If you live, work, or frequently travel in Texas, you may at some point find yourself on the receiving end of a personal injury lawsuit. Although driving defensively can help you avoid most accidents, some may be inevitable -- whether rear-ending a vehicle that suddenly brakes in front of you or losing control of your vehicle after it briefly leaves the roadway. With rising healthcare expenses, the emergency care and physical therapy that could potentially result from even a fender bender or other minor car accident can exceed your insurance limits, subjecting you to liability for damages not covered by your auto insurance policy. However, two Texas laws have recently changed and could offer you some possible protections if you find yourself being sued. Read on to learn more about these legal changes and what they could mean for you.
Laws changing when you can be sued by an out-of-state plaintiff
In the past, there was a Texas law prohibiting defendants from requesting that a lawsuit be dismissed when filed by an out-of-state resident for an accident that took place outside of Texas. Because the personal injury laws in Texas can be more generous than in other states, some potential plaintiffs will specifically seek out a Texas personal injury suit by targeting local residents to be involved in at-fault or no-fault accidents. You may even find yourself the victim of an auto insurance scam like the "swoop and squat" once a scam artist notices that your vehicle has Texas plates.
However, this prohibition on requesting dismissal of lawsuits filed by out-of-state plaintiffs was recently overturned, and there will now be much stricter limits governing which non-Texas residents are permitted to file personal injury or wrongful death claims against Texas residents. This can help prevent you from being victimized by auto insurance scam artists simply due to your Texas residency and can also protect your assets if you do happen to get into a crash that is your fault while traveling outside Texas. If you're sued by an out-of-state defendant, you may opt to defend the lawsuit in Texas, or request dismissal of the case and wait for the plaintiff to file it in his or her home state.
Laws protecting your personal information during the discovery process
When a personal injury lawsuit has been filed against you, the plaintiff may serve documents to you or your lawyer requesting certain documents or answers to specific questions, called "discovery." These discovery documents can seek information on your personal assets, and you may be required by law to give up this information. If you have substantial assets at your disposal and relatively low auto insurance limits, the plaintiff may refuse to settle for an amount lower than he or she feels you can afford, holding out for an even larger settlement or court judgment than they would for a defendant with fewer assets.
Another change in Texas law should help protect you from having to provide certain sensitive or personal financial information until it's clear that you're liable for the plaintiff's injuries and all that remains is to determine the amount of damages. In the past, plaintiffs would request this financial information at the very beginning of the case to determine whether your net worth made you a good target for serious or extended litigation, or whether they should just settle the case without a trial. This law has now been changed to permit discovery of this evidence only when it's clear that the plaintiff has demonstrated his or her right to be compensated for injuries or other expenses from you and your insurance company, usually late in the process.
If you have been in an auto or motorcycle accident and need help navigating the complex legal process, try visiting a site like http://www.hinklelawoffices.com to find a lawyer to represent you.