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Texas Personal Injury Law Changes: Texas Tort Reform

Written by Tom Crosley
Apr 19, 2022 Car Accidents, Catastrophic Personal Injury, Vehicle Wrecks
  1. 1. Tort Reform and Texas Personal Injury Claims 
  2. 2. Why Hiring a Lawyer Makes Such a Difference for Personal Injury Cases 
  3. 3. Crosley Law is Your Leading Personal Injury Firm in Texas 

Unexpected accidents happen more frequently than most of us like to admit. Car wrecks, workplace injuries, even major trucking crashes occur every day. Often, these unexpected tragedies were preventable, if only someone had put down their phone while driving, promptly addressed a workplace safety issue, or performed their required duties.  

In the eyes of the law, if someone fails to behave as a reasonable person would in the same situation, they may be held responsible for any injuries resulting from their actions or neglect.  

However, getting the insurance companies or courts to agree about who is at fault and how much injured people deserve isn’t always so straightforward. Recent changes in the Texas legal system have further complicated this for our clients and others.  

This article will explain tort and tort reform, as well as what it means for injured people in Texas. We’ll also outline how working with an experienced personal injury attorney can make the entire process smoother.  

Tort Reform and Texas Personal Injury Claims 

In 2003, a new tort reform law took effect in Texas, and that law makes it harder for injured people to develop personal injury claims and secure full compensation for pain and suffering after an accident.  

First, let’s clarify what tort reform means. A tort is a wrongful action that harms someone else and results in legal responsibility (liability) for the wrongdoer. A tort isn’t necessarily a crime, though it can be both (such as drunk driving).  

Tort law addresses how people who have been injured or wronged can seek financial compensation from the responsible party in civil court—as opposed to criminal law, which is how the state punishes wrongdoers for crimes they commit. Thus, tort reform involves changing the civil justice system around personal injury and other tort cases.  

Often, tort reform makes it harder for injured people (plaintiffs) to bring their case to court and receive full and fair compensation. The typical justifications for this tend to be about efficiency in the court systems, keeping legal costs down for businesses, and how litigation isn’t always the best way to compensate injured people.  

Often, tort reform makes it harder for injured people (plaintiffs) to bring their case to court and receive full and fair compensation. The typical justifications for this tend to be about efficiency in the court systems, keeping legal costs down for businesses, and how litigation isn’t always the best way to compensate injured people. 

Tort Reform in Texas   

Texas injury law and claims became more complex in the early 21st century with state tort reform. In 2003, lawmakers put a cap on how much plaintiffs can receive for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Unlike medical costs and lost wages, noneconomic damages are harder to measure. Examples include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship. 

Negotiating noneconomic damages with insurance companies was already difficult, and this tort reform puts the most pressure on those with the greatest need.    

The new cap was set at $250,000. While this might be enough to compensate some people for noneconomic damages after a medical malpractice case, it falls far short for many whose lives were shattered by catastrophic situations.  

In 2003, lawmakers put a cap on how much plaintiffs can receive for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

One Family’s Medical Malpractice Case 

We can’t help but think of our client, John, and his family when discussing fair compensation for medical malpractice. Shortly after successful treatment for a heart attack, an air bubble in John’s brain caused catastrophic injuries and put him in a permanent vegetative state. He will need complete care for the rest of his life.   

The fact that John had this air embolism so soon after heart surgery was suspicious. First, the likelihood of this complication after bypass surgery is less than 0.003%, and half of those who develop them end up just fine. Second, in the months before John’s embolism, a specific employee of the hospital treating him had been linked to multiple incidents of air entering patient IVs.  

Without a doubt, this was a medical malpractice case in which the family had every right to demand not only major economic damages, but significant non-economic damages around grief, mental anguish, stress, and loss of companionship.   

With the help of medical experts, our team calculated the massive costs John’s family could expect for his lifetime of care. While we were able to secure a satisfactory settlement, would $250,000 really make up for what John lost and how devastated his family would continue to be?    

Tort reform does not usually make things easier for injured people in Texas. In the case of the 2003 changes, it favors doctors, who now pay less to insurance companies to cover their practice. It’s just one more reason that an experienced injury attorney is such an important part of getting the compensation you deserve.  

