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How do caps apply to what I can recover in a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit in Texas?

Painter Law Firm's frequently asked question (FAQ) series

Unfortunately, Texas victims of medical malpractice face the toughest, least fair caps on damages in America. With the lack of financial accountability that Texas hospitals and physicians have under so-called tort reform laws, there’s little wonder why Texas healthcare ranks near the bottom when it comes to patient safety.

In wrongful death medical malpractice cases, there are actually two separate caps that apply to every case.

The first cap, on non-economic damages, applies to every medical malpractice case in Texas courts. A jury can award non-economic damages to a medical malpractice victim or family member for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, and physical disfigurement. Texas law caps these damages at $250,000-$750,000, depending on the number and nature of the defendants sued.

If the only defendants named in a lawsuit are doctors or individual healthcare providers, the total non-economic damages Is $250,000. If hospitals are named as defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit, then there’s a per-hospital of $250,000, up to a maximum of $500,000. So, if there were to hospitals in one physician named in lawsuit, the total non-economic damages cap would be $750,000.

There is a second cap on damages that applies only to wrongful death and survival medical malpractice cases in Texas. You can find it at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Section 74.303. This cap is indexed for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and is currently around $2 million. An experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer can help you make the exact calculation.

From time to time, potential clients and attorneys who don’t regularly handled medical negligence cases ask for help in figuring out how the caps work together. It’s understandable to hope that the wrongful death cap trumps the non-economic damages cap, but sadly that’s not the case.

To calculate the correct way the court will apply the caps to a jury’s damages award, you apply the non-economic damages cap first and then apply the wrongful death cap second. In other words, the wrongful death cap is essentially a cap within a cap.

Practically speaking, the wrongful death cap will never come into play if only non-economic damages are involved. If the death of the person led to economic damages, like a substantial loss of income or huge medical bills that were paid in the past that caused the total damages to exceed $2 million, then it would apply.

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. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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