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Over the last year, we have read many news stories and seen various advertisements related to California’s medical malpractice cap. A ballot initiative, Prop. 46, aimed to raise the current cap to $1.1 million and to allow for inflation adjustments. However, California residents “overwhelmingly voted down Proposition 46,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to voting against the medicameical-malpracticel malpractice cap increase, Californians also voted down an initiative that would have “required routine drug and alcohol testing for hospital doctors,” thereby reducing the number of preventable injuries in hospitals.

Background of the Medical Malpractice Cap Initiative

Just to remind you about Proposition 46 and how it would have changed medical negligence laws, we can take a look at the elements of the initiative. First and foremost, it sought to raise the state’s medical malpractice cap on non-economic compensatory damages from $250,000 to $1.1. million. Noneconomic damages are those for injuries like pain and suffering, which one cannot objectively quantifiy. The $250,000 cap was set back in 1975 with the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). In addition, Proposition 46 would have resulted in some of the following changes:

  • Allowing for additional changes to the cap based on inflation; back in 1975, accounting for inflation, the $250,000 cap is closer to about $57,000 in the 2010s;
  • Requiring hospital doctors to be tested for drugs and alcohol, and requiring doctors that test positive to report their results to the California Medical Board;
  • Requiring the suspension of doctors who test positive for drugs and alcohol, pending an investigation; if the doctor tested positive while on duty, the initiative would have required the California Medical Board to take disciplinary action;
  • Requiring other healthcare professionals to report doctors who may be impaired by drugs or alcohol, or who may have committed medical negligence;
  • Requiring healthcare providers who prescribe medications to consult the California prescription drug history database before providing prescriptions for some controlled substances.

Yet the initiative did not pass, and none of these important changes were made to California law. Why did voters not want to make sure some of these changes went into effect?

Why the Medical Malpractice Initiative Failed

According to the Wall Street Journal article, the “no” votes for Proposition 46 outnumbered the “yes” votes by nearly double—those opposed to the initiative won with a 2-to-1 margin. Why did more voters not say “yes” to Proposition 46?

Advertising may have played a considerable role in the voting numbers. Medical malpractice insurers provided substantial funding for the opposition campaign, raising nearly $58 million in total according to MapLight, which is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that tracks campaign contributions.” All of that funding seems to have washed out the proponents of Proposition 46, who managed to raise about $8.5 million to promote the initiative. As such, the medical malpractice cap for non-economic damages will remain firmly at $250,000.

If you have questions about filing a claim for medical malpractice, it is very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer. Although the cap for certain damages remains at $250,000, you may potentially file a claim for substantial compensation for your injuries. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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file481287608833 (3)Sky-High Ambulance Costs Deter Injury Victims

When you have sustained an injury in a severe accident, it is important to seek immediate medical care.  Only a trained healthcare professional can assess the severity of your injuries, and this assessment can be essential to winning a personal injury lawsuit in Southern California.  Yet the high price of an ambulance ride can deter injury victims from seeking immediate treatment after an accident.  Should ambulance bills really cost such a high price?  And why are they not covered by all health insurance plans?

An article in the New York Times reported that a swim instructor in La Jolla, California sustained an injury in the pool where she worked, and another person at the facility called 911 for an ambulance.  The victim, Kira Milas, 23, had “swum into the side of the pool, breaking three teeth.”  The ambulance arrived, and it took Milas to Scripps Memorial Hospital.  Paramedics applied a neck brace as a precautionary measure.  While Milas is one of the lucky accident victims who did not necessarily require an ambulance trip to the hospital, her story about the massive ambulance bill is all too common in Southern California and, indeed, across the country.

A week after her release from the hospital, Milas received a bill for her fifteen-minute trip to Scripps Memorial Hospital totaling nearly $1,800.  Fortunately for Milas, her ambulance bill was paid by workers’ compensation insurance.  However, it is not uncommon for an ambulance ride like Milas’, covering fewer than ten miles, to cost upwards of $2,000.  For low-income injury victims, the prospect of paying for an ambulance can result in failing to receive the proper treatment and at the right time.

Ambulance Billing and Insurance Coverage

According to the New York Times, ambulance rides—even a few decades ago—used to be provided “free of charge, underwritten by taxpayers as a municipal service or provided by volunteers.”  Now, however, ambulances are run more like other businesses, and they can result in extremely high medical bills.  Indeed, the patient almost always receives the bill for his or her ambulance, and that bill can “range widely, from zero to tens of thousands of dollars.”