RELATED: Crosley Law Helps Victim of Negligent Hospital: John’s Story 

Recovering UIM Coverage and Attorney’s Fees in Texas  

Crosley Law was particularly proud to be involved in a case that went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court and made fair coverage more accessible for injured people.  

In Texas, drivers are required to carry a basic liability policy to pay for injuries they cause while behind the wheel. Individuals have the option to add uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UIM) coverage for themselves, which can supplement if the person who injured them doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover the medical costs. 

For example, if you are injured in a car crash and have $80,000 in medical bills, but the person who caused the accident only has $30,000 of insurance coverage, you could supplement $50,000 from your own UIM policy.    

In 2021, Allstate v. Irwin addressed the issue of insurance companies fighting their customers’ UIM claims, forcing injured people to hire attorneys and possibly take their cases all the way to court. Specifically, the case examined whether insurance companies should owe their customers’ attorney’s fees in addition to the insurance payment if they refuse to pay out policies and drag their customers through a lengthy legal process.   

Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with injured parties, setting a precedent for insurance companies to pay out UIM policies sooner rather than later. Our team was honored to play a part in this win for injured people and their families in Texas.       

RELATED: Crosley Law Achieves $498,960 Verdict in Texas in Car Crash Case Against Allstate 

Why Hiring a Lawyer Makes Such a Difference for Personal Injury Cases 

For most people, tackling a Texas personal injury case on their own is a huge and difficult undertaking, and tort reform only makes it harder. When you or your loved ones are focused on healing after an accident, it’s in your best interest to have someone else do the heavy lifting of dealing with the insurance companies and the court system.  

Beyond that, experienced Texas attorneys often work with experts, such as medical professionals and accident reconstructionists, to build the strongest possible case.   

Crosley Law has been honored to help clients get fair compensation under current tort law, and Jerry’s story is one we’re particularly proud of. On the way home from bringing his son to the hospital, Jerry was hit by a big rig that was driving the wrong direction on the highway.  

While getting coverage for Jerry’s physical injuries was relatively easy, the insurance company denied his claim of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) because of a “normal” MRI scan.  

The reality for Jerry, however, was that his “invisible” injury was negatively impacting his mood, behavior, relationships, career, and general ability to manage day-to-day life. Although his physical injuries continued to heal, Jerry’s quality of life declined, affecting everything and everyone he loved.  

Fortunately, Crosley Law was able to connect with leading scientists and brain specialists, who used cutting-edge technology to prove the seriousness of Jerry’s brain trauma. In the end, a jury awarded him $16 million for his losses.   

It’s important to remember that medical malpractice can apply to wrongful death cases as well as personal injury cases. When a family is facing the loss of a loved one and needs compensation, an attorney can step in to support their demands during a tumultuous and difficult period.     

RELATED: A Grieving Mother Clears Her Daughter’s Name: Amanda and Jane’s Story  

When you or your loved ones are focused on healing after an accident, it’s in your best interest to have someone else do the heavy lifting of dealing with the insurance companies and the court system.  

From Whiplash Injury Claims to Catastrophic Damages 

You don’t have to have a million-dollar claim or life-shattering injury to make a personal injury lawyer worth your while. In many cases, whiplash injuries sustained in typical road traffic accidents are enough to make you eligible for financial compensation.  

Of course, when you or a loved face the aftermath of a horrific accident and serious injuries, or even death, your lawyer is there to provide not only legal services, but peace of mind.     

RELATED: What Does a San Antonio Car Accident Lawyer Do? 

Crosley Law is Your Leading Personal Injury Firm in Texas 

At Crosley Law, we bring the experience and knowledge to build a strong case and navigate negotiations with the insurance companies. Regardless of tort reform laws and other attempts to limit injured people’s options, we fight back with all we have to secure the compensation you deserve.  

We always begin the attorney-client relationship with a complimentary case evaluation. To set up your free consultation today, call 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or use the easy contact form on our website.   

 

 

References 

Berlin, J. (2020, May 29). Tort reform on trial: Houston case challenges noneconomic damage cap. Texas Medical Association. Retrieved from https://www.texmed.org/TexasMedicineDetail.aspx?id=53720   

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. 

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