Medical Malpractice

Because the legislature has imposed strict limitations on these types of cases, they are really difficult cases to bring on behalf of any injured patient.  The attorney of your choosing must be very experienced in this area of law.

Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor (or other medical professional) who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties.

Whether the fault lies with a physician, a medical treatment facility, or a hospital, if you or a member of your family are injured or killed as a result of substandard or negligent treatment, there may be grounds for legal action. Health care providers can be held accountable for inadequate or improper procedure or diagnosis.

Medical Malpractice

To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to show all of these things:

A doctor-patient relationship existed.

You must show that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor you are suing — this means you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired. For example, you can’t sue a doctor you overheard giving advice at a cocktail party. If a doctor began seeing you and treating you, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed. Questions of whether or not the relationship exists most frequently arise where a consulting physician did not treat you directly.

The doctor was negligent.

Just because you are unhappy with your treatment or results does not mean the doctor is liable for medical malpractice. The doctor must have been negligent in connection with your diagnosis or treatment. To sue for malpractice, you must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. The doctor’s care is not required to be the best possible, but simply “reasonably skillful and careful.” Whether the doctor was reasonably skillful and careful is often at the heart of a medical malpractice claim. Almost all states require that the patient present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care and show the defendant deviated from that standard.

The doctor’s negligence caused the injury.

Because many malpractice cases involve patients that were already sick or injured, there is often a question of whether what the doctor did, negligent or not, actually caused the harm. For example, if a patient dies after treatment for lung cancer, and the doctor did do something negligent, it could be hard to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the death rather than the cancer. The patient must show that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. Usually, the patient must have a medical expert testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.

The injury led to specific damages.

Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, the patient can’t sue for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Here are examples of the types of harm patients can sue for:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • impairment
  • disfigurement
  • additional medical bills, and
  • lost work and lost earning capacity.

Unfortunately Tort Reform Legislation has imposed a cap of $250,000.00 on many of the intangible damages that accrue.  Certain economic losses are not capped.

Special Requirements in Medical Malpractice Cases

Many states have special rules and procedures for medical malpractice claims. It is important to know about these rules and follow them carefully.

Medical malpractice cases must be brought soon after the injury.

In Texas, you must bring a medical malpractice claim before two years have expired from negligent conduct of healthcare provider.  (The time period in which you must bring the lawsuit is called the “statute of limitations.”) If you don’t file the lawsuit within the specified period of time, the court can dismiss the case.