Even patients with health insurance can end up with a costly ambulance bill.  To be sure, many patients simply do not have coverage for an ambulance ride.  And the pricing can vary drastically depending on who is running the ambulance.  Some ambulances are run by fire departments and volunteer groups, while other are run by hospitals and private companies.  In short, “no two are alike,” according to Dr. Robert E. O’Connor, who serves as the vice president of the American College of Emergency Medicine.

Given that the pricing varies widely, it is often difficult to estimate the out-of-pocket expenses for a particular patient.  And because ambulances typically only transport patients in emergency situations, there is not a lot of time to “shop around,” so to speak.

If you were injured in an accident, it is important to receive proper medical care.  Although ambulance rides can be expensive, they are very important for ensuring that you get the treatment you need.  In accidents caused by another person’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be eligible to seek financial compensation.  Contact an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer today to learn more about how we can assist with your case.  We may be able to help you negotiate the cost of your ambulance ride in addition to providing counsel for your personal injury claim.

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Spinal Cord Injury Breakthroughs: Fact or Fiction?

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Many Californians who suffered dfile0002014909352ebilitating spinal cord injuries maintain the hope that scientific innovations will result in the possibility to recover from paralysis.  But how realistic is such a cure?  According to a recent article in The Independent, reports of medical breakthroughs often lack the results that most spinal cord injury victims hope for.  Recent reports identified stem cell treatments and the possibility of transplanting regenerative cells into the spinal cord of those suffering from paralysis.  Will these new studies make headway for people across the country who sustained severe spinal cord injuries?

New Treatment May Help Americans with Spinal Cord Injuries

Recently, Professor Geoffrey Raisman of University College London performed a cell transplant on a Bulgarian firefighter who previously suffered from paralysis.  This “pioneering therapy” involved “transplanting regenerative cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.”  According to Raisman, the treatment “represents an historic change in the outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

At the same time, however, it is important to remember that this treatment only worked on one person, and it repaired an injury that “was a clean severance of the spinal cord in one location.”  In other words, not all spinal cord injuries are created equal, so to speak.  Indeed, many are much more complex.

And regaining the ability to walk may not be of utmost important to those who suffered spinal cord injuries.  A spokesperson for the Spinal Injuries Association indicated that most people who suffered paralyzing injuries “would put control of the bladder, control of the bowel, and sexual function above actually being able to stand and walk around.”  As such, while breakthroughs in treating spinal cord injuries could be big news for Americans who currently are paralyzed, researchers and surgeons have been taking the news of the recent spinal cord treatment success with cautious optimism.

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics: Who is At Risk?

According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries can vary drastically in type and severity.  In general, a spinal cord injury involves “damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal.”  These injuries usually result in severe and permanent changes to a person’s “strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury.”

Who is at greatest risk?  While spinal cord injuries typically result from unexpected accidents, certain groups of people are at greater risk than others.  The Mayo Clinic identifies some of those at greatest risk of suffering a spinal cord injury:

  • Males are disproportionately affected by spinal cord injuries, making up about 80 percent of reported cases in the United States;
  • Young persons ages 16 to 30 are most likely to suffer a serious spinal cord injury;
  • After young adults, the elderly, those over the age of 65 are most likely to sustain a spinal cord injury in a dangerous fall;
  • Those who take part in risky activities, for instance, playing contact sports without protective gear, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or diving into shallow water, are more susceptible to life-altering spinal cord injury.

Have you sustained a serious spinal cord injury?  In many cases, the accident that led to the injury was preventable.  You may qualify for financial compensation, and you should contact an experienced San Diego spinal cord injury attorney to discuss your case.

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When automobile drivers tafile000911994102ke their eyes off the road or experience distractions, serious and fatal accidents can occur.  Indeed, according to a recent report from NBC San Diego, a woman suffered fatal injuries after she was struck by an automobile while unloading her car “along a busy La Jolla street.”  The pedestrian accident occurred in the late morning on Girard Avenue, just across the street from Nosh Delicatessen and Orange Theory Fitness, the article reported.

Elderly Driver Strikes Victim

How did the accident happen?  According to reports, the victim, a 45-year-old woman who was a resident of La Jolla, was pinned between her own parked car and the vehicle of the elderly driver who caused the collision.  The driver, a 91-year-old, “backed out of a nearby parking spot on the west side of the street, crossed into the other side, and rammed into the woman,” according to San Diego Police Department Sergeant Joe A. Benavidas.

Benavidas emphasized that the 91-year-old driver stayed at the scene after the collision to answer questions from the police.  While the accident remains under investigation, the San Diego Police Department believes that “speed likely played a factor.”

This part of Girard Avenue—around the 7700 block—is particularly busy.  According to residents of the area, the street often produces “a difficult dance in the afternoons between shoppers and heavy traffic.”  One resident, Justin Rowley, told NBC San Diego that the intersection of Silverado and Girard, near to the victim’s fatal accident, “is always busy with foot traffic and cars.”  As such, if you are a pedestrian, “you always have to watch what you are doing when you are walking across the street.”

