Understanding how damages caps work in Texas medical malpractice cases

Damages caps are probably the part of Texas medical malpractice tort reform law that get more attention than any other. Yet, it still generates a lot of confusion and is worth discussing.

Not all damages are capped

The term damages refers to the categories of compensation that a plaintiff can seek at trial.

The most important thing to understand about damages caps in Texas medical malpractice cases is that not everything is capped.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of damages that plaintiffs can seek in a medical malpractice case under Texas law: economic damages and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages are the types of harms and losses that can easily be associated with a specific dollar amount. Think about things such as past or future lost income and past or future health expenses. Economic damages are not capped by Texas tort reform laws.

Noneconomic damages are the types of harms and losses that are hard to associate with a specific dollar amount. Think of very real problems like mental anguish and pain and suffering. Even though these are often the hardest things to deal with, they’re also tough to quantify with a specific dollar amount. Noneconomic damages are capped by Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Section 74.301 for medical malpractice cases as follows:

• $250,000 cap for all individual physicians or health care providers combined.

• $250,000 cap for a hospital or facility, up to a maximum of $500,000 if there are multiple hospital or facility defendants.

Although the noneconomic damages cap became law in 2003, it’s not indexed for inflation and isn’t adjusted each year.

Wrongful death and survival cap

There’s a separate cap for medical malpractice cases that involve wrongful death or survival claims. These claims are available when medical negligence causes a patient’s death.

Survival claims belong to the estate of the deceased patient. Wrongful death claims may only be brought by the wrongful death beneficiaries defined by statute. In Texas, wrongful death beneficiaries include the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased patient.

Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Section 74.303 imposes an additional cap on wrongful death or survival claims in the amount of $500,000, based on 2003 dollars. This cap applies to all categories of damages, including both economic and noneconomic damages. Thus, there’s effectively a cap within a cap situation—the noneconomic damages cap applies first and then the wrongful death cap applies.

Fortunately, the wrongful death and survival cap is indexed to the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI). This means it’s adjusted for inflation every month. Currently, the Texas wrongful death and survival cap is over $2 million.

Texas advice for Texas cases

Potential clients call Painter Law Firm from time to time after researching case settlements or verdicts from other states. We’re always careful to explain that the laws governing medical malpractice claims, and what’s possible with them, vary from state to state.

That’s why if you’ve been seriously injured because of hospital or medical care in Texas, it’s important to contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free strategy session about your potential case.

Article by

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.