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Texas Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

Important Notice: The following overview of Texas's medical malpractice laws is presented on an as-is basis. This information is believed accurate as of the date of authorship, but is not intended to provide a complete analysis of medical malpractice law and may not reflect subsequent changes in the law. For a full review of Texas's medical malpractice law, or for a determination of how the law applies to a specific incident or injury, please consult a malpractice lawyer licensed to practice in the state of Texas.

Contents

What Is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, sometimes referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider violates the governing standard of care when providing treatment to a patient, causing the patient to suffer an injury. Medical malpractice can result from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis of, or failure to diagnose , a disease or medical condition;
  • Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition;
  • Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition;

Medical malpractice actions can be brought by the injured patient against any responsible licensed health care provider, including doctors, counselors, psychologists and psychotherapists.

Limits on Malpractice Damages

Texas limits noneconomic damages for all doctors and health care practitioners to $250,000.00. Total liability for any one health care facility may not exceed $250,000.00, and total liability for all defendant health care facilities may not exceed $500,000.00. This creates an effective overall damages cap of $750,000.00.

Collateral Source Rule

Under the collateral source rule, a defendant may not seek to reduce its liability by introducing evidence that the plaintiff has received compensation from other sources, such as the plaintiff's own insurance coverage.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

A medical expert witness must be a licensed physician who is practicing medicine and/or has knowledge of the standards of practice relevant to the claims against the defendant.

Joint and Several Liability

Under a traditional rule of joint and several liability, where more than one defendant is found liable for the injury suffered by a plaintiff, each defendant is individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment, such that if one defendant is unable to pay the other defendant or defendants are liable for the entire amount of the judgment. Texas has abolised joint liability for defendants found to be less than 51% at fault for the plaintiff's injury.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within two years of the act or omission giving rise to the injury, but not more than ten years after that date. For injuries to minors below the age of twelve, a malpractice suit must be commenced by the date of the minor's fourteenth birthday.

Limits on Attorney Fees

Texas does not impose special limits on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases.

Additional Rules

At the commencement of litigation a plaintiff must file a $5,000 cost bond, place $5,000 in an escrow account, or file an expert report for each physician or health care provider listed in the complaint attesting to the merits of the claim against that physician or health care provider.

Expert reports are to be submitted by the plaintiff to the defendant and to defense counsel within 120 days of the filing of the complaint.

Why Use A Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice law is a highly technical field of law, and malpractice lawsuits tend to be fiercely defended by well-funded defense firms.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be exceptionally expensive to pursue, with costs often exceeding $100,000.00. Due to the technical skills involved in prosecuting a malpractice claim, the possibility that an inexperienced lawyer may not be sufficiently conversant with the medical issues, or might make a technical error which causes a case to be lost or dismissed, and the very high costs the malpractice law firm typically must advance, an injured patient is very well served by going with a specialist firm.

Even within the specialized practice of medical malpractice law, you will find that some lawyers have subspecialties of practice, for example focusing on surgical errors, misdiagnosis, or birth trauma cases.