A Texas resident contacted our law firm about his severe and disabling injuries after he wasn’t properly worked up, diagnosed, and treated in a hospital emergency room for the worst headache of his life. He was sent home with painkillers but actually was in the process of having a stroke.
Even though his injuries were profound and permanent, he’d been turned down by other law firms. When he called us, we took his case and got him a settlement of over $1,000,000.
Ever wonder: Why can’t I find a lawyer take my case?
I’d argue it’s by political design.
Back in 2003, the Texas legislature passed comprehensive tort reform laws that apply to medical malpractice cases. One of the laws is codified at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Section 74.153, and raises the standard of proof necessary for bona fide emergency care provided in hospital emergency rooms.
For most cases, a Texas medical malpractice plaintiff only needs to prove that a defendant physician, hospital, or healthcare provider was negligent. That involves proving the applicable standard of care, or what should have been done in reasonable prudence, how it was violated by the defendant, and how that harmed the plaintiff.
Under the willful and wanton negligence standard that applies to hospital emergency room care, though, the bar is higher. Victims of hospital emergency room malpractice must show that the defendant health care provider had actual, subjective knowledge of factors that posed an extreme degree of risk to the patient, but nevertheless objectively proceeded with conscious indifference to the patient’s well-being.
Make no mistake, the willful and wanton negligence standard means that some cases of emergency room medical malpractice will be impossible to pursue. The tort reform lobby wants patients to believe that this is the case across the board, but that’s not true. They’ve succeeded in making many lawyers gun-shy to take on emergency room cases, feeling they're just too risky.
What it takes to pursue an ER case in Texas
Although the other law firms refused this $1+ million-dollar case, we scoured through the medical records and found the evidence we needed to thread the tort reform needle.
Our client had been right all along—the hospital and doctors made significant mistakes that entitled our client was entitled to a monetary award.
But, he had to act fast or his case would have been thrown out by a judge. That’s because, as with any medical malpractice claim, the statute of limitations under Texas law is two years from the date of the incident or negligence. Because of the extra steps required to develop an emergency room case, injured patients should hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to get the investigation underway.
Skilled medical malpractice attorneys
The skilled eye of a medical malpractice lawyer is critically important. In some cases, the difference between a case that we can win or one that’s impossible under the willful and wanton negligence standard in Texas law, may come down to a single word in thousands of pages of medical records.
Common theme of poor ER treatment
One of the most common issues in emergency room cases is misdiagnosis. An ER physician or staff can discount or overlook a patient’s signs and symptoms, even discharging the patient with the wrong diagnosis and treatment.
That’s what happened to our client who went to a Texas hospital ER with a primary complaint of the worse headache of his life. The doctors and nurses jumped on that complaint, but ignored other problems that he had, including nausea, vomiting, unstable gait (couldn’t walk correctly), and, significantly, a droopy eyelid on one side (ptosis).
It's that last sign that made the case winnable under the Texas willful and wanton negligence standard that applies to emergency rooms. Ptosis is a focal neurologic deficit, which is a dangerous sign that must be investigated before a doctor settles on a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Instead of doing a further workup, including diagnostic imaging, the doctors decided to discharge their patient. The nursing staff didn’t say a word either, failing to advocate for their patient, even though they had to physically pick him up and move him into and out of a wheelchair to his car.
Within a few hours of arriving back home, he had a massive stroke that left him with permanent injuries. He’ll never able to work again or lead the active lifestyle that he once enjoyed.
We aren’t shy about looking closely at ER cases in Texas
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor emergency room care in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.