When we turn to doctors and other medical professionals to help us heal, we’re trusting them with our lives. We expect that the treatment is within standard guidelines, that it’s necessary, and that we’re getting the right treatment for whatever is ailing us. Doctors are human, however, and they make mistakes. If you or someone you know has been injured due to suspected medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation.
Why You Need A Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medicine is a complicated field, as is the law surrounding proper medical treatment. Different states have different rules governing liability and when you can file a claim. In Texas, for instance, you have two years from sustaining the injury to file a medical malpractice claim (if the injury occurred as part of an ongoing treatment or therapy, the clock starts when that course of treatment is complete). There are four general steps to prove a medical malpractice claim:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed.
- The physician was negligent in some way.
- The physician’s negligence causes the injury.
- The injury led to specific damages.
Trying to handle a complex case like this while you or a loved one is recovering from a medical injury is an immense burden. Most medical malpractice cases require expert testimony of some sort, and you’ll potentially be in court against doctors and hospitals with legal resources you don’t have. A medical malpractice attorney can call on their own expert witnesses to bolster your case, as well as have their team fully investigate your case to see who may be liable for your injury. With an aggressive attorney at your side, you’re much more likely to prove your case and are likely to receive a better settlement.
Our Houston Medical Malpractice Attorneys Are Here to Help
Why Choose Gibson Hill?
While fewer medical malpractice cases are generally being filed nationwide, the drop is more due to states tightening restrictions on malpractice claims than doctors or hospitals making fewer mistakes. Medical errors still happen; a study from John Hopkins Medicine reported that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. The study said that more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are due to medical errors.
Medical malpractice suits are one of our areas of focus at Gibson Hill Personal Injury. We have extensive experience with these types of claims, and we fight hard to make sure our clients receive their due compensation. And while we’re fighting in court on your behalf, we’ll make sure to treat you with respect and compassion while keeping you informed about how your case is progressing.
Our clients know how hard work we work to get them what they deserve. Here’s what one client had to say after we represented her in a personal injury case: “I was nervous about hiring an attorney; however, Mr. Gibson was recommended by a friend. Mr. Gibson kept me informed about what was going on and made me feel like he truly cared about my case. He did an outstanding job! I was very pleased with the outcome.” If you need more reassurance, we invite you to read the rest of our testimonials.
Medical Malpractice Cases We Handle
As we mentioned above, there are four necessary elements to prove a medical malpractice claim. To review, they are:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed. This means you have seen the doctor professionally and paid them to perform a medical service; you can’t sue a doctor because you happened to overhear something they said, for example. Most of the time this is fairly straightforward to prove, but in some cases extra work be required if you consulted professionally with a physician but they did not treat you directly. An attorney can help you determine if a consulting physician is liable for any medical injury you may have sustained.
- The doctor was negligent in some way. A mistake by a provider or facility isn’t necessarily enough to prove medical malpractice. To prove malpractice, you must demonstrate that your treatment did not fall in line with what’s known as the “standard of medical care.” The standard of medical care is generally defined as a treatment that a typical medical provider with the same level of training and experience would provide under similar circumstances in the same community. Basically, the question is whether what your doctor did is what another doctor in the same situation would have done. Often, an expert witness will testify about whether a treatment fell within the standard of medical care. You also have to prove that the treatment harmed you in some way; an error that does not lead to direct harm is not malpractice.
- The doctor failed to provide an acceptable standard of care. This is often the hardest element to prove in a medical malpractice case. Because doctors are often treating patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, establishing that the doctor’s actions are what caused the injury is tricky. If a patient has a heart attack and dies on the operating table, for instance, you have to show that it was the doctor’s actions that led to the patient’s death. This is another area where expert witnesses are often required, and we have access to such experts should you elect to file a malpractice claim.
- The injury caused specific damages. Like we said, a medical error doesn’t rise to malpractice unless it harmed the patient in some way. There are four broad categories of damages you can claim in a malpractice suit: Physical injuries, mental anguish, additional medical bills due to the injury, and lost income or earning capacity. Again, the key factor is being able to show how the provider’s actions directly led to you being harmed in some way. That’s something we can help you with, should we move forward with your case.
There are three broad categories of medical malpractice claims:
- Failure to diagnose– If a doctor either didn’t diagnose your ailment correctly or arrived at an incorrect diagnosis, they may be liable for malpractice. The key element here is to show that another, more competent doctor would have made the correct diagnosis, leading to a better outcome for you.
- Improper treatment– Doctors are expected to provide the right treatment to their patients and administer that treatment correctly. A provider can be held liable if they prescribe a course of treatment that a competent doctor would not use, or if they select the right treatment but it’s administered improperly in some way.
- Lack of proper consent– Medical providers have a duty to warn patients of any potential risks, side effects or other bad outcomes that could result from their treatment. This concept is known as “informed consent,” and it’s vital to hold providers accountable. A provider can be held liable if they do not inform the patient of all the risks of a procedure. However, you also have to show that the patient would not have chosen that treatment had they been fully informed, and that the treatment harmed the patient in some way.
