Section 74.251 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code provides a two-year limit for the filing of liability claims against medical malpractice. Failure to follow the two-year statute of limitations can prevent you from recovering compensation.
Your lawyer must prove the following for a successful medical malpractice claim:
- the healthcare professional owed a standard of care to the patient
- the healthcare professional violated such duty
- such breach resulted in an injury
- the injury caused damages
Some patients in Texas have received compensation due to medical malpractice. In one example, a jury awarded $8.3 million to a family who filed a case against a hospital in 2022.
John Davis, the guardian of his wife, Angela, sued Texas Health Fort Worth Hospital and an anesthesiologist. The claim alleged that his wife suffered brain damage after surgery due to the anesthesiologist injecting the wrong medication into her spine.
Similarly, a jury in Dallas County granted $10.1 million to a couple due to the negligence of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital staff delayed Judy Adams’ treatment, resulting in permanent paralysis of her lower extremities.
If you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, speak to an attorney. They can help you pursue a Texas medical malpractice case.
|Key Takeaways |
Reasons Behind the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations has several purposes. It balances the plaintiff and defendant’s rights, encourages timely claims, and ensures the speedy disposition of cases.
Balances the rights of parties
The parties in a medical malpractice claim have their respective rights. For instance, the plaintiff’s right involves asking the court for damages. They can negotiate with the at-fault party, file suit, and proceed to trial. However, this right is subject to limitations, one of which is the time limit prescribed by law.
On the other hand, the defendant may invoke defenses to avoid liability. One defense involves the statute of limitations. For example, the medical professional can argue that the injured patient initiated the case after the expiration of the two-year limit. Moreover, the defendant may present evidence disputing the plaintiff’s claim.
The statute of limitations ensures that the law will not give undue favor to one party. Although the plaintiff can request the court for damages, they must do so within a reasonable time frame. This protection prevents defendants from facing unfair claims.
Encourages timely claims
The statute of limitations prevents the loss of evidence due to the lapse of time. Without it, expert witnesses may forget relevant facts as years pass. In addition, unexpected events can occur, leading to the destruction or loss of evidence.
For example, a medical error happened in February 2010. But the injured party only filed a case against the healthcare professional in February 2021. In the example, the patient instituted the case after 11 years. The passage of time may cause the witnesses to forget crucial details surrounding the serious injury.
Moreover, the statute of limitations prevents instances where the parties can no longer retrieve medical records. If the plaintiff only institutes the case after 20 years, the defendant may be unable to raise certain defenses due to lack of evidence. For example, the prescriptions may have been destroyed due to unforeseen events.
Without sufficient evidence, the plaintiff and defendant cannot prove their arguments. Hence, the injured party cannot establish the medical professional’s liability, while the defendant cannot disagree with the plaintiff’s allegations.
Ensures speedy justice
Both parties in a medical malpractice lawsuit deserve swift resolution of their case. As a result, the plaintiff can receive compensation promptly. The court can award economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
The economic damages include medical bills, while non-economic damages include pain and suffering. On the other hand, the negligent medical provider may pay punitive damages if they acted in willful misconduct.
The speedy resolution of cases can also guarantee that defendants will not be constantly burdened by prolonged allegations of medical negligence. A sample scenario involves a 30-year-old male surgeon who allegedly made medical errors. Without the statute of limitations, he will constantly live in fear of future tort actions against him. These worries may continue until his death.
Exceptions to Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
The two-year limit for filing medical malpractice cases in Texas is the general rule. However, there are instances where the two-year statute of limitations does not apply. Exceptions to the general rule include the following:
The discovery rule extends the time for filing a medical malpractice case. In effect, the statute of limitations may start from the patient’s discovery of the injury. For example, a 25-year-old woman underwent abdominal surgery in January 2015 but experienced extreme abdominal pain in January 2018.
In the above example, she can still file a claim even though three years have passed since the surgery. The injured party can invoke the discovery rule by arguing that she only experienced the effects of medical errors in January 2018. Her lawyer must establish the connection between the abdominal pain and alleged medical malpractice.
However, the discovery rule only applies in cases where the plaintiff did not suffer apparent harm. For example, if the patient suffered facial disfigurement, the court will likely deny the application of the discovery rule. Moreover, the rule will not apply to amputation of the wrong limb.
Fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation
The medical practitioner may intentionally act with fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation, preventing the patient from discovering the injury. As a result, the court must give reasonable time for the claimant to file the medical malpractice lawsuit, even if it exceeds the two-year limitation.
Intentional fraud refers to the misrepresentation of facts. For example, the doctor of a 35-year-old man stated that a specific procedure would cure his disease. However, the doctor knew such treatment was not the best for their patient. They only recommended it for personal gain. His condition worsened because he did not receive the correct treatment.
A medical practitioner may also conceal information, especially one that can affect a patient. For instance, a surgeon performed surgery on a 40-year-old woman. However, the surgeon did not tell her they might have left a sponge inside her body. In the example, the healthcare institution may also be held liable if proven that it failed to follow its regulations.
