In 2015 Texas tort law came under fire after a man sued a retired doctor for injuries sustained after he crashed into the retired doctor’s wayward cows. Under the Texas tort reform law, victims have the right to seek redress but must prove negligence before any compensation is awarded. To prove negligence, one must show that there is a legal duty present and that duty was breached, which means damages must be paid. (Firestone Steel Products Co. v. Barajas, 927 SW 2d 608, 613, Texas 1996). For example, a driver has the legal duty to drive carefully and when he gets behind the wheel of car drunk, he is causing breach of duty. Should anyone get hurt because of his drunk driving, he must pay for the damages, whether they be for medical treatment, economic losses, or compensation for pain and suffering – or emotional trauma. Duties can be presumed and obvious, statutory, or slight, in which case it can be challenged.
Compared to other states, the Texas tort reform law has limits on medical malpractice claims. The benefit from this is the high number of doctors who have migrated to Texas, as it is seen as a safe zone. Other features unique to the Texas tort reform law include:
- Texas Advance Directives – Health care facilities are allowed to terminate life-sustaining treatment to critically ill patients after 10 days’ written notice and proof that continuing treatment will have no positive effect on the patient. Doctors are immune to liability under this law.
- No Statutory Damages – Under the law, statutory damages are not allowed if no economic loss is proven.
- Tort Claims Act – A private citizen is allowed to sue a government office, which waives sovereign immunity.
- Comparative Negligence – Negligence claims limits damage claim only if the liability percentage is less than 50% or equal to 50%.
The statute of limitation on negligent claims is two years except when the wrongful conduct happens over a period of time. The statute of limitation can also be extended if the plaintiff is underage, in the military, or is not of sound mind.
In the case of wrongful death, the family of the victim is allowed to seek compensation for personal injuries, mental anguish, and expenses that result from the accident. This is different from the Survival Statute, which is when the heirs sue on behalf of the victim for the victim.
Under the wrongful death case, the heirs can claim four types of damages:
- Mental anguish
- Pecuniary losses – loss of support, maintenance, counsel
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of inheritance
The fifth type of damage is punitive damages, but these can only be claimed by a spouse or direct heirs of the victim.
For personal injury cases under the tort reform law, one can claim for actual damages, which can be general or special damages or emotional damage. Nominal damages are also allowed but invasion of legal right must be proven. Other damages that can be filed are court charges, exemplary damages if malice can be proven, and interest.