The Law Offices of Charles Dunn
Lubbock County Medical Malpractice Attorney
Call Today 806-370-6270

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 you 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.

My husband died after heart surgery. I'd like to sue the hospital for a very large amount say, $50 million, 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 pursuing 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 noneconomic 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 $250,000, 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.

I have a choice of hospitals for my upcoming surgery. Does it matter where I have the procedure done?

In Texas, if you have surgery at a county- or state-owned hospital, your rights to sue if the surgery is botched by the doctor are very, very limited. If you have the choice of hospitals before your surgery and want to be on the safe side, choose a private hospital over a publicly owned hospital. For more information on why it is difficult if not impossible to sue a government-owned hospital in Texas, give me a call today.

I don't know if my injury is serious enough to make a claim. Should I wait until, or if, the injury gets worse?

No. If you have been injured through the negligence of others, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible following your injury. An attorney will discuss the facts of your case with you and determine the appropriate action, if any, that needs to be taken.

Questions? I have years of experience litigating hospital and physician negligence cases in Texas, and am glad to confer with you. Please arrange for a free consultation by calling my office at 806-763-1944 or by completing my brief intake form.

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