What has tort reform changed in regard to Texas medical malpractice cases?
Every year, about 250,000 people die due to a range of preventable medical errors. Those who survive don’t have things easy; they face lifelong disabilities, chronic pain, disfigurement, and may be unable to return to work thanks to the injuries they sustained.
On top of all this, sweeping tort reform measures passed in Texas have made it virtually impossible for many survivors (as well as families of the deceased victims) to recover the compensation they’re legally owed, even when their case is successful and a jury awards compensation.
A tort, simply put, is when someone is harmed by another, resulting in a claim for which courts could impose liability. Tort reform is a term used to describe changes in the civil justice system that aim to reduce the ability of victims to bring a civil claim before the court or to arbitrarily reduce the amount of damages the victim can receive. Back in 2003, Texas passed far-reaching tort reform in regard to medical malpractice lawsuits. Among other things, this tort reform measure put caps on damages (statutory limits to the amount of money one could recover in a lawsuit, even if a jury awards them more).
Why did Texans pass tort reform?
Proponents of tort reform say that these changes were needed in order to stop people from winning frivolous lawsuits. I’d like to point out how ridiculous that idea is. Caps on damages simply prevent victims with strong cases from recovering what a jury (after hearing all the facts) says they truly deserve.
If a jury decides that the victim is owed $1M after listening to all the evidence, why should that amount be statutorily reduced? The answer: tort reform was enacted to protect insurance companies by limiting the amount of money they had to pay to legitimate victims across the state.
In addition to damage caps, all medical malpractice cases in Texas require the plaintiff (or their attorney) to hire an expert witness. While an attorney would almost never go to court without an expert witness, hiring a medical expert is usually a very expensive up-front cost and many doctors are understandably hesitant to “call out” another doctor. Because of the cost associated with hiring an expert witness, many legitimate cases are never pursued.
What can be done about tort reform?
Tort reform simply seeks to protect defendants with deep pockets as well as insurance companies (who’s only job is to responsibly pay such claims). Caps on damages take away the jury’s ability to determine what is right, and instead, literally only serves to limit the liability of the insurance companies.
At the same time, most of these reforms aren’t known to the general public due to lack of knowledge or interest. However, there are lobby groups organizing petitions to stop or reverse tort reform across the country; all you have to do is be active in your community and take action when the opportunity presents itself. Texans voted to enact tort reform in 2003, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be repealed (as many states have already done).
If you’re a personal injury or medical malpractice victim in Texas, please get in touch with Rasansky Law Firm at 1-877-405-4313 today. We can answer your questions and give you advice about your specific case with a free consultation. Let us help you recover the damages that are commensurate with your injuries.