Q: Do I have a strong case?
Whether or not you have a strong case depends on a variety of factors, including the nature and extent of your injuries or property damage, who is at fault and whether the defendant has sizable assets or adequate insurance coverage, and how long ago the accident or injury occurred. An attorney can evaluate your case in light of these and other factors, and give you a realistic assessment of what you can expect.
Q: I have fully recovered from my injuries. Do I still have a case?
Absolutely. Even if you have fully recovered from your injuries, you are still entitled to compensation for injuries caused by another’s negligence.
Q: How long will my lawsuit take?
This, too, depends on many factors. Most cases settle prior to trial, but if a settlement is not reached, your case will progress through discovery and trial which can take a year or longer in many jurisdictions. Additionally, you may not want to resolve your case too quickly if you are still seeking medical treatment and all of the related expenses have not yet been calculated.
Q: What is my role in the lawsuit?
Your attorney will take care of all of the legal aspects of your case. You may be asked to participate in discovery by answering written questions or giving oral testimony in a deposition. If your case goes to trial, you will likely be expected to appear in court. Throughout the duration of your case, you must obtain appropriate medical care and make your doctor, physical therapy, or other appointments.
Q: What kind of legal fees should I expect in a personal injury case?
Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, PC typically charges their clients on a “Contingent Fee” basis. That means you pay Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, PC only if you win. We are paid a percentage of the total amount recovered and the expenses of investigating and litigating your case, such as the fee to file your lawsuit, and payments to investigators, court reporters, and medical or liability experts, as well as the expenses of securing medical records and reports. Our typical contract provides that no fee or expenses will be owed to Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, PC unless there is a recovery for your claim.
Q: What can I expect after the first consultation?
If Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, PC believes your claim has merit and is one you can recover on, then, after you have signed the contract, we will proceed to gather information about your claim. In order to arrive at a figure for damages, we will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, the cost of medical treatment, and lost wages. We will then provide your damages figure to the insurer of the person who injured you. If the insurer considers it a valid claim, the case may be resolved early on and won’t have to be tried in court. If the case cannot be resolved early on, then typically a lawsuit is filed and we try your case before a jury.
Q: What does it mean to settle a case?
Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for voluntarily dismissing your action against the person who injured you. You’ll actually sign a full and final release absolving the other side of any further liability. Many cases are settled before trial, so don’t be surprised if your case never goes to trial. After all, the purpose of most tort suits is to recover money from the person who caused the harm. Often, it benefits both sides from an economic and a personal standpoint to resolve the legal dispute without a trial. Many issues need to be considered when deciding whether an offer to settle a case should be accepted. Although we will be able to provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful, the decision to accept a settlement offer is yours. Remember also that settlement can take place at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed, including before trial or even after a case has been tried but before a jury reaches a verdict.
Q: What happens if I file a lawsuit?
You become the plaintiff in the case, and the person who you sue becomes the defendant. As your lawyer we begin gathering facts through exchange of documents, written questions (interrogatories) or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases are settled before trial. Of the cases that do go to trial, most plaintiffs ask for a jury to hear their case, but judges can decide personal injury cases as well. If a judge will decide your case, it is known as a bench trial.
Q: What if more than one person has caused my injury?
You must bring an action against every person who caused your injury. The negligence of two drivers, for example, may have produced a collision in which you were injured as you walked across a street. According to traditional legal principles, each driver could be held 100 percent liable to you. In a more recent legal trend, however, Texas law has limited such joint and several liability and each defendant, known legally as a joint tortfeasor, becomes responsible for only that proportion of the harm he or she caused. This is the rule of comparative negligence, which exists in Texas.
Q: What will I get if I win my case?
If you win, a judge or jury awards you money, known as damages, for your injuries. Damages may include compensation for such expenses as medical bills and lost wages, as well as compensation for future wage losses. It also may compensate you for medical expenses and for pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, impairment or disfigurement that resulted from your injury. In some states, the judge may change the amount awarded if the award is excessive or inadequate.
Q: Will I have to take any extra steps to get my money?
Maybe. An award of damages does not necessarily translate into hard cash, especially if the person who caused your injury does not carry insurance or is underinsured. If you prevail in a trial, the other side may pursue an appeal which could stay satisfaction of a judgment. Additionally, you may have to take further legal steps actually to collect the money. For example, if a defendant against whom you have won a judgment does not pay it, you may have to initiate collection proceedings. If the defendant owns property, you may be able to foreclose on it.
Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, PC has offices located in Houston and
Lufkin Texas and serves clients throughout East Texas as well as many
*Principal office in Lufkin, Texas