California has one of the lowest medical malpractice damages caps in the United States — $250,000. This cap limits potential medical malpractice claimants from finding medical malpractice lawyers willing to take their cases, no matter how valid the claims and the seriousness of the injuries, because the costs of litigation (including tens of thousands of dollars paid to medical experts to review the medical records, render their opinions, and testify during depositions and at trial) and the vast time commitment make the decision to take the case prohibitive.
In a California case involving a 17-year-old girl who was born with a heart defect that required surgery as an infant and a follow-up routine catheterization procedure before going off to college, the cardiologist informed the girl’s waiting parents immediately after the catheterization that an “incident” occurred during the procedure that deprived their daughter’s brain of oxygen for 40 seconds. The daughter never regained consciousness and died ten days later after being removed from a ventilator.
The parents felt that they were not being told the truth about what happened to their daughter during the catheterization procedure. The hospital was not helpful in determining the truth. The only way the parents could discover the truth about the reasons for their daughter’s death would be to file a medical malpractice case but they had difficulty in finding a medical malpractice attorney to help them because of the $250,000 California cap on damages.
They finally found a medical malpractice lawyer who was willing to file their medical malpractice case pro bono. Nonetheless, their lawyer had difficulty obtaining the full and complete medical records from the hospital where the catheterization was done. Their complaint filed with the California Department of Public Health resulted in an investigation that revealed that one of the participants in the teenager’s care removed her catheters without the proper supervision and another was not authorized to treat patients. In response to the investigative findings, the hospital responded by adding a warning to its informed consent form to advise that patients may be treated by doctors in training.
The parents’ medical malpractice case ultimately resulted in a settlement in the maximum amount allowed under California law — $250,000.
To us, this California medical malpractice claim is an example of two of the many shortcomings with regard to medical malpractice damages caps — that damages caps are woefully inadequate to compensate the most severely injured medical malpractice claimants and that damages caps result in many egregious medical malpractice wrongdoings remaining hidden from the victims and their families because medical malpractice lawyers cannot afford to represent such deserving claimants because of the low limit of the caps.
One result of valid medical malpractice claims not being filed because of low damages caps is that incompetent (or worse) medical providers are not identified by hospitals or supervisors and therefore are permitted to continue to provide substandard medical care that injures (or worse) unsuspecting patients.
Medical malpractice damages caps must be identified for what they are — subsidies for bad medical care that harm patients and disincentives to weeding out incompetent doctors and other incompetent medical providers. Contrary to the mantra of tort reformers, medical malpractice damages caps preclude many valid medical malpractice claims from being filed and would have no effect on medical malpractice lawyers who bring “frivolous lawsuits” (by the way, can tort reformers provide any statistics regarding how many medical malpractice claims are frivolous (or the number of sightings of the real Big Foot, Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, for that matter))?
When the effects of medical malpractice cause you or your family to suffer substantial injuries, significant pain and suffering, or additional medical expenses, you may wish to consult with a local medical malpractice attorney regarding your possible medical malpractice claim and your right to be compensated for your losses.
Visit our website or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be willing and able to assist you with your medical malpractice claim.
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