Understanding Texas’ Litigation Process in a Catastrophic Injury Case
This is the next post in our series on the personal injury process in Texas. Our last post discussed the need to retain an attorney for dealing with insurance companies after suffering an injury. We believe that retaining counsel to navigate through the process improves a victim’s chances of recovery. In this article we will discuss the litigation process, which is the stage that a case enters once a lawsuit has been filed. A lawsuit puts the case on track for a jury trial. Efforts can still be made to settle the case, but the attorney begins preparing it for trial. It is important to understand this process and know what to expect when litigation commences.
A Texas personal injury lawsuit begins by filing a petition
The first step in beginning a lawsuit in Texas is to file a document called a “petition”. The petition is filed by the Plaintiff and outlines how the Plaintiff was wronged by the defendant. Depending on the facts of the case, the petition can allege several grounds for the lawsuit. Once the petition is filed with the court, the Defendant will be served with a copy of the petition and a summons. The Defendant then has a certain period of time to respond and file an answer. In many cases, the Defendant turns the petition over to his or her insurance carrier. The insurance carrier will then send the case to its in-house counsel or to a firm that handles such matters on behalf of large insurance companies. The insurance attorneys will then file an answer on behalf of the Defendant.
After the initial pleadings are filed, the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is the process by which each party gains information from the other. This can be done through interrogatories, requests for production of documents or tangible items, subpoenaing of records, depositions, or certain disclosures required by law. There are many different forms of discovery. For example, discovery in a trucking accident can consist of acquiring records of the truck driver’s history (such as driving record, past drug test results, past incidents, etc.), steps taken by the trucking company to ensure that its drivers follow proper safety precautions, and a physical inspection of the truck involved in the wreck. Having counsel who is familiar with this process is crucial to building a case for liability as well as establishing damages. Much of the evidence in the case is developed during discovery.
The question many of our clients have when a case enters litigation is “when will my case go to trial?” Your attorney may not know early in the process. The trial will not occur until discovery is complete. At some point during the lawsuit, the Judge will set a trial date. However, the Court sets a number of different cases for trial on the same date. Thus, it is very possible that you and your attorney may be ready, willing, and able to proceed to trial, but the judge decides to try a different case ahead of yours. If that happens, the Judge typically gives a new trial date one or two months later, but there is a possibility that it could get moved again. It is important to remember that your attorney is experienced with this process and understands how to navigate through the case to protect your interests.
When selecting a personal injury attorney it is important that you select a firm which handles major injury cases and in which the lawyers have substantial experience. You should also determine whether the attorneys are board certified and whether the firm employs a full time investigator. Finally, you should determine whether the firm is large enough to advance court costs and whether the office can devote multiple attorneys to your case. This is true whether you were injured in counties including Tarrant, Dallas, Johnson, and Wise as well as Fort Worth, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Watauga, Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake, Arlington, Keller, Grand Prairie, and Dallas.
Texas injury victims should hire an attorney with the resources to “go the distance”
It is especially important that Texas residents choose the right attorney in a case involving catastrophic injury. Large-scale injury cases can take years to complete and require extensive resources. Such resources will include expenditures for experts, investigative expenses, document fees, etc. Many law firms which hold themselves out as practicing personal injury law lack the resources to take a catastrophic injury case all the way to trial. At Noteboom – The Law Firm we have our own in-house private investigator, video production facilities, mock courtroom, and the resources necessary to take our cases to trial. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a serious injury, contact our lawyers today.