Distracted Driver or Protected Physician?
The cyclist alleges that she was riding her bicycle when a car abruptly backed up and collided with her. The victim was thrown into the rear window of the car and suffered serious injuries. The victim states the driver was on his cell phone at the time of the accident.
The driver is a doctor who freely admits that he was talking on his phone to a hospital when the accident occurred. Although this admission would seem to undermine the doctor’s case, this doctor attempted to turn his “distracted driving” into a defense against a lawsuit.
The injury victim sued the doctor for ordinary negligence and negligence per se. Ordinary negligence is when a person owes a duty to protect others but fails in that duty and harms a person he or she was supposed to protect.
In this case, the doctor had a duty to take care in driving his car, but he appears to have failed in that duty and injured the cyclist. Negligence per se is a special type of negligence when a person violates a safety ordinance and harms a person the ordinance was designed to protect. The doctor appears to have violated a number of traffic safety ordinances found in the Texas Transportation Code, resulting in the unfortunate collision with the cyclist.
The Texas Medical Liability Act
The doctor tried to use the his phone call to the hospital in order to invoke special rules found in the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). The TMLA is a law that applies to hospitals and medical professionals who injure a patient while performing their medical duties. The TMLA creates legal procedures to address the complexity of medical lawsuits and protect medical professionals from the burden of frivolous claims.
The doctor argued that the TMLA applies to this auto accident case, since he is a doctor and was talking to a hospital at the time of the collision.
Citing the TMLA was crucial to the doctor’s defense. When a case falls under the rules of the TMLA, injury victims are required to file an “expert report” to establish that their injury claim has merit. This report must be filed early in the process, or else the case can be dismissed. Since the cyclist did not file an “expert report,” the doctor invoked the rules of the TMLA and filed a motion to have the case dismissed.
The Court Finds the Defendant…
The accident victim said that applying the TMLA to a simple auto accident case was “patently absurd,” and that the accident was “completely unrelated to health care.” She noted that she wasn’t the doctor’s patient, so the TMLA does not apply. The trial court agreed that the TMLA was irrelevant to the case and denied the doctor’s motion to dismiss.
The doctor requested an interlocutory appeal to determine whether or not the TMLA applies in the case of an auto accident. An interlocutory appeal occurs when an important question arises during a trial, and it is then sent to an appeals court in order to resolve the issue.
The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas heard arguments from both sides. In its finding, the appellate court compared the collision to a “garden-variety” personal injury claim, which was “completely untethered from the provision of health care.” The appellate court stated that distracted driving does not create a “healthcare liability claim,” and therefore the TMLA cannot be used to shield the doctor from liability. The appellate court sided with the injury victim and ordered the trial to continue.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
When you need an attorney for any case, the simplest details can create courtroom complications. Even a routine collision can trigger exceptional defenses found within complex areas of law as we saw in the case above.
When you’ve been injured, it is important to hire an experienced trial attorney who can fight for you. The attorneys at Godsey Martin handle all types of accident cases including those involving cyclists. They can help you receive the justice and compensation you’re entitled to after you’ve been hit and hurt in an accident.
Call them today at 877-GOTHIT or contact them online.