California has one of the most unfair, draconian caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases that has not changed in nearly 40 years (the price of gasoline in California in 1975 was 58.7 cents per gallon (source) when the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act was enacted that limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice death cases to $250,000).
Relief from this injustice may be in sight since a coalition that includes Consumer Watchdog filed a proposed ballot initiative on July 25, 2013 for the November 2014 election that would raise the limit on medical malpractice damages to $1.1 million and allow for continued adjustments for inflation. The signatures of over 504,000 registered California voters are required to qualify the measure to be placed on the California state ballot for November 2014.
The impetus for the initiative to raise the cap on noneconomic damages is the sad case of Robert Pack, whose two children were killed by a driver who was impaired by prescription drugs that were prescribed to him by a negligent doctor. After the devastating loss of his children, Mr. Pack was shocked to learn that the lives of his two children were valued at only $250,000 each under California’s medical malpractice laws.
The ballot proposal also includes provisions requiring doctors to: check a prescription drug tracking database before prescribing controlled substances; undergo random drug and alcohol testing; undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing after an unexpected death or injury occurs; report any witnessed medical negligence or substance misuse by other physicians; and, be placed on automatic suspension if they test positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty. The ballot proposal would also require that hospitals report any positive drug or alcohol test results to the California Medical Board.
One issue with the current ridiculously low cap on noneconomic damages in California medical malpractice cases is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for innocent victims of medical malpractice in California to find medical malpractice lawyers to help them because the economic costs and time investment in such cases are prohibitive. The present law hurts innocent victims of medical malpractice while negligent California health care providers continue to enjoy financial benefits from the nearly 40-year-old “medical malpractice reforms.” How can anyone justify such injustice?
We predict that the well-organized, well-financed health care industry in California will soon tell Californians at every opportunity that if the proposal passes, there will be a shortage of doctors in California, California doctors will flee the state to practice in other states that have lower caps on damages in medical malpractice cases, that “frivolous malpractice” cases will result from the increase in the cap, that trial lawyers are the only ones who will benefit from the increase in the cap, and that further so-called “tort reforms” are necessary in California so that patients will be able to obtain necessary medical treatment in a reasonable period of time. If you believe any of this fear-mongering hype, perhaps you may be interested in investing with Bernie Madoff?
If you or a family member are the victim of medical malpractice in California, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in California who can investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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