The basics of medical malpractice in Texas

Many patients in Texas and around the nation feel uncertain about the safety of their health care. Unfortunately, these concerns may be valid - perhaps even more so than many people may think. A recent issue of the Journal of Patient Safety released information from a new study that indicates more people than thought before die as a result of some sort of error or negligence in a hospital visit.

The research conducted by Patient Safety America estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 deaths annually can be contributed to a hospital error. That number is far higher than the previous 98,000 estimated to be the standard count.

Accuracy of data and reporting

If the numbers reported by Patient Safety America are accurate, hospital errors then become the third leading cause of American deaths, following heart disease as the number one and cancer as the number two cause.

Certainly the range of 210,000 to 440,000 is rather large. The variance is due to the challenges that abound in obtaining accurate information and data. A member of the Johns Hopkins Hospital medical school faculty was reported to say that hospitals and providers are so fearful of lawsuits or pushed so aggressively to make and report profits that many errors go unreported.

Texas laws regarding medical malpractice

Patients who have been injured may have the right to seek compensation under statutes governing medical malpractice claims. The laws surrounding these claims vary greatly from state to state. Texas has a strict statute of limitations as well as caps on damages that can be awarded. Highlight of the Texas laws, which were amended in 2003, include:

  • Claims must be initiated within two years of the date of injury or of completion of treatment.
  • There is no "discovery rule" meaning that if an error is discovered after the two-year statute has run, a plaintiff can only file a claim if he or she can prove that the injury was fraudulently covered up.
  • For an error involving a minor, the two-year statute of limitations begins on his or her eighteenth birthday.
  • A maximum of $500,000 can be awarded for a wrongful death; that number is allowed to be adjusted for inflation.
  • A maximum of $250,000 per claimant is allowed for non-economic damages.

For claims that involve both providers and medical facilities, the maximum damage award is $750,000 with $500,000 maximum from all facilities combined and $250,000 maximum from individual providers.

Options for patients

If you believe that you or someone you know has been the victim of a medical error, it is important that you seek appropriate legal counsel promptly. This is the case no matter the severity of the personal injury.

In addition to the two-year statute of limitations, there are clear laws regarding the timing of claim filing and expert reports to initiate the process. There are many nuances that can affect a potential medical malpractice suit and discussing your case with a professional is the best way for you to determine the right action.