Medical Malpractice in Texas

Each state regulates medical malpractice claims with a special set of laws. In Texas, the law is called Chapter 74 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code. It defines malpractice cases as healthcare liability claims. Chapter 74 is the result of revisions in malpractice regulation that were enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2003.

Most citizens become angry when they learn how Texas healthcare liability claims are regulated. They are justified in feeling this way. The fact is that the law was specifically designed to help insulate medical providers and hospital corporations from legal accountability in the courts. This is accomplished with artificial hurdles and limits imposed on the victim of malpractice in Texas.  A couple of examples include:

Caps on Non-Economic Damages Available to the Victim of Medical Malpractice

Noneconomic damages include pain, mental/emotional anguish, physical disability, disfigurement, and loss of consortium. For example, the damage a victim experiences when they are rendered wheelchair-bound as a result of a negligent surgeon is physical disability. The loss a mother feels in her heart when she loses a child to a doctor’s mistake is mental anguish. In Texas, this type of injury is capped by Chapter 74 to just $250,000 for the negligent doctor. It does not matter if 2 or 10 additional doctors were negligent…the cap stays at $250,000. It also does not matter if there are 10 plaintiffs in the case…the cap is still $250,000. Sometimes the cap can be doubled to $500,000 if a hospital and a doctor are negligent. Nevertheless, the cap level is inadequate when one considers the dramatic impact on families that medical malpractice can impose. Lastly, it is important to note that these caps are applied only to those cases with extensive, legitimate damages and proven medical error. In other words, only the most victimized patients are subjected to the cap.

There is an important side effect of damage caps in Texas medical malpractice cases. After the caps were enacted by the legislature, the professional liability insurance companies insuring physicians began to reduce their coverage. Texas physicians used to have $1 million in policy limits to cover their errors. Today, most doctors have far less coverage…many as low as $200,000. This includes important medical specialties such as OB-Gyn and neurosurgery. Most Texans are shocked when they learn that no law exists requiring Texas doctors to maintain insurance coverage at all.

Expert Report

A victim of medical malpractice must present a written report from a supportive medical expert within 120 days of the filing of the defendant’s answer in the lawsuit. The report must be exhaustive, detailing the facts of the case, defining the standard of care, describing how the standard of care was violated, identifying the defendants, and finally outlining precisely how this error led to the plaintiff’s damage. This report must be presented when the medical expert has very little information about the case outside of the medical chart; depositions and other discovery are barred until the report is completed and filed. Failing to file a report results in dismissal of the lawsuit with penalties assessed against the plaintiff.