When it comes to damages, many states have placed caps on the amount of damages plaintiffs can collect in medical malpractice cases. Some of these state limits have been ruled unconstitutional, but Texas residents voted in 2003 to amend the state constitution to limit damages in malpractice cases. Because this change was done via constitutional amendment, these caps on damages cannot be ruled unconstitutional.
In Texas, non-economic damages are capped at $750,000. The limit is $250,000 from any one provider or group of providers (not $250,000 per doctor) and $250,000 per medical facility, with a limit of two facilities per claim. Though damages are capped, that does not mean you shouldn’t file your claim; those damages may be essential to help you pay for medical bills and make up for any work you might have missed due to your injury.
Compensation in Medical Malpractice Cases
Yes, non-economic damages are capped in the state of Texas, but there are different types of damages available to victims of medical malpractice claims. Understanding the difference between the forms of compensation you may be eligible for is important when it comes to determining the value of your claim.
Non-economic damages are relatively subjective and cover losses that are difficult to measure, such as quality of life issues. These can include emotional distress, pain and suffering, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment. These are the damages that Texas state law has placed a limit on.
However, victims are also allowed to recover money for their economic damages as well as non-economic damages. Economic damages are measurable and calculable losses that a victim suffers as a result of medical malpractice. Economic damages can include money for medical expenses, lost income, and loss of earning capacity. The state does not place a cap on these types of losses.
In total, a victim may be able to recover financial compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of future income or earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
In some instances, it may also be possible for a victim to attempt to recover what is known as punitive damages. These damages are not meant to help a victim recover financially for medical expenses or pain and suffering. Punitive damages are a form of punishment for the person or entity that committed the harm. As such, the standard of proof is much greater for punitive damages, and there must be convincing and compelling evidence that shows fraud, malice, or gross negligence on the part of a medical professional.
Punitive damages are also capped by the state of Texas, just as non-economic damages are. Punitive damages are limited to $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages plus non-economic damages up to $750,000, whichever amount is greater.
An experienced attorney with Gibson Hill Personal Injury can help you calculate the value of your medical malpractice claim and give you a reasonable expectation of what you may be able to recover in the form of compensation. Attempting to estimate this on your own can be complicated. A seasoned attorney will understand what you may be entitled to and what documentation is needed to substantiate your claim in court.
Our medical malpractice lawyers serve clients in the Houston area
Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
It is never easy making the decision to take someone to court, especially when you are hurt. The process can seem daunting and complicated, and it can be difficult to put your trust in someone when your trust was just shattered by a medical professional. Unfortunately, there is not an unlimited amount of time to consider your options. The state of Texas limits the amount of time you have to file a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional or health care institution.
The state gives victims two years from the time of the occurrence to file a suit. The “time of occurrence” typically refers to the date that the medical malpractice took place, such as the date that a negligent surgical procedure was performed. However, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the exact date that something went grossly wrong, especially in the case of a misdiagnosis or improper or inaccurate course of treatment. The law does provide an exception for these types of situations. If the harm to a victim happened during an ongoing treatment plan, the two-year time limit starts on the date that the course of treatment concluded.
The statute of limitations is also different for minors. Parents need to understand that if they are considering pursuing a medical malpractice claim on behalf of their child, they must file that suit before the child’s 14th birthday if the child is under 12 at the time of the incident.
When the statute of limitations expires, a victim can be left with few or no legal options for recovering compensation. The courts can dismiss a case without hearing it if the statute of limitations has lapsed. While it may be difficult to talk about, reviewing your situation with an experienced attorney as soon as possible gives you the best chance to recover some form of compensation. An attorney will be able to review your situation and immediately begin the process of collecting valuable evidence before it is lost or destroyed.
Who Can be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?
Physicians are the only medical professionals that can be held accountable for medical malpractice. Texas allows victims of medical malpractice to hold both health care professionals and health care institutions responsible for negligence. Yet, there are guidelines as to who counts as a “health care provider” and who can be ultimately held responsible for a case of medical malpractice.
A health care professional is an individual that carries a license, certificate, or registration or is chartered by the state of Texas to provide patients with professional healthcare-related services. A health care provider may be a professional, association, corporation, or facility that is licensed or certified to provide healthcare-related services. This means that the following individuals or entities may be held liable for medical malpractice claims:
- Registered nurse
- Emergency medical technician
- Hospital system
- Skilled nursing home
- Hospice facility
- Health care affiliate system
If you’ve been harmed as a result of medical malpractice by anyone in the medical field, contact an attorney with Gibson Hill Personal Injury today. We can review the circumstances of your case and help determine who may be held liable for your situation. In some instances, more than one party may actually be responsible for the medical malpractice in question. At Gibson Hill Personal Injury, we can help you get to the bottom of what went wrong and determine which parties need to be held accountable.
We’re Ready to Fight for You
Don’t suffer in silence if you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice in Houston. Taking action against a doctor or facility may seem intimidating, but the Houston personal injury attorneys at Gibson Hill Personal Injury are prepared to help you hold the responsible parties accountable for the substandard care that you received. Doctors and hospitals have experienced legal teams at their disposal, and a medical malpractice attorney can help even the playing field when you have your day in court. We can provide the help you need to make sure medical providers are held liable for their mistakes. To get started, call us today at (713) 659-4000. We’re standing by to fight on your behalf.