Many factors determine the value of a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. Medical expenses that victims have already paid or will have to pay are often factored into award settlements. Rehabilitative care expenses, the value of lost wages, and pain and suffering (often determined based on medical expenses) are also considered. A personal injury lawyer like Cooper Law Firm in Longview Texas will often review many factors with a client before determining the value of a claim. In the past, a defendant’s net worth could often be subject to the discovery process, often affecting the amount of money individuals would seek in court. Previously, the Texas Supreme Court allowed a defendant’s net worth to be submitted to the court as evidence. Now, a new Texas law, SB 735, will make it much more difficult to discover a defendant’s net worth or to use this value as evidence in a case.
In the past, ability to pay was never considered a relevant factor in a personal injury award. The court would only consider the actual injuries a person suffered as the relevant factors in determining the value of a case. However, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, stating that a defendant’s ability to pay damages should also be considered. Critics of this decision worry that wealthier citizens will be targeted by personal injury cases, because of their ability to pay. According to ACE Private Risk Services, wealthier individuals may be targeted in cases where many other individuals are also liable, simply due to their increased ability to pay for their liability. Wealthier individuals may also find themselves engaging in activities that will more likely result in lawsuit. Hiring household support, for instance, can make them more vulnerable to worker’s compensation lawsuits or personal injury lawsuits.
Yet, for victims who have suffered a personal injury, a defendant’s ability to pay can have a huge impact on whether the victim receives compensation for his or her injuries.
The new law would limit the ease with which defendants can seek to discover a defendant’s net worth. SB 735 would only allow a claimant to discover a defendant’s net worth if the claim seems highly likely to result in an award of exemplary damages. The new law also protects defendants from burdensome discovery processes. For those who champion privacy, the new law is a win. Yet, for victims of personal injury, the new law means that a substantial and potentially winning case will have to be presented to the court before the full discovery process will be allowed to proceed.
How will the court determine a substantial likelihood of success? The claimant must submit evidence for review and the court will make a determination. Lawyers seeking to ensure that victims and their families receive the full damages their client deserves will be required to present a sound case to ensure that the discovery process can proceed unimpeded.

Should a defendant’s net worth be a factor in a personal injury case? The issue is one that is fraught with concerns about power, privilege, privacy, and class. The Texas legislature, however, has made a clear decision that protects wealthy individuals during the discovery process. For personal injury victims, finding a skilled law firm such as to build a strong case has never been more important.

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