Texas Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional?
Texan’s injured by medical errors are very often denied access to the Courts. Texas voters have allowed the Texas Legislature to cap non-economic recoveries in medical malpractice cases at a maximum of $250,000.00. Therefore, when a non-employed, retired or young Texan is killed by the negligence of a medical provider the most that can be recovered is $250,000.00 plus the cost of any medical treatment. The recovered cost of the medical treatment will then have to be turned over to whoever paid the bills such as Medicare or a private insurance company. It is often not economically feasible to pursue a medical malpractice case when the legal costs can approach and sometimes exceed $100,000.00 leaving only $150,000.00, or less, to pay attorney fees and provide for the injured person’s recovery.
The $250,000.00 cap on non-economic damages makes it economically advantageous for a medical provider to have a severely injured person die quickly from the medical error versus survive and have a lifetime of medical treatment. We are not suggesting and do not believe that any medical provider would let a patient die to avoid a large malpractice award, it is the imposition of the very low cap that makes possible the absurd results in potential recoveries.
Moreover, these caps are an arbitrary number designed to “prevent frivolous cases” from being pursued. However, frivolous cases are not deterred; rather truly injured people must suffer. A beautiful, young girl, scarred for life by a physician’s negligence, can only recover $250,000.00 notwithstanding in many cases there are scars and injuries that cannot be corrected, and will remain for life.
The Georgia Supreme Court has recently ruled that their cap of $350,000.00 for doctors and $1.05 million for hospitals is unconstitutional because it takes away the citizens right to trial by jury. Illinois also recently ruled that its cap of $500,000.00 against doctors and 1,000,000.00 against hospitals is unconstitutional. Other states have similarly reviewed these caps and determined that they violate the very core of our democracy. Nonetheless, Texas has lowered the caps in recent years, further punishing its citizens and protecting negligent healthcare providers.