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Stages of a Texas Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit

When you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident and your attempts to negotiate with the property owner's insurance company for compensation have failed, it may be time to file a lawsuit. In Texas, slip-and-fall lawsuits have very specific requirements.

You should strongly consider consulting with a knowledgeable Texas premises liability attorney to evaluate your case. The attorney will help you determine whether you can prove a key element for recovering damages in a Texas slip and fall: whether someone else was 50 percent or more at fault. If the facts show that you are 50 percent or more at fault for your own injury, you cannot recover any compensation under Texas law.

The first thing that a person filing a lawsuit (the petitioner) needs to do is draft and file a petition with the proper court. In Texas, not every court has jurisdiction over every type of case.

Texas courts require what is known as fact pleading. That means that you have to give the specific facts of what happened, as well as show that those facts match the elements of liability for your type of case. If you fail in this important step, your case will be dismissed by the court.

The elements of a Texas slip-and-fall case include:

  • That the owner of the property where you were injured owed a duty of care to you and failed to live up to that duty.
  • That the property owner's failure to exercise proper care was a direct cause of your injury.
  • That you suffered some sort of verifiable damages as a result of the injury. These can include medical bills, lost wages, and other items. Some of these items are known as special damages and must be mentioned separately in your lawsuit petition.
  • Once your petition has been filed, the party you're suing (the defendant) will have to answer your allegations in a formal response to the court. The defendant may make various motions at this time as well, all of which must be answered by the petitioner.

    The Discovery Stage

    Now the case is ready for discovery. In this stage, the petitioner and defendant ask each other for information about the case. The petitioner may have to supply copies of his or her medical records, for example. The defendant may be asked for copies of any written policies about maintenance of the area where you fell. You may be required to submit to a medical exam.

    The defendant will probably also ask the court for permission to take your deposition. This is a formal process where the defendant's lawyers will ask you questions about the facts of the case, your medical history, and other issues. Your lawyer will be there to help you, but you must give your own answers.

    After the discovery process is complete, each side will likely file more motions for the court to rule on. In some instances, the court may require the sides to work with a mediator or to negotiate on their own to try to settle the case.

    Going to Trial in a Texas Slip & Fall

    If there are issues remaining, the case will be set for trial. The judge, usually with a jury, will hear all of the evidence and arguments from each side and make a decision as to whether the defendant is liable for your injuries. If so, the court will then determine how much you are entitled to receive from the defendant in damages. You won't automatically get everything you asked for in your petition. If the court feels your request is too high based on your actual damages, you may get less than you asked for.

    It's important to note that in situations where there is more than one defendant if any defendant is found to be at least 50 percent liable, that defendant can be required to pay the entire amount of damages awarded to you. This is known as joint and severable liability.

    At the conclusion of the case, if you win and the court awards you damages, the defendant may file an appeal to ask a higher court to overturn the verdict based on some error the trial judge may have made. Even if the appeal does not succeed, it could significantly delay your receiving the money you were awarded.

    Even once the case is completely over, that doesn't always mean the defendant will just write you a check. In some cases, your lawyer may have to pursue the payment by various means in order to collect the money you're owed.