What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Texas?
The definition of “medical malpractice” is often wide-ranging, helping thousands of injured victims file claims against negligent doctors. However, an important part of your case will involve convincing the judge and jury that the harm you suffered does indeed meet the state’s definition of “medical malpractice.” Our attorneys explain what does and does not “count” as medical malpractice in Texas and how the definition of malpractice will affect your Texas medical malpractice lawsuit.
What Counts as “Medical Malpractice” Under Texas Law?
Medical malpractice is generally described as errors or mistakes that your doctor or another healthcare professional makes in treating you. A wide range of things can constitute medical malpractice, from misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis to outright surgical mistakes and errors.
However, medical science is not perfect, and doctors and nurses are only human. This means that many things that are clearly “mistakes” or “problems” that could result in serious physical injury, failed procedures, or prolonged medical care might not be considered “malpractice.” Instead, some of these complications are normal, acceptable risks brought about by these limitations. So how do you know what is and what isn’t medical malpractice?
The main determining factor in whether the treatment you received qualifies as “medical malpractice” will be whether or not the healthcare professionals followed the “standard of care” in your case. The “standard of care” is not some objective standard that you can look up in a medical textbook to see what the doctor should have done because every patient and every procedure is so different. Instead, the standard of care is defined by looking at what other doctors with similar training and experience would have done in the same situation.
If your doctor’s care fell below these standards, then other doctors and the courts can safely say that you suffered from malpractice. If the doctor did everything they were supposed to do, but you still suffered injuries, complications, or adverse effects anyway, this unfortunately does not count as medical malpractice under Texas law.
How to Know if You Suffered from Normal Complications or Medical Malpractice?
Most cases where someone suffers an injury or adverse outcome after medical treatment or a surgical procedure do not count as medical malpractice. Medicine is a difficult science, and there are many risks and complications involved with any surgery and with most procedures and treatments. Drugs and surgery always have side-effects and risks, and some of these are expected, “acceptable” risks. However, it is not always easy to tell the difference when you are a patient without limited medical knowledge and expertise.
Many doctors are accused of covering up their mistakes by claiming that the effects you suffered were acceptable complications. However, if you do not have medical training of your own, it might be impossible to tell if that’s true. If you suffered care that you do not think was correct, you should always seek a second opinion from another doctor and contact an attorney.
Our Arlington, Dallas, and Houston medical malpractice lawyers handle medical malpractice cases and might have some idea from the outset whether the injury you suffered is one usually associated with complications or with malpractice. However, a medical professional is going to be the one who is best able to tell you whether the complications were normal or caused by medical negligence, so you should always speak to another doctor, too.
If your original doctor lies to you about whether the results were normal complications or the result of malpractice, this “fraudulent concealment” could lead to extended deadlines to file your medical malpractice claim. When a doctor fails to disclose that they committed malpractice and intentionally covers it up, this can make it harder for you to discover the injuries on your own, and it could mean that you go months or years believing your doctor before you get the treatment you need to correct the injuries. This could lead to increased damages and complications as well.
When Can You Sue for Medical Mistakes in Texas?
As mentioned, sometimes medical mistakes are based purely on the limitations we have in the medical field. However, if you can prove that the doctor’s mistakes fell below an objective standard of care, you can usually sue for damages right away.
Part of your case will revolve around working with your lawyer and medical experts to determine whether or not the care you received met the standard of care. Doctors often fail to meet the standard of care by not investigating certain symptoms, by failing to run the proper tests, by failing to refer you to a more qualified doctor, or by committing errors in how they perform a surgical procedure. Another doctor who reviews the case can often pinpoint where the errors were and help you by testifying in court that your doctor’s care did indeed fall below the expected standard of care.
Texas law requires you get a doctor to review your malpractice case before you even submit it to the courts. When you file, you will need to file an “affidavit of merit” along with the other paperwork (other states often call this a “certificate of merit”). This shows the court that your case is serious and has already been approved by at least one medical professional.
If you suspect that you might have been the victim of negligent medical care or medical malpractice, talk to a Dallas medical malpractice lawyer about getting a second opinion and an affidavit of merit as soon as you can to start moving your case forward. Even if your harm is not too severe, the fact that you were, in fact, the victim of malpractice is often the key factor that allows you to sue.
Our Texas Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help
If you suspect that your doctor, nurse, or other medical healthcare provider might have made mistakes or errors that caused your condition to get worse or caused you physical injuries, call a Texas personal injury lawyer right away. The Queenan Law Firm’s Arlington, TX personal injury lawyers represent victims of negligent medical care and medical malpractice in misdiagnosis cases, surgical error cases, and other medical malpractice claims. Call our law offices today at (817) 476-1797 to set up a free legal consultation.