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Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider-such as a doctor, nurse or hospital-is negligent and deviates from the standards of good medical practice. If that occurs and you are injured as a result, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In determining whether the healthcare professional followed the standards of good medical practice (also known as the standard of care), the judge or jury hearing your case will look at the generally accepted method of treating patients in your area with similar medical problems. For example, the standard of care for a 90-year-old heart attack patient in Texas would not necessarily be the same as the standard of care for a 45-year-old heart attack patient in New York. At trial, your med mal lawyer must prove not only that the healthcare provider's act or omission was a mistake, but also that this mistake injured you. In other words, you probably do not have a valid medical malpractice claim if your doctor treated you according to the medical standard of care in your area in Texas. And you probably would not have a valid medical malpractice claim if you were not harmed by the doctor's treatment, even if it did violate the standard of care.
Under Texas law, you have two years from the date of your injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for your injuries. (This time limit is known as the statute of limitations.) Before filing a lawsuit, your medical malpractice lawyer will usually try to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
If a medical malpractice lawsuit goes in your favor, you will be entitled to damages. Damages are monetary awards to compensate you for your injuries. These damages can take many forms including economic damages, which reimburse you for medical bills and lost wages due to missed days at work. They can also be non-economic damages, which include payment for pain and suffering. In some instances, there can even be punitive damages, which are meant to punish a healthcare professional who commits malpractice out of maliciousness.
According to Texas malpractice law, there are caps that limit the amount of damages a plaintiff (the injured patient filing the lawsuit) can try to get from the defendant (the medical provider being sued).
Texas places a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for all doctors and other individual healthcare providers. There is also a $250,000 non-economic damages cap placed on each hospital. In total, for all hospitals and other institutions, there is a $500,000 non-economic damages cap. This means that if you file suit against a doctor, the most you can try to claim for non-economic damages is $250,000, while the most you can claim from any one hospital is $250,000 as well.
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be very complex. Unlike other types of lawsuits, medical malpractice claims rely on both advanced medical and legal expertise in order to be proven. Oftentimes, this requires the use of expensive expert witnesses, who must pour over your medical information to try to determine if malpractice has actually taken place.
Although many of these cases do settle, your claim may take months if not years to resolve. Be prepared to wait a long time for a resolution should you decide to file a Texas medical malpractice lawsuit.
Given the above, your first step is to consult a local attorney to understand you rights and protect your interests. These initial consultations are usually complimentary. If the attorney, after investigating the matter, believes there is a viable med mal claim then the attorney will likely be hired on a contingency basis.