Texas Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Get an overview of the laws governing personal injury lawsuits in Texas.
If you’re part of a personal injury lawsuit or insurance settlement in Texas, a number of state laws may come into play at some point in your case. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at some of Texas’s personal injury laws.
Time Limits on Personal Injury Lawsuits in Texas
All states have imposed statutory limits on the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of harm. These deadlines vary depending on what type of case you want to file, but in general this kind of law is called a statute of limitations.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives you two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit in the state’s civil court system. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Title 2 section 16.003.)
It’s important to understand and adhere to this rule. If you don’t get your lawsuit filed before the two-year window closes, the Texas civil court system will likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future, and your right to compensation will be lost.
Texas Shared Fault Rules
In some personal injury cases, the person or business that you are filing a claim against argues that you are actually to blame (at least partially) for the incident that led to your injuries.
If you do share some degree of liability, it can end up affecting the total amount of compensation you can receive from other at-fault parties.
In shared fault injury cases, Texas follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” To put this rule in the simplest of terms, it means that the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault. But if you’re found to bear more than 50 percent of the legal blame, you can’t collect anything at all from other at-fault parties.
Here is an example of how it works. You are rear-ended at a stoplight, but one of your brake lights isn’t working at the time. During a civil trial, the jury decides that you were 25 percent at fault for the accident, while the other driver was 75 percent to blame. Your damages add up to $20,000. How does your share of the fault affect your compensation? Under Texas's modified comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $15,000 (or the $20,000 total minus the $5,000 that represents your share of fault for the accident.)
Texas courts are obligated to follow this rule in an injury lawsuit that makes it to trial, and don't be surprised if the other side’s insurance adjuster raises the issue of Texas’s comparative negligence rule during settlement talks.
Owner Liability For Injury by a Dog or Other Animal
There is no specific statute in Texas governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner “should have known” the animal was dangerous. This is known as the “one bite” rule.
Caps on Injury Damages in Texas
Some states place limits on the types of damages that an injured person can receive after a successful personal injury trial.
In Texas, statutory limitations on damages only apply to medical malpractice cases. These caps are too complex to fully explain here, but in most medical malpractice cases, non-economic damages (such as those meant to compensate for pain and suffering) are limited to $250,000 per defendant, and $500,000 overall. For medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death in Texas, there is a cap that is indexed for inflation. The cap started out at $500,000 back in 1977, but with the inflation adjustment it is now over $1.9 million. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. Section 74.303 (b)).
Remember, these caps do not apply to all personal injury cases across the board, only those stemming from medical malpractice.
Injury Claims Against the Texas Government
If your injury case involves the potential liability of a government entity or employee in Texas -- you slipped and fell on an improperly maintained stairway in a state-owned building, for example -- you cannot simply file a lawsuit against the government.
Instead, you need to file a formal claim with the governmental unit that you believe may be responsible for causing your injury, and the claim needs to be filed within 6 months of the underlying incident. The claim should include a description of the damage or injury, the time and place of the incident, and a summary account of what happened. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.101.)