Texans, like other Americans, are grateful for the availability of good health care. We admire and trust our physicians and other medical professionals. However, all too often, health care providers betray our trust by committing medical malpractice.
Medical mistakes resulting in death are an alarming problem in this country. In 2008, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that 320,000 patients die unnecessarily in the United States each year as a result of preventable medical errors. Late in 2010, the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services reported that 180,000 Medicare recipients alone die each year from hospital mistakes. These figures dwarf those published by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, which reported that 98,000 patients die each year from preventable hospital errors.
In addition, medical mistakes can cause pain, disability, disfigurement, psychological problems and more, and can be very expensive for the patient. Common medical errors include medication mistakes, surgical errors and failure to diagnose (or to correctly diagnose) illness.
In September 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine published a major, groundbreaking study about medical malpractice claim trends. The study looked at malpractice claims (1991 to 2005) of a major insurer with almost 41,000 insured doctors representing every state. This type of data had not been the focus of a major study for years, and the national findings reveal that the majority of medical malpractice committed in this country does not result in monetary compensation for the injured patient or the family of a deceased patient.
- Annually 7.4 percent of doctors were subject to malpractice "claims." Noteworthy, a claim may not necessarily result in a lawsuit. Oftentimes, a physician has notice of a potential claim, which he reports to his professional liability insurance carrier, but which never results in a lawsuit.
- Annually only 1 percent to 5 percent of malpractice claims resulted in monetary payments to plaintiffs (by verdict or settlement).
- Of 25 medical specialties, the highest proportion of doctors within a specialty that faced a malpractice claim was in neurosurgery and thoracic-cardiovascular surgery at about 19 percent; and the lowest proportion was in family practice at 5.2 percent, pediatrics at 3.1 percent and psychiatry at 2.6 percent.
- By age 65, almost all doctors in "high-risk specialties" had been the subject of a malpractice claim, and 75 percent of those in "low-risk specialties."
In Texas, a patient may have a legal claim for medical malpractice when a medical professional causes injury or death as a result of violating the professional duty of care owed to the patient. A malpractice victim can recover the actual costs incurred in treating and dealing with the medical mistake, pain and suffering damages, and perhaps punitive damages if the doctor was grossly negligent.
If you or a loved one is the victim of medical negligence in Texas, please consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Texas medical malpractice law is complicated and you need a skilled legal professional to protect your rights.