Texas Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

Time limits to file a Texas personal injury lawsuit in court, the state's "modified comparative negligence" rule, and more.

Updated by , J.D.

A Texas personal injury claim can arise from almost any kind of harm caused by negligence or wrongful conduct, including car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and dog bites, to name just a few examples.

Whether you're making an injury-related insurance claim In Texas, or you're headed to court to file a personal injury lawsuit, the state laws we'll discuss here could have a big impact on your case.

What is Texas' Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits?

All states have placed limits on the amount of time you have to go to civil court and file a lawsuit after you've suffered some type of harm. These deadlines vary depending on what type of case you want to file, but the law that sets the time limit 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 section 16.003.)

What Happens If I Miss the Texas Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you don't get your lawsuit filed before the two-year window closes, it's a near certainty that once you do try to file it:

  • the person or business you're trying to sue will file a motion to dismiss your lawsuit, pointing out that you've missed the filing deadline, and
  • the court will grant the motion, dismiss your case, and your right to compensation will be lost.

Clearly a harsh result, and one that only illustrates the importance of complying with the statute of limitations deadline.

Can the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended In Texas?

The filing deadline could be extended (or a different timeline could apply) in certain circumstances, including:

  • when the injured person was "under a legal disability"—meaning they were under the age of 18 or "of unsound mind" according to Texas law—at the time of the injury; here, the two-year statute of limitations "clock" probably won't start running until the person turns 18 or becomes mentally competent. (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.001)
  • if, before the lawsuit can be filed, the at-fault party leaves the state; in this situation, the period of absence likely won't be counted as part of the two-year period. (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.063).

Talk to an experienced Texas attorney for details on how the statute of limitations applies to your situation.

How Do I File a Texas Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Your personal injury lawsuit will almost always be filed in one of the more than 400 Texas "district" courts, which have jurisdiction over most civil trials in the state. Each county in Texas is served by at least one district court, and chances are you'll file your lawsuit in the district court that serves the county where the person you're suing lives, or in the county where your injury occurred.

Wherever it's filed, your Texas personal injury lawsuit will typically start with:

  • the filing of a "petition" with the court, which states your claims against the defendant (the person or business you're holding responsible for your injuries), and
  • "service of citation," which lets the defendant know they're being sued.

Learn more about Civil Litigation in Texas (from TexasLawHelp.org).

What If My Injury Involved Government Negligence In Texas?

If your injury was caused by the negligence of an employee or agency of the government in Texas—you slipped and fell on an improperly maintained stairway in a state-owned building, for example—you'll need to play by a different set of rules if you want to get compensation for your losses. You can't simply file a lawsuit against the government, in other words. Learn more about making an injury claim against the government in Texas.

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Injury In Texas?

In some personal injury cases, the person or business you're filing a claim against will argue 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," meaning 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.

How Does the Texas Comparative Negligence Rule Work?

Let's say 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 25-percent 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 injury settlement negotiations.

Does Texas Have a Personal Injury Damages Cap?

Some states place limits on the types of damages 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. Learn more about Texas medical malpractice laws and lawsuit requirements.

Get More Information on Texas Personal Injury Cases

This article provides an overview of laws that could come into play in a personal injury case in Texas. You can also learn more about:

Of course, some situations call for more than just information. For a full understanding of your best course of action after an injury, learn how to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.

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