Some U.S. states have enacted laws to limit the amount of damages that can be recovered by victims of medical malpractice from the negligent medical providers who were solely in the position to prevent the injuries they caused by simply providing the minimum level of care that their professional peers have established to be required under the circumstances. These arbitrary, fixed damage caps often do not take into consideration the extent or duration of the injuries suffered by the innocent medical malpractice victims and their families, thereby victimizing them twice – once by the careless medical provider and a second time by the medical malpractice damage cap that leaves them unfairly and inadequately compensated for the harms they suffered.
If a woman dies during childbirth because her physician negligently failed to timely recognize and appropriately respond to her easily treatable medical condition, is it fair and adequate compensation for her husband, the newborn, and her other minor children to be limited to $250,000 in compensation for their tragic loss? ($250,000 is California’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.)
Personal responsibility is the cornerstone of our deeply-entrenched universal belief that we are all endowed with the right to pursue our own happiness and financial successes so long as our efforts do not detrimentally affect the rights of others to live their lives as they see fit. And when someone fails to abide by the minimum standards of behavior that we have set for ourselves, such as when the driver of a motor vehicle carelessly causes his vehicle to collide into the rear of another vehicle stopped in front of him, we all agree that the negligent driver is responsible for the damages and injuries that his carelessness caused the innocent occupants of the other vehicle.
However, when it comes to medical malpractice claims, the massive and powerful health care industry in the United States has convinced many state legislators, as well as some of their constituents, that negligent doctors and other careless health care providers should not be held fully responsible for the harms they cause to their helpless patients because the doctors’ medical malpractice insurance premiums might be increased or incompetent medical providers may leave their state if they are held to the same standards of personal responsibility that the rest of us understand and accept.
Caps on the amount of non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are an affront to our collective safety and security – an unexpected act or careless omission by a medical provider who we may not even have met may cause our lives (and the lives of our families that rely on us for our financial support and emotional well-being) to be destroyed. Yet we blindly remain silent when our futures are placed at risk by caps on medical malpractice damages because we do not think that medical malpractice will ever affect us or our families, we unwittingly bend to the tort-reform salesmanship of the health care industry, or we simply choose to not think about medical malpractice harming us or others.
When a jury whose unbiased members chosen from the communities in which we live determine the amount of damages that an innocent victim of medical malpractice should receive as fair compensation based on the victim’s losses and injuries, as established by testimony during the trial and evidence submitted by the parties, why should the jury’s decision be rendered moot by caps on damages that disembowel the jury’s reasoned verdict? Why does the medical provider who has been found to have breached the applicable medical standard of care receive “a pass” at the expense of the person who was harmed due to caps on medical malpractice damages? When did our sense of justice and fair-play get subverted by the financial interests of the health care industry?
When the specter of medical malpractice threatens you or your family, you should promptly contact a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may be willing to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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