Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do personal injury lawyers charge a contingent fee instead of an hourly fee?
Most attorneys who do not handle personal injury claims charge by the hour. This arrangement works in family law, criminal and business litigation. However, an hourly fee arrangement does not work very well for individuals who have been injured because of the negligence of another. This is true because generally the injured party is out of work or is faced with paying medical expenses and is unable to afford an attorney on an hourly basis. In addition, personal injury attorneys generally also pay the expenses of litigation which can be significant. In order for the injured client to be able to have access to the court system, it is necessary for most personal injury attorneys to work on a contingent fee.
Why are Texas hospitals immune from being sued if they commit malpractice?
Not all Texas hospitals are immune from suit if they commit malpractice. Only hospitals which are owned by a county or by the State of Texas enjoy the special benefits awarded them by the Texas Tort Claims Act ( TTCA). The TTCA limits when a state or county owned hospital can be sued for medical malpractice and also caps ALL recoverable damages at $100,000 for a County hospital and $250,000 for a State hospital. Because of the restrictions of the TTCA and the caps on all damages, it is virtually impossible for an attorney to handle a medical malpractice case against a state owned or county owned hospital.
What are the time limits and other restrictions to filing a personal injury claim?
In Texas, the general rule regarding personal injury suits is you must file a suit within two years of the date your were injured to preserve your claim for injuries. However, no one should wait until the end of the two year period before seeking legal advice. Critical information could be lost in this time that would make it difficult to file the claim timely. In order to protect your interest, one should contact a competent attorney as soon as possible following their injury.
Should I give the insurance adjuster for the other party my recorded statement of how the accident occurred?After you have been involved in an automobile collision, the insurance adjuster for the other party will call you and ask you to give them a recorded statement of how the accident occurred. The adjuster will often ask personal and private information such as your date of birth, social security number and workplace information. Any information that you provide to the adjuster for the other party will be used against you if it is to the advantage of the insurance company to do so. Before you give a recorded statement to an insurance company for the adverse party, consult an attorney so that you know your rights and responsibilities.
My husband died after heart surgery. I’d like to sue the hospital for a very large amountâ€”say, $50 millionâ€”on the premise that, even if a judge reduces the award by 90 percent, I’ll still get $5 million. Is this a viable strategy?
It’s true that lawyers often make a practice of suing people or institutions for huge amounts of money, knowing full well that the judge will reduce the amount awarded, either at the end of the trial or after an appeal by the defense. After all, as the reasoning goes, if you sue a person for $100 million, he may be relieved to have the judgment reduced to $10 million, since that seems “small” by comparison.
In Texas, though, there is a serious obstacle to pursing this strategy. In 2003, the state legislature passed a tort-reform bill that limits the amount that can be awarded in cases of medical malpractice to $250,000 for non-economic damages. What this means is that, if you win your lawsuit, most of your compensation will be for economic damages—say, the amount of money your husband could have earned over the rest of his lifetime if he had not died on the operating table as well as the cost of his burial and last medical expenses. Your emotional distress, the pain and suffering of your children, and your desire to punish the hospital for its mistakes are worth no more than a quarter of a million dollars, so you can essentially forget about that $50 million (or even $5 million) payoff.
Of course, even before you file your lawsuit, it will help to establish that the hospital or physician was, in fact, responsible for your husband’s death. The fact is that people sometimes die from natural causes during surgery, which are unrelated to the actions of doctors, nurses, or hospital staff.
Questions? Charles Dunn has over three decades of experience litigating Hospital and Physician Negligence cases in Texas, and he will be glad to confer with you if you call him at 806-763-1944.