Section 74.251(a) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code explicitly provides this exception. According to the Texas statute, children below 12 may file a claim until their 14th birthday. For example, if a medical error happens to a nine-year-old boy, his parents can institute a case on his 13th birthday even if four years have already passed.
Minors do not have a legal personality, so their parents can institute the case on their behalf. In case of conflict involving the minor’s parents, the child may have a guardian ad litem (GAL) through the court’s appointment. A GAL protects the interests of minors, especially in litigation and settlements.
Section 1054.054 of the Texas Family Code enumerates the duties of a GAL. They shall help the court determine the legal action that will best serve the child’s interests. Hence, the court shall examine the GAL’s findings.
Statute of repose
Section 74.251(b) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code explicitly provides the statute of repose in medical malpractice cases. It bars claims after 10 years, even if the injury has not yet occurred. It also limits the application of the discovery rule. Hence, the claimant can only invoke the discovery rule provided that ten years have not passed since the medical practitioner’s act.
But the statutes of limitations and repose have differences. The statute of limitation sets a time limit for plaintiffs to file a medical malpractice claim. It may start at the date of injury or the discovery of harm.
On the other hand, the statute of repose has a stricter time limit. It usually does not have any exceptions, unlike the statute of limitations. Moreover, it may start at the time of the defendant’s action without considering the injury’s discovery.
Government hospital claims
Section 101.101 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code requires an individual to notify the governmental unit within six months to start the claims process. Under the Texas law, the notice must include the following information:
- the injury complained of;
- time and place when the medical malpractice happened; and
- facts constituting medical malpractice.
However, the claimant may face several challenges in filing a medical malpractice case against government employees and hospitals. For example, most people may not know about the notice requirement under Section 101.101. As a result, their claims may be barred.
In addition, Section 101.021 has a few exceptions to state immunity. One exception involves the use of tangible personal property. An example of this property is a scalpel. So if a surgeon uses a scalpel on the incorrect site, the patient may file a claim against the government. However, it may not apply to all instances of medical malpractice.
Role of a Medical Malpractice Attorney
A lawyer can help you pursue a medical malpractice case.
- They provide legal advice. Attorneys can educate you on medical malpractice laws and suggest legal options depending on the facts of your case.
- They can ensure compliance with the statute of limitations. As a result, you can file within the limitations period and institute a valid claim.
- They can help prove the practitioner’s negligent act. Experienced lawyers in the field of medical malpractice know how to establish each element of medical malpractice.
- They can navigate the legal process of medical malpractice claims. Attorneys can guide you from investigation to settlement. They can use their negotiation skills, so you can receive sufficient compensation.
- They can represent you in court. Lawyers know the Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern civil proceedings. They know how to argue, question witnesses, and persuade the jury.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Healthcare providers give medical care to patients, but sometimes they commit errors that can lead to patient injuries. The common types of medical malpractice cases include the following:
- A misdiagnosis happens when a doctor gives an incorrect diagnosis. Suppose a male patient complained of chest pain in the emergency room. The doctor diagnosed him with indigestion, but it turned out to be a heart attack.
- Surgical malpractice happens when a surgeon neglects a patient’s needs during surgery. Examples include failing to remove spongers and tools after an operation and operating on the wrong body part.
- Birth injuries may occur during pregnancy, delivery, and after birth. For example, the doctor fails to diagnose complications affecting the mother and baby. An obstetrician-gynecologist may also fail to treat severe bleeding.
- Anesthesiologists may also make errors that can cause long-term effects. Examples of anesthesia errors include failure to monitor patients and injecting an excessive dosage. Patients undergoing anesthesia may experience collapsed lungs, postoperative delirium, and nerve damage.
Did you know?
On average, plaintiffs who suffer from permanent injuries receive $1 million in settlement. On the other hand, patients with minor injuries may only recover $10,000.
Find a Texas Medical Malpractice Lawyer To Protect Your Rights
The statute of limitations in Texas bars a plaintiff’s claim after two years to prevent undue favor on one party. It also allows the parties to experience speedy resolution of cases, so the plaintiff can timely receive damages. In addition, it eases the defendant’s worry of being hounded by a malpractice suit for an indefinite time.
Visit The Medical Malpractice Center, so we can match you with an experienced attorney. They can ensure compliance with Texas’ statute of limitations and advise you on the legal actions to take. Book your free consultation, and tell us the details of your case.
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases must observe the statute of limitations to recover compensation. Visit The Medical Malpractice Center for free legal information about medical malpractice.
FAQs on the Statute of Limitations for Texas Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice usually requires the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. Hence, nursing home injuries will be considered medical malpractice only if the resident receives medical treatment from a practitioner. Otherwise, the incident will give rise to another cause of action.
Medical malpractice refers to a healthcare practitioner’s failure to observe the standard of care, resulting in injury to a patient. On the other hand, personal injury involves the negligence of a person, which causes injuries to another. Personal injury does not require the presence of a doctor-patient relationship.