More Tort Reform In Texas
This past summer, Governor Greg Abbott signed two key pieces of legislation that went into effect on September 1, 2015. These new laws further restrict the ability of medical malpractice victims to obtain compensation for their injuries.
Senate Bill 735 essentially requires plaintiffs to show that they have a winning case before propounding discovery as to the defendant’s net worth. If the court allows the discovery, its scope is severely limited and generally seems to be slanted in favor of the defendant. Meanwhile, House Bill 1692 changes the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to prohibit victims from filing negligence lawsuits in Texas unless the incident took place in The Lone Star State.
These changes come shortly after a North Texas family filed suit against a hospital that diagnosed a woman with a sinus infection when a CT scan, which was performed at the same hospital, allegedly indicated she had a brain aneurism.
Negligence Lawsuits in Texas
In response to a sudden spike in medical malpractice insurance premiums, tort reform advocates pushed a major package through the State Legislature in 2003, and many Republicans, in all branches of state government, were happy to oblige them. The tort reform laws limited damages for pain and suffering to $250,000 per episode, and required medical malpractice plaintiffs to prove conscious indifference, which is just a few degrees shy of criminal behavior, to be awarded punitive damages.
Just over ten years later, the results are mixed. The lower insurance premiums have attracted new doctors, though Texas still ranks in the bottom ten in the concentration of doctors per capita. Additionally, many of these physicians are research doctors, specialized surgeons, and others who see few, if any, patients. Furthermore, with the damage caps, increased burden of proof, and now the procedural changes, it is difficult for low and middle-income victims to take their cases to court, because bringing a medical malpractice suit can be incredibly costly.
Like many other issues in law and politics, tort reform is a pendulum that swings back and forth. Unfortunately for victims, it may be some time before the pendulum moves in the other direction. The Legislature will not meet this coming year, but additional tort reform is likely in the next session.
Now more than ever, if you or a loved one was hurt due to someone else’s negligence, you need an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney on your side. Call today for a free consultation. We do not charge any upfront legal fees in a personal injury matter.