Are you familiar with the term “sovereign immunity” as it relates to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Texas? As our own Maria Wormington discussed in a recent article, sovereign immunity is creating serious roadblocks for individuals in Texas who have suffered an injury as the result of a medical error or mistake. In a nutshell, individuals and entities cannot bring a lawsuit against a county or state hospital for medical malpractice in Texas because of sovereign immunity. While the legislature intended to protect hospitals from going bankrupt, it is now criticized for stopping medical malpractice cases.
At Wormington & Bollinger, our attorneys are approached weekly about possible medical malpractice claims against local hospitals, doctors, clinics, and other healthcare providers. Sadly, medical malpractice is a leading cause of death in the U.S., resulting in anywhere from 250,000 to 440,000 deaths every single year. When we are in need of medical attention, most people willingly go to the doctor or hospital for care, thinking they are doing the right thing. But these numbers show otherwise. There are many reasons why medical malpractice is a problem in our country, several of which we will discuss today.
As mentioned, the team at Wormington & Bollinger is dedicated to helping families throughout Texas seek compensation for their injuries. Medical malpractice is a sensitive topic that is made even more complicated by the Lone Star state’s sovereign immunity legislation. Today we are going to discuss the role of sovereign immunity in preventing patients like Ksenya Samsonova and her family from seeking compensation for errors made by a Texas hospital staff. Many people are unaware of this issue, but it can have a long-lasting impact on victims of medical malpractice. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one because of a medical error, please call Wormington & Bollinger today to schedule a free consultation. Our lawyers are committed to doing everything we can to represent victims of medical malpractice in Texas.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
Through legislation called the “Texas Tort Claims Act” (TTCA), sovereign immunity is still very much present in Texas. County and state hospitals are protected under sovereign immunity from lawsuits, such as medical malpractice claims. While these ancient laws were put in place to safeguard taxpayer-funded entities (think public hospitals and schools) from being slapped with lawsuits, it didn’t take into account the reality of medical malpractice. These immunities granted to local hospitals continue to trouble our attorneys when they should be held accountable for missteps.
About the case
In 2015, Ksenya Samsonova went to Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital for surgery on her leg. The operation was successful, and Samsonova spent several days in the hospital recovering. During this time, the otherwise-healthy young woman suddenly stopped breathing for an estimated nine minutes. She was found in cardiac arrest by the nursing staff. Further investigation discovered that nurses might have given her too much pain medication, leading to a “suspected narcotic overdose.” Now 27, Samsonova is bed-ridden and requires around-the-clock care.
Unfortunately, instead of taking responsibility and adequately compensating the family, representatives for Parkland said, “sorry.” They did waive Samsonova’s hospital bill (reportedly a million-dollar stay), but she now requires 24-hour care, and her family is struggling to stay on top of the laws. Because Parkland is a government hospital, the family doesn’t have the option to file a lawsuit and sue for compensation.
They are left to fend for themselves, with no recourse for the nurses that made the mistake that has left the previously healthy young woman incapacitated.
Earlier, we mentioned the Texas Tort Claims Act. This is worth mentioning again because it is the legislature that protects state-employed doctors and nurses from any medical liability in the state of Texas. As you can imagine, this is a severe problem. While mistakes happen, when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider makes a preventable medical error, they should be held accountable. Under TTCA, all employees of state hospitals are shielded from any accountability or liability. This is frustrating for lawyers and victims of medical malpractice alike. Our lawyers believe these antiquated laws are stopping victims of negligence in Texas from being able to file suit.
Common Causes of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice comes in many different forms. By definition, malpractice is “any act or omission by a doctor or healthcare provider that deviates from the accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury to the patient.” Some of the top causes of medical malpractice in the United States include:
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to obtain informed consent
- Prescription errors
- Dosage errors
- Inadequate training
- Healthcare worker fatigue
These are just a handful of examples of the most common causes of medical malpractice in Texas. If you have been the victim of any of the above or a different type of medical negligence, contact Wormington & Bollinger today. Our lawyers have extensive experience handling these cases and will do everything we can to fight for your rights. If the at-fault party was employed by a state hospital, please contact us immediately to learn more about your options.
Steps to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Texas
In Texas, there is a statute of limitations for medical malpractice. This means there is a time limit in which an injured patient can file a claim. This limit is two years from the exact date the injury or illness was discovered. This is important, as it is not from the time the negligence or error occurred. If the hospital is not state-owned, the patient may be able to seek damages for the following:
- Economic losses (including medical bills, reimbursement for lost wages, and any rehabilitation costs)
- Non-economic damages (this covers compensation for pain and suffering and any other side effects of misdiagnosis or another error)
- Punitive damages
There are caps on the amount that can be recovered in medical malpractice lawsuits in Texas. This number is $250,000 for economic damages and $500,000 for non-economic damages.
Maria Wormington and the rest of our legal team at Wormington & Bollinger are prepared to fight for your rights and help you understand your options. In the event of sovereign immunity, we will do everything we can to ensure those responsible are held accountable. To learn more about sovereign immunity and how it may affect your medical malpractice suit, schedule a free consultation today.