Medical Malpractice 101: What You Need To Know

A recent study released by Johns Hopkins Medicine estimated that there could be more than 250,000 Americans that die each year from a medical error. If that number is compared with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official list from 2014, medical errors would rank as the third leading cause of death. Oftentimes, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional is overworked, under-educated, or too rushed. Medical malpractice injuries can be devastating. They can often leave the victim or family overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.

What is a Medical Malpractice lawsuit?

A medical malpractice lawsuit occurs when a medical professional harms a patient through negligence, omission, or an intentional act. A doctor or medical professional must provide the level of care or treatment that a reasonable and prudent doctor would have in a similar situation based on the known medical needs of a patient. If a doctor fails to provide that level of care, they may be held liable. Generally, in order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, the following facts must be present:

  • An act or omission by a physician or other trained healthcare professional during the treatment process that results in a deviation from the accepted norms within the medical community
  • The physician or trained medical professional must cause serious injury to the patient
  • The injury must cause the patient to sustain significant damages (whether they are physical, monetary, or the altering of a lifestyle, etc.)

Who can bring the lawsuit?

The laws in Texas establishing who can file a claim for medical malpractice are complicated. The type of claim that is filed will depend on a variety of factors such as the condition of the victim, any potential claimants, and whether there is any will or estate established. If the victim is still alive, the following claims may be made:

  • Personal injury claim- the victim brings this claim if they are able to make decisions on their own.
  • Next of friend claim- a representative brings this claim on behalf of the victim if they are unable to make their own decisions (a minor or someone who is incompetent). The representative acts on behalf of the victim and does not necessarily have to be related to the victim.

If the medical malpractice victim is deceased, the following claims may be brought:

  • Wrongful death claim- the parents, current spouse, or biological or adopted children can bring claims for the mental anguish and financial losses and suffered as a result of their relative’s death. In this type of suit, the person or persons filing the suit are compensated for their losses, so any money recovered goes directly to them.
  • Estate or survival claim- any person that is designated as the administrator of the estate in a valid will or probate court may file a suit on behalf of the estate of the deceased. In this type of suit, any money that is recovered is put into the fund for the estate then disbursed according to the will or as directed by the probate process.

While a situation may seem straightforward, it is important to have by an experienced attorney examine all of the facts to decide and determine which type of claim should be brought and who should be involved. 

Statute of limitations

Any medical malpractice claim must be filed within a certain amount of time of the injury or death. In Texas, the statute of limitations is generally 2 years from the date of the incident, however, the statute may vary depending on where the incident occurred or when the injury was discovered. While most cases follow this rule, the facts of each case are different and there are exceptions. The best way to determine the statute of limitations is to consult with an experienced attorney.

Common examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice in any form can be devastating. While each and every case is unique, some of the common forms of medical malpractice cases that we handle are:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Birth and delivery injuries such as forceps injuries, hypoxia, prolapsed umbilical cords, etc.
  • Surgical errors such as operating on the wrong body part, injuring nerves, operating on the wrong patient
  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose claims resulting in death

Medical Malpractice occurs in a variety of forms. While the list above includes some of the most common examples, it is not extensive. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury due to medical malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your options.

What can be recovered in a medical malpractice claim?

There are a variety of damages that may be recovered. In Texas, there is a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages (or damages that you cannot put a specific price on). Some examples of economic damages that may be recovered are:

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of potential earnings (only if the victim is the one bringing the suit)
  • Loss of potential contribution to the household or financial support
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Burial expenses

Some examples of non-economic damages that may be recovered include:

  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering (only if the victim is the one bringing the suit)
  • Loss of companionship or comfort
  • Loss of love, affection, or society

If you or a loved one have suffered a severe medical malpractice injury, contact an experienced attorney today. The attorneys at Powers Taylor have experience will all types of medical malpractice cases. Contact Powers Taylor today for a free consultation.


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