Concepts To Know About Medical Malpractice

In addition to proving a claim for medical malpractice, there are various concepts to be familiar with when attempting to bring suit against a health care provider. We will discuss a number of these below.

Statute Of Limitations

In order to prevail on a claim, the claim must be brought within what is referred to as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a period within which a claim must be brought, and this time period varies for different types of claims. In the context of medical malpractice in Texas, a claim must be brought within two years from the occurrence of the breach or tort or from the completion of treatment or hospitalization.

However, in the case of minors whose claims accrued prior to their 18th birthday, the Texas Supreme Court has held that minors may bring suit at any time until the age of 20. Also, if the injury could not reasonably be discovered, the clock only begins to run once the injury was or reasonably could have been discovered.

Contributory Or Comparative Negligence

A second concept to be familiar with is the concept of contributory or comparative negligence. Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. What this means is that a plaintiff is only barred from recovering if his or her percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent. This standard differs from that of other states that bar recovery if the plaintiff was 50 percent responsible or those states that bar recovery if the plaintiff was at all at fault, even if his or her percentage of fault was 1 percent. This concept doesn't come up often in the context of medical malpractice, but it can apply — for example, if a plaintiff does not follow treatment protocol.

Vicarious Liability

A third concept to know about is the concept of vicarious liability. This is the idea that an employer can be liable for the torts committed by his or her employees. This concept is particularly applicable in the context of medical malpractice cases when a plaintiff attempts to bring suit against a hospital for the wrongdoing of its doctors. It is important to be able to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor in this context. Generally, an employer will not be liable for the torts of an independent contractor. In considering whether someone is an employee or independent contractor, the court will look at an array of factors, including the amount of control the employer had, the length of the employment, the level of expertise the hired party has, who supplies the tools and place of work, etc.

Damage Caps

Finally, it's important to be aware of the damage caps Texas has. There are three such caps:

  • For medical malpractice actions filed on or after September 1, 2003, non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 from all doctors. Also, non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 from each hospital or other institution and a total of $500,000 from all institutions.
  • For medical malpractice actions for wrongful death, all damages, including both economic and non-economic damages, are limited to $500,000. The cap is adjusted annually for inflation and is now approximately $1,650,000.
  • Finally, for actions based on intentional criminal conduct, exemplary damages are limited to the larger of the following amounts: non-economic damages (up to a maximum of $750,000) plus two times economic damages or $200,000.

Contact Our Firm For More Information

If you have been injured or think you may have been injured because of the malpractice of a doctor or hospital, contact our lawyers for a free and confidential case evaluation. Call 713-352-7883 or 877-643-3099 toll free or complete our contact form.