California Voters to Decide on Long-Awaited Medical Malpractice Bill

In today’s election, voters in California will be asked to approve or deny a proposition that will affect every person and family in the state. Anyone – rich or poor, male or female, young or old – can be the victim of medical mistakes, and hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year from medical negligence. It is time for Californians to pass this measure, to protect their rights and safety. The medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm respect the opinions of all our clients and readers; we merely wish to illuminate an issue blurred by special interest groups.

Proposition 46 will require mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors who work in hospitals, create a state database to track painkiller prescriptions, and, after decades of stagnation, raise the medical malpractice payout cap for pain and suffering. This last measure is the most critical piece of legislation.

Like many other states, California places a cap on the amount victims can receive in non-economic damages from malpractice lawsuits. Currently, this cap is set at $250,000, which was established in 1975, and has never risen to account for inflation. Non-economic damages are awarded to injured victims to compensate them for things that cannot easily be measured by dollar amounts, such as psychological impact of disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional effects of losing a family member, and the pain and suffering inflicted upon them by medical negligence.

To better understand how the affects real California families, take for example the family profiled in one of our posts from this blog, the Jeffers family. Four years ago, Malyia Jeffers suffered an infection that spread throughout her body, ultimately requiring amputation of her legs and hands. The infection spread so severely because doctors at the Sacramento clinic her family took Malyia to did not make time to see her, delaying for hours until it was too late to save her limbs. She was just two years old at the time.

Malyia now requires 24-hour care, and will need continued care for the rest of her live. Like the majority of families, the Jeffers had no way of paying for this immense cost, and filed a lawsuit against the hospital for their malpractice and negligence. The Jeffers were only able to receive $250,000 because of the medical malpractice cap, which will do very little to help them pay for an entire lifetime of care.

Opposition Campaigns

Several organizations have come out with extraordinarily well-funded opposition campaigns against Prop 46. Critics assert that increasing the non-economic damage cap would cause healthcare providers to pay more in insurance premiums, transferring costs to patients, or causing doctors to leave the state. These are merely scare tactics, and are not upheld by evidence.

This is a common assertion among opponents of victims’ rights, and in no case does it turn out to be true. Many states have raised their malpractice caps in recent years, and doctors remain. Any physician in good standing, who does their best to practice in good faith, would not want negligent doctors creating liability and endangering the public, including their friends and family. It is that simple.

Malpractice insurance companies already make more money than any other type of insurance companies, yet when patients are harmed by malpractice, they do not pay out these claims *because of* these state caps. Due to their immense interest in this vote and their incredibly deep pockets, insurance companies have put in tens of millions of dollars (about five times as much as “pro” funding) to defeat Proposition 46. They are not looking out for victims. They are only funding for their own interest.

For more information on this specific Proposition, look here and here. Our team of medical malpractice attorneys has been practicing for 30 years, and have seen the devastating effects of malpractice and negligence. No one believes it can happen to them, but medical mistakes occur every single day, with varying severity and consequences. If you or someone you love was seriously injured from malpractice, contact our firm immediately. We will help you determine if you have a case, free of charge.

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