When investigating or developing a potential medical malpractice case, there are two distinct questions that an experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer must answer.
The first question is whether there was a medical mistake or error that amounts to medical negligence. This is a question for a medical expert to help answer, in conjunction with the attorney. It’s not enough that a doctor, hospital, or nurse made a mistake in providing care. For there to be a medical negligence case, the poor care has to be linked to injuries or damages to the patient.
If the answer to the first question is “yes, there was medical negligence,” then the second question is what are the injuries or damages involved? In other words, how did this incident change the patient’s life?
Some people have called me about situations where there was a crystal-clear medical error, but they recovered completely and were able to go back to work and get on with their lives. These cases have essentially no injuries or damages and, therefore, don’t make sense to pursue in court. In other cases, people come to me for help after they were victimized by medical malpractice that significantly changed their lives.
It’s hard to answer the question up-front of what a medical malpractice case is worth, because each case is unique. In other words, there’s not a set price or number for a medical malpractice case. It’s up to plaintiffs and their attorneys to produce evidence of the full extent of injuries and damages. I’ll summarize them below.
Noneconomic damages are capped. Quite often, it’s hard to put a dollar sign next to the damages that harmed the client the most. Noneconomic damages are things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment (including lost mobility or the inability to get around), and disfigurement. Texas tort reform laws place a cap on economic damages like these. The cap is $250,000 if you only sue physicians, but the cap can be as high as $750,000 if you sue physicians and two or more hospitals or facilities.
Economic damages aren’t capped. These are the types of harms and losses that are easy to define with a dollar sign. Think about things like lost wages, loss of earning capacity, medical bills, and the cost of future care. Given the caps imposed by tort reform on noneconomic damages in Texas, the big driver on the worth or value of a Texas medical malpractice case is what a plaintiff can prove in this category.
As you can imagine, there’s endless variety in how the economic damages in a potential medical malpractice case can play out. A competent, experienced attorney will consider whether, before the injury, the plaintiff was working or not, what the past medical bills are, and how much care would be needed in the future.
Once these questions are answered, they’re put together into a damages model. A damages model is the maximum amount of money that plaintiffs can recover in court for that particular case. Lawyers sometimes call it “your best in court.”
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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.