How does death affect a Texas medical malpractice case?Painter Law Firm's frequently asked question (FAQ) series
There are several issues that come to play in the unfortunate event when a plaintiff or potential plaintiff in a medical malpractice case dies.
Death because of medical negligence
If a patient dies because of medical mistakes, it will be a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit. Under Texas law, these claims are subject to the health care tort reform overall cap of approximately $2.1 million.
For wrongful death medical malpractice cases, there are two important things to remember:
• There must be a statutory beneficiary to proceed with a wrongful death claim. Under Texas law, this includes the spouse (whether traditionally/ceremonially married or by common law marriage), parents, and children. We’ve had situations where a cousin, aunt, or uncle was very close to a deceased person and contacted our office for help. We had the sad task of having to inform them that they have no wrongful death claims under Texas law.
• Each wrongful death beneficiary has a different claim for damages. If a statutory beneficiary didn’t depend on the deceased person financially, it will be difficult to impossible to make a claim for economic damages. Similarly, if a statutory beneficiary had no relationship with the decedent, non-economic damages for mental anguish will be difficult to prove.
Death before a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed
If the victim of medical malpractice dies before a lawsuit is filed, then the claim will belong to the estate of the decedent and must be brought in the name by an administrator, executor, or representative. If the death wasn’t caused by medical malpractice—for example, of unrelated natural causes—then the wrongful death cap will not apply.
During a lawsuit
We’ve had some occasions where our client passed away during the pendency of a medical malpractice lawsuit. When this occurs, it requires filing a suggestion of death with the court. The court should then enter an order substituting the designated administrator, executor, or representative who will continue the lawsuit as the plaintiff.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor medical care in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your potential case.
Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.
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