legal right to file what is called a lien in the county where emergency services were provided to a personal injury victim. The purpose of the lien is for the hospital to protect themselves with reference to services provided, and the cost thereof. In the event the personal injury victim is able to reach a settlement or otherwise recover money from the careless person’s insurance, the insurance will not pay the personal injury victim until they know the hospital’s bill has been paid. This lien is very similar to the kind of lien that a bank would rely on if they loaned money to someone to buy a home or a car. The person with the loan could not sell the home or the car without paying the bank back. Similarly, the personal injury victim cannot settle their case with a liability insurance company without paying the hospital back.

Some hospitals unfortunately abuse the lien provision in order to recover more than the cost of their services. A lien against a patient’s settlement can be lucrative for a hospital, especially when the patient is covered by medical insurance. Instead of submitting a claim for the injured person’s medical expenses to the insurance company, which would likely result in reduced billing, the hospital might file a lien, notify the liability car insurance company about the lien, and hold a settlement hostage until the lien has been resolved. Doing so enables many hospitals to make a practice out of recovering more money for each personal injury case than they otherwise would.

A personal injury attorney has the expertise to guide an injured person through the overwhelming process of hospital billing and legal mechanisms like a lien. It is important to note that personal injury victims who wait a long time before taking action on a hospital lien run the risk of losing valuable options. She or he may not be able to compel the hospital to submit the bill to his or her medical insurance company, an option that would potentially save the victim thousands of dollars.

What are my options if the vehicle I depend on every day is damaged by an at-fault driver?

Damage to vehicles and other property is common in traffic accidents and varies in severity. The damage might be as minor as a “fender bender,” or the vehicle may be classified as “totaled,” which is to say wholly beyond repair.

A driver with full “collision coverage,” whose damaged vehicle is covered by their own auto insurance, has more options than a victim who has no coverage, or so-called “liability only” coverage. They have two alternative courses of action in dealing with a damaged vehicle and/or property:

  1. File a claim on the victim’s own auto insurance coverage. This may be a strategically expedient and quick option; however, even full collision coverage policies do not always include a rental car.
  2. Rely on the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. A common obstacle with this alternative is that many drivers have no or only limited insurance coverage. In some cases, this reflects a bad record of safe driving or a pattern of accident involvement/causation. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is permitted to conduct their own investigation of the case, which may result in significant delays.

Drivers without collision coverage depend on the at-fault driver’s liability insurance to compensate them for property damage. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may investigate the claim, which may significantly delay payment for damaged vehicles and property. During this time, however, the driver may not be supplied with a rental car at the insurance company’s expense.

If a traffic accident caused no bodily harm but only property damage, a personal injury attorney is unlikely to develop a case around the event. This is because the value of a property damage case is hardly ever subject to argument. Even a skilled personal injury attorney can do little to increase the assessed value of damaged property since this value figure is determined objectively.

More information about car accidents, personal injury, and property damage is available here.

What are punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit?

Personal injury cases are all different, with unique circumstances and losses. However, one thing that personal injury cases have in common is that someone — and sometimes multiple parties — are responsible for causing harm and loss to someone else. These harms, losses, and expenses are what results in the financial damages awarded to those who have been harmed in personal injury cases. When the actions of the responsible party are especially egregious, such as when the risks of their behavior are glaringly obvious but intentionally ignored, this may be considered gross misconduct. 

Gross misconduct can result in damages called punitive damages, which are designed specifically to punish the perpetrator for their harmful actions, such as in a drunk driving case. Recovering punitive damages often requires extensive investigation to uncover critical information that proves gross misconduct. In many cases, such as in construction accidents or commercial vehicle accidents, the parties who are liable for the accident work very hard to cover up access to this information in the event of a personal injury lawsuit. Injury lawyers should leverage all possible resources to make sure injured clients maintain their power and voice and figure out the proper avenues for recovery.

What information will a personal injury attorney ask for during our first conversation?

While the thought of contacting a personal injury firm may be intimidating or overwhelming, many potential clients find it helpful to know exactly what they will be asked during an initial telephone call with FVF’s friendly staff and attorneys:

  • What happened? Where and when? How many people were involved?
  • Was anyone injured? Did that person(s) require emergency medical care?
  • Did anyone call the police? Were there eyewitnesses, and were their statements noted?
  • What was the nature and extent of the property damage? Are there photos of the damage?
  • Is the injured person(s) still experiencing physical symptoms of injury? Have any follow-up medical appointments been scheduled? If so, with whom and for what? Does the injured person(s) have health insurance?
  • Were any of the drivers involved distracted by alcohol or cellphone use?
  • Have the parties involved been previously involved in traffic accidents? What was the outcome legally of those events?
  • Was a commercial/company vehicle involved in the accident?
  • Did the at-fault driver have auto insurance? Did the injured person have auto insurance? With what company/companies? Are the personal injury protection (PIP) or uninsured motorist (UIM) limits known? Have any of the parties involved spoken with its own or the other party’s auto insurance carrier? Is the at-fault driver’s carrier accepting or disputing fault?
  • Is the victim currently losing earnings due to injuries? Who is currently paying for property damage? Is the victim requiring a rental car?

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