Month: July 2014

Why should I have a Medical Power of Attorney in Texas?

This question is one that is frequently asked in estate planning.  A medical power of attorney in Texas is a signed paper that allows you to assign your right to make medical decisions for yourself to another person if you are unable to make such decisions at that time.  There are many such circumstances wherein you may not be able to make such important medical decisions, such as a critical illness or injury that leaves you unable to communicate or make relevant medical decisions for yourself.  Without such documentation, a hospital or physician may not know which loved one or relative you would have wanted to make your important medical decisions when you could not do so yourself. That is why having a medical power of attorney is so important in your estate planning process.

Needless to say, the person to whom you give your medical power of attorney should be someone you can fully trust and will make the best medical decisions in your interest.  Further, after executing such medical power of attorney it is critical that you speak with the person and or persons you have designated as your power of attorney so that they will know your wishes concerning your medical care should that individual ever have to act under such document.  Unlike a statutory durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney only goes into effect once a physician has determined that you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.  Further, once an individual has suffered a major illness or injury and is unable to make medical decisions for herself, that individual no longer has capacity to execute a power of attorney;   therefore, executing your medical power of attorney in a timely manner is critical.

For those that do not want to incur the minimal cost of obtaining their medical power of attorney paperwork, it should be made clear that if no medical power of attorney exists and members of a family, and/or loved ones, cannot agree on the care to provide to a injured or sick loved one, an expensive guardianship will be the only method for appointing someone as the person responsible to make such important decisions.  Obtaining a guardianship from the Court, is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor that can be easily avoided by making sure that your estate planning consists of a valid Texas medical power of attorney.

Beginning the Divorce Process

Almost every day I’m asked by potential clients, “How do I get divorced?” The answer isn’t always simple, but there are three basic steps: 1. Petition; 2. Notice; and 3. Finalize. The first step is to file a petition for divorce. As simple as this step sounds, it can be tricky. Knowing where and how to file the petition can be complicated, especially if you and your spouse live in different counties or states. Many sources have petition forms available, but to avoid pitfalls, it’s best if an attorney helps you draft your petition. In many ways the petition is as important as your final decree of divorce, so seek the advice of an attorney before filing your petition.

After filing the petition, the second step in the divorce process is giving notice of your divorce action to your spouse. Often this is done through a process server that personally hands your petition to your spouse, but other service methods exist depending on the circumstances. This notice step is key, so don’t guess. Use an attorney to get the job done correctly, or you potentially will create more problems for yourself.

The last step is finalizing the divorce, which for some amicable couples is done in a matter of weeks without any court settings. But for others, it takes years and numerous court appearances.  The final agreements of the parties or orders of the court are written into a final decree of divorce. This document is very important and should definitely be drafted by an attorney. Your attorney will help ensure that your decree addresses your interests and is enforceable against the other party if necessary.

If you are at the point that you are ready to begin the divorce process, seek counsel to assist you. It’s never easy. Deciding to get divorced will probably be emotionally one of the hardest decisions that you will make. But an attorney can help you through the process, one step at a time.

Jury Awards $16.7 Million Verdict Against Doctor, Could it Happen to You?

Last month, a jury in Boston Massachusetts awarded over $16,000,000.00 to a plaintiff, after a radiologist  failed to diagnose the plaintiff’s mother with lung cancer from an x-ray the doctor had taken a little over 18 months before the patient died.  This case begs the question: could a similarly-large verdict be assessed against a doctor here in Texas?

Thankfully, large awards against doctors  have become relatively rare in Texas.  This is primarily the result of successful tort reform that capped the amount of non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case to $250,000.00, and recent Texas Supreme Court decisions which have further limited the amount of medical expenses plaintiffs can present to Texas juries.  While these reforms have made extremely large dollar verdicts rare in Texas, juries are still willing to award massive sums to Plaintiffs against doctors who they believe fail to provide adequate care to their patients.  To avoid a similar outcome, physicians need experienced attorneys capable of taking advantage of the favorable legal landscape for defendants in Texas malpractice cases.  Additionally, a physician would be wise to take advantage of the sophisticated estate and asset protection techniques a lawyer can provide, to help protect the physician and the physician’s family from the effects of an adverse jury verdict.  At Criss & Kraft LLP our attorneys have the experience and expertise necessary to prevail at trial in a medical malpractice case and to help physicians protect themselves and their families just in case.

For more information and details about the case above check out the local newspapers account of the case: