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What does that mean?  Defining Personal Injury Words In Texas. 

Part 1

When consulting with clients about their personal injury claim, I am often met with faces of confusion and uncertainty as the words used in personal injury claims and personal injury lawsuits are not ones familiar to most clients. Because of this, it is difficult for clients to understand the status or phase of their personal injury claim or lawsuit, which makes it even more of a hurdle to provide easily understandable updates to clients. To help with this issue, I am writing one of many blogs that define some of the terms used in a Texas personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit.  

My goal is to provide as much information as possible so that everyone can have a better understanding of legal terms, which will also help with understanding the legal system while battling a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Here are the first ten definitions and I welcome all to respond with any legal terms they would like explained in another blog. 

  1. Plaintiff – This is the person, or entity, that files the personal injury lawsuit which begins the litigation of the case to be heard in court. Most often in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is the person or entity injured, which is our client. The plaintiff asks the court to hear the case which will be decided by either a judge or jury during a trial. 

  1. Defendant – This is the person, or entity, that caused the injury to the plaintiff. The defendant receives a copy of the lawsuit and is asked to provide a copy to their insurance company to provide a defense. The truth is, the person who caused the personal injury is not being sued if they have insurance, their insurance company will provide them with a defense.   

  1. Claim – This term is often confused with a personal injury lawsuit. Let’s be clear, a personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit are two very different things. A personal injury claim is when an insurance company receives notice of a person’s injury and a claim number is then assigned. We send a follow up with a formal written notice of representation to the insurance company. The notice of representation instructs the insurance company to no longer communicate with our client and directs the insurance company to only communicate with our firm regarding the personal injury claim.  

  1. Lawsuit – A personal injury lawsuit is not to be confused with a personal injury claim. When a personal injury claim cannot be resolved after sending a demand and all offers have been rejected by the client, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. A personal injury lawsuit may also be filed to prevent the two-year statute of limitations from expiring on a personal injury claim. In Texas, most lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the injury, however, there are some exceptions. A personal injury lawsuit can eventually lead to trial, but is not guaranteed. 

  1. Petition –The first document to begin a personal injury lawsuit is the petition, often titled as the Plaintiff’s Original Petition (POP) (link to the life cycle blog). This document is drafted by our firm for the plaintiff and filed with the appropriate court. The POP provides a brief description of the injury and an estimated amount for damages. After a copy of the petition is filed with the court, a process server delivers a copy to the defendant.  

  1. Demand – A demand is a document drafted by our office which may include a copy of the client’s medical bills and records, photos of vehicle damages, photos of the scene, photos of injuries, and the police report. The demand includes the claim number, our client’s name, the name of the person who caused the injury, a deadline for the insurance company to respond to the demand, and an amount to settle the claim. The written copy of the demand is then sent to the insurance adjuster to review and respond.  

  1. Discovery – Discovery is the phase of a personal injury lawsuit where requests for responses to questions, documents, and depositions are made. Discovery only takes place during the litigation phase of a personal injury lawsuit. Discovery takes place after the Plaintiff’s Original Petition (POP) has been filed with the court and the defendant has filed their answer. I often refer to this part of the case as “the paper game” because so much paper is exchanged between the plaintiff and defendant. The plaintiff and defendant may also agree to work to resolve the personal injury claim through mediation during the discovery phase of the personal injury lawsuit.  

  1. Deposition – A deposition usually takes place after a personal injury lawsuit has been filed and also occurs during the discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit. A deposition is testimony that is sworn to be the truth, just as if the person giving the deposition were in court. Being dishonest with responses during a deposition is called perjury and carries the same penalties as if the testimony were given in court. A deposition can be taken in person or by Zoom and can be taken with or without a video recording. Personal injury depositions can be stressful, but this testimony is in a more informal setting, usually in a conference room at an attorney’s office.  

  1. Mediation – Mediation takes place during the discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit, most often occurring after written communication has been completed. A neutral mediator is chosen and agreed to by both sides to listen to the facts of the case from both sides and work to get the case resolved. Clients are able to participate and attend the mediation but their attendance is not required, unless requested to do so. Personal injury clients should always be notified of all scheduled mediations regarding their personal injury lawsuit. Quite often, a client’s attendance is not required, but clients should be available to discuss all offers provided during the mediation to allow the client to determine if the offer will be accepted or rejected in a timely manner. Mediations can be done in person, but may take place by Zoom.  

  1. Declaration Page – This is sometimes referred to as the “dec page.” The declarations page is a document in an insurance policy that provides the dollar amounts of the insurance limits and coverage for an insurance policy. Coverage can be such things as collision, personal injury protection (PIP), or underinsured/uninsured motorists (UM/UIM) coverage. This document should always be provided to the insured by the insurance company when a policy begins.  

Unfortunately, most insurance adjusters representing the person who caused the personal injury will not confirm the policy limits of their insured during negotiations. One way to confirm the insurance limits of the person who caused the personal injury is if the insurance company offers their insured’s policy limits and provides their declarations page. Another way is to file a personal injury lawsuit.  

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