Help Your Lawyer Help You

A very common question we hear from potential clients is “How long
do I have to file a medical malpractice case in Texas?”

With very few exceptions, the time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit
in Texas is two years from the date of the incident of injury. There are
notable exceptions (if a minor is involved, there is a longer time to
file the case, but some of the potentially recoverable damages may not
be available). So if you are considering whether you may have a medical
malpractice case, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible
to preserve whatever rights you may have. This is true not only because
the clock is ticking, but because the complexity of many malpractice cases
demands considerable investigation by the attorney to determine whether
and how to move forward. Many attorneys will not even look into a potential
case if there is less than six months left to file the case. In large
part, that’s because the investigation of a potential malpractice
case requires obtaining and reviewing all of the relevant medical records
and hiring physician experts to review the case. The process takes considerable
time, and many, (if not most) malpractice attorneys are reluctant to take
on the risks and pressures involved in evaluating and filing a case so
close to the deadline.

There is at least one very simple way for clients to make their malpractice
attorney’s job easier and simultaneously obtain the added benefit
of extending the time to file a lawsuit by an additional 75 days: provide
your attorney with a detailed list of the claimant’s (patient whose
care is at issue) medical providers for the five years before the incident
or supposed malpractice. While this sounds simple enough, very few clients
come into our offices with this information. More frequently, obtaining
this information requires diligence and more than one or two “gentle
reminders.” In many instances this is understandable. Clients often
come to us following a life-altering event and are almost invariably stressed,
confused, and even frightened. One of the last things they want to do
is perform an administrative task like assembling the names of their physicians
(or their loved ones’ physicians). Yet simply taking the time to put
together a list of names and addresses of healthcare providers will expedite
the time it takes to evaluate and potentially move forward with a case.

But perhaps more importantly, this list can help buy additional time to
get the case filed. This is especially helpful when the case is getting
close to the statute of limitations. With an accurate five-year list of
healthcare providers you or your loved one saw before the suspected malpractice,
your attorney may send a Notice of Claim letter to the healthcare provider(s)
whose care is in question. This letter advises the provider that you or
your loved one is investigating a potential malpractice or healthcare
liability claim. By sending this letter (within two years from the incident)
and attaching an accurate list of healthcare providers over the previous
five years, the statute of limitations may be extended by an additional
75 days. This additional time may even be the difference in your attorney
deciding to take your case or decline it. So if you are planning to contact
a malpractice attorney about your potential case, take the time to make
a list of doctors and have it available for your initial consultation.