As patients, we must trust doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to provide us with the care we need. Unfortunately, however, mistakes can be made along the way, which can cause a catastrophic injury or even death. Over 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to medical error, according to a Johns Hopkins study.
Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., just behind cancer and heart disease. When a trusted medical professional’s negligence injures a patient, it can be devastating for those involved. Contact our Texas medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation.
Medical malpractice can occur whenever a doctor, nurse, hospital, rehabilitation facility, or other health care provider acts below the requisite standard of care. As a result, patients can be severely injured or even killed by such negligence. Negligence by a medical professional can happen through the actions of the professional or through their failure to act. Medical malpractice can often result from diagnostic error or an error in medical treatment, health management, or aftercare treatment. Multiple parties may be legally responsible for malpractice damages.
In many medical malpractice claims, it is extremely challenging for patients to win. Doctors, hospitals, or any other medical professional, along with their insurance companies, will have a team of lawyers and experts to fight vigorously on their behalf. Their goal is to maintain a record free of any settlements or awards for medical negligence. Two of the most significant hurdles for patients to overcome are proving that a healthcare provider’s conduct amounted to medical negligence and convincing a jury that the healthcare provider was wrong. Increasing your chances of success will often involve exhaustive efforts to:
Finding a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer to represent you will be crucial to proving your claim. They will have the resources needed to make a strong case that the medical provider deviated from the standard of care expected of them. Additionally, the costs of pursuing a medical malpractice claim are extensive. If you do it on your own, you will be responsible for these costs out-of-pocket. However, many medical malpractice attorneys are willing to cover those expenses upfront, so there is no risk to you.
Many different scenarios can give rise to a claim for medical malpractice exist; however, the most common causes include:
Misdiagnosis: This can occur when a doctor or physician examines the patient, but delivers an incorrect diagnosis of their illness or finds no discernible illness. Misdiagnosis prevents the patient from receiving the right treatment or leaves them receiving a treatment they do not need.
Delayed Diagnosis: Though similar to misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis refers to an initially incorrect diagnosis and a subsequent correct diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis can worsen a patient’s condition due to not receiving the necessary treatment timely.
Surgical Errors: Surgical errors significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. While a patient may sign an informed consent document acknowledging the risks of surgical complications or even death, not all medical negligence claims can be disclaimed. The doctor responsible for the patient can still not cause harm to, fatally injure, or perform an incorrect operation on the patient.
Birth Injury: Birth injuries are often the most devastating types of medical malpractice. In certain cases, birth injuries can result in the death of an infant or its mother. Negligence resulting in a birth injury can occur during prenatal care or during childbirth. Birth injuries often result in the need for lifelong medical care, which can wind up costing patients thousands. Common birth injuries include:
Medical Products Liability: A poorly designed medical device can cause or contribute to medical malpractice. When faulty devices do not work as they should, they can injure patients. In other cases, a patient’s medical condition can worsen due to a defective medical device not providing promised health benefits.
Prescription Medication Errors: Often one of the most common forms of medical malpractice, a prescription error occurs when a treating provider administers the wrong medication and/or the incorrect dosage of a medication. Prescription drug errors can also result from failure to recognize drug interactions and premature discontinuation of treatment.
Before you can file a medical malpractice claim in Texas, you must provide written notice of the claim at least 60 days ahead of time to each healthcare provider named as a defendant in the lawsuit. (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 74.051) In addition, you are required to include an expert’s report on each defendant within 120 days after filing. This report is similar to an affidavit of merit, which is an expert witness’s sworn statement that a medical malpractice claim has merit. The expert report must include:
Failing to provide the expert report within 120 days of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can result in the case being dismissed.
Victims of medical negligence can commonly recover the following types of compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim:
Economic damages are awarded to reimburse actual financial losses, such as:
Non-economic damages include incalculable or subjective losses, such as:
Additionally, a patient may be able to recover punitive damages if the healthcare provider exhibited extreme recklessness or egregious behavior.
Texas does limit the amount of compensation a patient can receive in a medical malpractice case for their non-economic damages. Those laws are as follows:
The law does not provide a formula for placing a dollar value on non-economic damages. So it is ultimately up to an insurance company or jury to determine their worth on a case-by-case basis.
There are generally four elements that must be proven to successfully pursue a case of medical malpractice in Texas:
A doctor/patient relationship must be proven to establish that a duty was owed. This means that you saw the healthcare provider in a professional capacity to receive medical treatment.
Proof that the healthcare provider breached their duty by violating the required standard of care. This means that the provider’s actions or failure to act do not match what another reasonable healthcare professional would have done in a similar situation.
You must be able to demonstrate how the medical provider’s negligence directly led to your injury or illness and that it would not have occurred otherwise.
The injury or illness resulted in significant economic and/or non-economic damages (losses) as a result of the injury (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc.)
The success of most medical malpractice cases hinges on the definition of the “standard of medical care” required under the circumstances and proving the provider deviated from it. The reason is that some complications are simply due to the risks involved with treatment rather than negligence. Testimony from a medical expert is usually needed to establish what the standard was in your specific case.
Texas has a statute of limitations, which is a law that limits the amount of time medical malpractice victims have to file a claim. In most cases, you have two years from either
The state also has a statute of repose, which means patients have a maximum of 10 years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit from when the incident of medical negligence occurred, no matter when the injury is discovered or when long-term treatment stops. Filing beyond this deadline will result in your case being dismissed, and you will be unable to recover any compensation. Several scenarios may temporarily stop the clock and extend this deadline. These circumstances can include:
In these cases, the clock will begin to run once the victim turns 18, becomes mentally competent, or once the accused party returns to Texas. However, when a case involves a child under the age of 12, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed on their behalf by their 14th birthday.
Many medical malpractice lawyers, including Ramsey Law Group, handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no legal fees charged upfront, and you only owe money if you successfully settle your case or receive an award. In addition, if you do not recover compensation, you do not have to pay for your attorney’s services and representation. As a result, you do not have to risk any money out-of-pocket.
In the majority of cases, a medical malpractice lawyer will deduct one-third or 33.3% of your awarded compensation. So, for example, if a settlement yields $100,000, your lawyer will keep about $33,000 as their fee for representing you, plus court costs and expenses.
Houston medical malpractice victims and their loved ones suffer due to the negligence of others they should be able to trust. If you or someone you know has been a victim of medical malpractice in the Houston area, contact the experienced Texas trial attorneys at Ramsey Law Group today to discuss your claim.