From my experience as a Houston, Texas, malpractice lawyer, I find that there’s seldom one mistake or failure that causes a serious injury or wrongful death. Typically, multiple errors committed by multiple individuals contribute to the bad outcome.
Texas law recognizes that there can be more than one proximate cause of a serious injury or wrongful death. Thus, when preparing a medical negligence case for trial, Painter Law Firm hires the medical and nursing experts necessary to testify how each defendant’s substandard healthcare contributed to the patient’s injuries or death.
Here’s how it works when a medical negligence case goes to the jury for deliberations.
The jury’s first question. At the end of a medical malpractice case trial in Texas, it’s up to the jury to answer “Yes” or “No” to the question of whether the negligence, if any, of each defendant was a proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff.
Occasionally, a defendant will allege that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his or her injury. In these cases, the jury answers “Yes” or “No” to the defendants and the plaintiff on this initial question.
The jury’s second question. If the jury answers “Yes” to the first question, it moves on to assign a percentage responsibility to each defendant (and the plaintiff, too, if applicable). The percentages must add up to 100%.
If the jury finds that the plaintiff was 51% responsible, then the plaintiff’s recovery is barred. This is called the modified comparative fault rule.
If the jury finds that one defendant is at least 51% responsible, then the joint and several liability rule kicks in and the plaintiff can collect the entire judgment from that one defendant.
The jury’s question on damages. Finally, the jury decides on how much money to award the plaintiff. There are individual questions for types of damages, like past lost wages, future loss of earning capacity, past medical bills, future medical bills, past mental anguish, future mental anguish, and so forth.
After the court applies any applicable caps to an award of non-economic damages (things like mental anguish, pain and suffering, and disfigurement), then the percentages come into play.
Let’s say the jury awarded a total of $1 million to the plaintiff, with Hospital A 40% responsible and Doctor B 60% responsible. The hospital would be on the hook for 40% of the judgment, or $400,000, and Doctor B for 60% of the judgment, or $600,000.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.