Tort laws cover injuries caused by one person to another. Torts usually involve physical harm, though they may also involve other types of harm such as economic loss or emotional injury.
The usual remedy for a tort is payment of monetary damages to cover the victim’s losses. Some common torts include products liability, slip and fall accidents, and simple assault cases. There may be some overlap between tort and criminal laws.
Texas is known as a “tort reform” state. This means that considerable effort has been exercised towards revising tort laws in Texas. In particular, Texas is known primarily for placing a limit (cap) on monetary damages for medical malpractice claims.
Ever since the introduction of Texas’s cap for medical malpractice damages, thousands of doctors have relocated to the state to set up their practice. The cap on damages has served to protect doctors from frivolous claims where patients seek to recover an excessively high amount of money for minor injuries.
Other unique features of Texas tort law are:
- No Statutory Damages: Texas tort law does not allow statutory damages. Statutory damages are damages that can be paid to a plaintiff who has not shown that they suffered economic losses. In Texas, a plaintiff generally must prove measurable economic losses before they can receive a damages award.
- Texas Tort Claims Act: This Act allows in individual to file a private tort suit against a government entity. Normally, a state entity is protected from such lawsuits under the concept of “sovereign immunity”, meaning that the state cannot be sued. However, the Claims Act effectively waives sovereign immunity.
- Texas Advance Directives Act: This Act allows a health care professional or facility to terminate life-sustaining treatment to a critically ill patient. Termination of treatment may occur 10 days after written notice that the continuing the treatment will likely have no effect on the patient. Also known as the “Texas Futile Care Law”, the Act may allow physicians to avoid tort liability for discontinuing treatment.
- Comparative Negligence: For a negligence claim in Texas, the plaintiff may recover damages only if their percentage of liability is equal to or less than 50%. Not all states have comparative negligence statutes.
Thus, Texas’ tort laws and policies have often had far-reaching effects on both the medical profession as well as insurance claims for medical malpractice. These areas of tort reform in Texas are subject to much debate and are constantly undergoing changes.
You may wish to consult with a Texas lawyer if you are involved in a tort claim in Texas, especially if the claim involves some form of medical malpractice. Your attorney can keep you updated with any changes to tort laws in Texas. Also, if you will be filing a lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer can provide you with valuable assistance during court proceedings.