Traumatic brain injuries can have life-long effects for both you and your family. It is estimated that 5.3 million Americans suffer lifelong disabilities as a result of traumatic brain injuries, with associated lifelong health care costs that range from $85,000 to over $3 million. To make matters worse, depending on how the injury happened, the state of Texas may place limits on the amount of money that you can recover from the person or entity that caused the injury. These are called damages caps and they can significantly impact your life in the event that you sustain a traumatic brain injury.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are complex injuries that can cause a multitude of symptoms. TBIs can affect your personality, your cognitive functions like memory and analytical abilities, as well as your ability to move your body. TBIs can be either mild or severe. A mild TBI is characterized by confusion of loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes. Effects of mild TBIs include:
- mood swings
- difficulty thinking
- memory issues
Severe TBI’s on the other hand, is characterized by loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, and memory loss for more than 24 hours. Effects of severe TBIs include:
- loss of motor function in limbs
- difficulty with speech and language
- emotional issues
- reduced ability to think
Victims of severe TBIs may be in a coma, either temporarily or permanently. Survivors of severe TBIs may require lifelong medical care.
Traumatic Brain Injury Causes
TBIs can happen to anybody and result from a variety of accidents. The top three causes are:
- auto accidents
- gun-related accidents
- slip and falls
TBIs may be caused by medical negligence, also known as medical malpractice as well. For example, if you are undergoing surgery and your brain is deprived of oxygen for too long, a TBI may result.
Impact of Damage Caps
Texas imposes damages caps in three cases:
- Medical Malpractice Cases
- Personal Injury Cases in which punitive damages are awarded
- Personal Injury Cases against the government
The Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 limits the non-economic damages that a victim can receive. Economic damages are verifiable damages such as medical expenses and loss of earnings, essentially, anything you can calculate using data like bills and pay stubs. Non-economic damages are those that relate to the suffering one endures for being blind, disfigured, or otherwise disabled. Sometimes they are referred to as “pain and suffering” damages.
In Texas, these non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 per healthcare practitioner or facility, not to exceed $500,000 for all facilities. The absolute maximum a victim can receive for non-economic damages is $750,000, adjusted for inflation since 2003.
Punitive damages are those damages awarded over and above economic and non-economic damages, in cases where the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious. They are designed to make an example out of someone to warn others of punishment for similar actions. In Texas, punitive damages are limited to twice the amount of economic damages, plus an amount equal to the non-economic damages. These damages may not exceed the greater of $750,000, or $200,000.
Where a government entity is involved in causing a TBI, damages are limited to $250,000 per person, with a maximum of $500,000 per incident. For government entities other than the state, emergency service organization or municipality, damages are capped at $100,000 per person, up to $300,000 per occurrence.
If you or someone you know has received a traumatic brain injury, schedule a consult with a Texas personal injury lawyer to determine liability and fight for your rights.