In 2003, Texas adopted House Bill 4 (“HB 4”), which capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. At the same time, additional restrictions, notice requirements, and expert report requirements were also placed on these cases. Medical malpractice cases include claims of neglect against doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, nursing homes, hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics, to name a few.
Non-economic damages are now capped at $250,000 per neglectful provider. For example, if both a doctor and hospital were negligent, a plaintiff could theoretically obtain $250,000 in non-economic damages from the doctor and also from the hospital for a total of $500,000 in non-economic damages.
What are Non-economic Damages?
- Mental Anguish
- The change in your everyday life.
- The change in your relationship or the loss of your relationship with your loved one.
- The loss of who you once were and the depression that may come with that loss.
Non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for the emotional harm that has been caused by someone else’s neglect. There is no measurable amount of money that can bring back a lost loved one or give you back your life. Following, HB 4, these damages are now capped and have limited value.
What damages are not Capped?
Economic damages were not capped by HB 4. Economic damages include:
- Lost wages for medical malpractice victims who can no longer work.
- Future medical needed as a result of the neglect.
- Future medical care can include the cost of medications, medical equipment, doctor’s appointments, in-home care or care in facilities, special vehicles, and the cost to modify a home.
At the same time that damages were capped by HB 4, the cost of litigation increased. Expert requirements mean that the cost to prosecute the case will increase. Experts are necessary during a medical malpractice case, however, with HB 4, experts are now required before a case can begin and during the pendency of the litigation. This greatly increases the cost.
The cap on non-economic damages impacts cases involving children, those who may choose to stay at home raising children, and the retired. These three groups of individuals have been greatly harmed by the caps since they do not have a provable source of lost income (i.e. they have one less element of economic damages).
To learn more about the supposed intended purpose of HB 4 and whether that purpose has been achieved, please read this.