Texas law, like that of most states, limits the amount of compensation a plaintiff (the party who files a malpractice lawsuit) can receive in a medical malpractice case. What's the likely impact of damage limits—also known as "caps"—on your medical malpractice claim? Simply stated, caps might reduce the value of your medical malpractice case, perhaps significantly, regardless of how severe your malpractice injuries and damages happen to be.
When you're finished with this article, you'll better understand:
According to patients and patient rights advocates, medical malpractice damage caps exist to protect doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers from liability for the consequences of their substandard care. In addition, damage caps provide a windfall for malpractice insurance companies.
Health care providers and their malpractice insurers claim that caps are needed to protect doctors, hospitals, and other providers from astronomical medical malpractice verdicts and settlements. Without caps, they say, health care providers will be forced to leave the state because malpractice insurers will refuse to insure them.
In most successful medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff will collect compensatory damages. Compensatory damages fall into two categories.
In medical malpractice cases that don't end in the patient's death, Texas law caps only noneconomic damages. If the malpractice causes the patient's death, Texas caps both noneconomic and some economic damages.
In any malpractice case that gets decided by a jury, the jurors aren't told that Texas law caps certain damages. The jury returns a verdict and the judge then reduces the damages in line with the applicable caps.
(Learn more about the different types of damages that might be available in a medical malpractice case.)
Here are the Texas medical malpractice noneconomic damage caps. These caps apply to all medical malpractice cases, regardless of whether the malpractice causes death.
In a Texas wrongful death or survival lawsuit against a doctor or other health care provider where the death resulted from medical malpractice, there's a second per-claimant cap of $500,000 on all damages (except as noted below). This cap gets applied after the cap on noneconomic damages.
In addition to limiting noneconomic damages, this overall damage cap also limits recovery of "exemplary" (punitive) damages, along with some economic damages. The cap applies regardless of the number of doctors or other providers who are liable for malpractice. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.303(a) (2023).)
The limit on economic damages doesn't apply to past or future medical, hospital, or custodial care expenses. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.303(c) (2023).) But other economic damages are capped. Finally, the $500,000 cap is adjusted periodically for inflation. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.303(b) (2023).)
Medical malpractice cases are hard enough without having to contend with damage caps. If you've got a Texas medical malpractice claim, chances are that the value of your case will be limited by damage caps. You'll be up against insurance company lawyers who know how to use the caps to their benefit. This isn't the kind of case you want to handle on your own.
You need an experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer on your side, someone who understands how the caps work and how to present your claims in a way that will maximize your chances of recovery. Here's how to find an experienced malpractice attorney in your area.