Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims in Texas
In 2003, Texas Governor Rick Perry implemented some of the most aggressive limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits in the country. For patients who have suffered an injury or sustained trauma or the loss of a loved one as the result of negligence or malpractice, these changes to Texas law can have a significant effect on your ability to pursue damages.
Here are some of the areas to which these limitations apply:
- Noneconomic damages. These include disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of companionship and mental anguish. Many states place limitations on the amount that can be awarded in noneconomic damages. In Texas, claimants are only eligible to receive a maximum of $250,000 in damages from a single physician or healthcare institution. If a claimant files suit against multiple healthcare institutions, the amount of the award cannot exceed a total of $500,000. This amount is not indexed for inflation.
- Wrongful death and survival actions. Total damages for wrongful death and survival actions are capped at $500,000 in 1977 dollars. Unlike the current limitations on noneconomic damages, this number was indexed to inflation when it was established in 1977, and currently stands at approximately $1.8 million in today’s dollars. However, claimants cannot include the costs of any medical care, hospital visits or required custodial care in the calculation of this total.
- Punitive damages. In Texas, punitive damages cannot exceed $200,000 or the total amount of noneconomic damages plus twice the amount awarded for economic damages up to $750,000 — whichever number is higher.
Aggrieved patients strongly feel the effects of capping
While these limitations were put into place as a means of driving down healthcare costs in the state, they have had little appreciable effect on patient-care costs. Nor have they been effectively proven to have a significant positive impact on the number of practicing physicians in Texas. The limitations have, however, driven down medical malpractice premiums for physicians and healthcare institutions, at a price paid by every wronged patient.
If you need to pursue a medical malpractice claim in Texas, it’s important to work with a skilled Houston attorney who can navigate the special limitations placed on these claims in our state.