Why time is important for a Texas medical malpractice case

We receive a lot of calls at Painter Law Firm from patients and families who are hurting or grieving over a serious injury or death caused by medical malpractice. It’s not unusual for people to call shortly before the two-year statute of limitations that applies to most cases.

It’s often the case that there’s simply not enough time to investigate and handle the case properly before the statute of limitations runs out. And, for us, it’s important to do things properly from start to finish.

For a lawyer to handle a Texas medical malpractice case properly takes a substantial investment of time, in addition to the expenses for big-ticket items like medical experts.

From a time perspective, many people are surprised at how long it can take to get copies of the relevant medical records. While some hospitals and doctors are responsive and follow the law, others erect hurdles and generate delays and just hope you will go away. It is certainly an area of frustration even for our highly-trained staff.

If the patient is deceased, some healthcare providers invoke HIPAA and say they won’t release the medical records absent letters of administration from a probate court. Many families don’t need to open a probate matter when a loved one dies, so this can be troublesome. While we believe that these doctors and facilities have an overly conservative interpretation of HIPAA, the back-and-forth to get the records released takes time.

Once we obtain all of the relevant medical records, our legal nurse consultant carefully organizes and reviews them, and we discuss the merits and our theory for the potential case. At that point, it’s time to select an appropriate medical expert to review the records and share opinions.

Texas law requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to produce a written report and resume (curriculum vitae) from at least one medical expert supportive of a theory of negligence by the defendant doctors, hospitals, or healthcare providers.

These preliminary expert reports are due within 120 days of each defendant filing an answer and appearing in the lawsuit. It’s impossible to get an extension of that time and if plaintiffs don’t serve a proper expert report by that date, they will get stuck with paying the other side’s attorney’s fees, upon a motion by the defendant.

Fortunately, there are three ways that these problems can be avoided:

• Get a copy of your medical records and a CD of radiology studies any time you’re hospitalized.

• As soon as you believe that there may have been an injury or death because of negligence, hire an attorney immediately. Sometimes doctors will encourage patients to “give it time” or say that “it’ll get better in six months or a year.” That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: the statute of limitations is running.

• Don’t hire just any lawyer. Look for one who has extensive experience in handling Texas medical malpractice cases. This is a complicated area of the law that has a lot of traps for parties and attorneys who are unfamiliar with it.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital or physician care, then contact a top-rated, skilled Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys 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 for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.