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

When you lose a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful act of another person, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.  What is a wrongful death claim?  It is a civil lawsuit that is brought by the survivors of a person who sustained fatal injuries because of another person’s negligence or bad behavior.

A wrongful death claim is a lot like a personal injury lawsuit in that it allows for recovery of damages following a serious accident and injury.  Here is another way to think about it: if the deceased person had lived, she or he would have been able to file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for injuries.  Since the deceased died as a result of those injuries, the survivors can step in and file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased person.

California law specifies that only certain people are eligible to file a wrongful death claim.  Typically, the following people are the ones to bring a lawsuit for another person’s wrongful death:

  •      Surviving spouse;
  •      Surviving children;
  •      Surviving domestic partner.

If the deceased person does not have a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, then the following people are the likely ones to file a wrongful death claim:

  •      Surviving parents of the deceased;
  •      Surviving siblings;
  •      Children of deceased siblings;
  •      Surviving grandparents;
  •      Persons who financially depended upon the deceased person.

Pedestrians who sustain severe and life-threatening injuries in traffic collisions may be eligible for compensation.  If you have lost a loved one in a dangerous pedestrian accident, you should speak to an experienced San Diego injury lawyer about filing a wrongful death claim.

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Insurance Policies and Dog-Inflicted Damage

How often do severe dog bite injuries occur?  According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, dog bite claims are on the rise across the country.  To be sure, data collected by the Insurance Information Institute showed that insurance claims related to animal attack injuries rose by nearly six percent last year, for a total of 17,359 claims.  This figure set a new record established back in 2003.

Across the country last year, aAmerican-Pit-Bull-Terrierverage dog bite insurance claims resulted in payments of about $28,000.  That is up by nearly 45 percent over the last ten years.  And to give this figure another spin, dog bite claims account for more than 33 percent of “all homeowners insurance liability-claim dollars paid out in 2013.”

In response, homeowners insurance policies are getting stricter when it comes to dog-inflicted damage.  Indeed, many insurance companies are charging higher premiums for homeowners with dogs, particularly when they are of a certain breed (such as pit bulls).  Other insurance companies will not cover dog-inflicted damage unless the homeowner has taken his or her dog to pet behavior classes.

California Leads the Pack in Dog Bite Injuries

It may not be surprising to many California residents that dog bite claims have spiked over the last year.  News sources across the state have reported on gruesome animal attacks that left victims in critical condition, according to an article from CBS Sacramento.  For instance, in early October a Modesto woman was attacked by four pit bulls inside her home.  When a relative arrived at the house, that relative also sustained dog bite injuries.  Both victims were reported to be in critical condition.

An article in Reuters recently reported that a man from Southern California whose pit bulls mauled a 63-year-old woman to death was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for second-degree murder.  The victim, Pamela Devitt, was out for a morning walk when the dogs attacked her.  She suffered approximately 200 puncture wounds, according to the report, and died as a result of blood loss.

In 2013 alone, insurance companies in the state of California paid out about $65 million in relation to dog bite claims.  The average of each claim was nearly $34,000.  Why are these settlements so pricey?  In many cases, California’s strict liability law may play a role.  What is strict liability?  In short, a dog owner is responsible for any bad action committed by the dog, regardless of any mitigating circumstances.  In other words, even if the owner was not clearly at fault, that owner is still liable.  So, for instance, if a dog jumps through a screen and attacks a child on the street, the owner is likely still liable for the dog’s behavior.  In a strict liability claim, the victim must only show that the injury occurred, and not that the owner did something wrong or negligent.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a dog bite accident, you should know that you may be eligible for financial compensation.  Dog bites occur with some frequency in California, and the experienced San Diego dog bite lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today.  Contact us to learn more about how we can assist with your dog bite claim.

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Although the weather is beginning to cool down around the country, diving remains a popular sport in Southern California.  Indeed, lobster diving takes place with frequency at this time of year.  However, fatal diving accidents occur too often, and many of these deadly accidents are preventable.  If you lost a loved one in a diving-related incident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Deadly Diving Accident Near Cfile000316008356atalina

According to a recent article in CBS’s KUTV2, a vacationing physician was recently identified as the victim of a deadly diving accident off the coast of Orange County.  The victim, Jared Royer, 40, was on a lobster-diving vacation with a group of other physicians.  Royer’s brother-in-law indicated that it was an annual trip, and Royer “was an experienced diver who had been on several similar trips with his colleagues in previous years,” according to a report in The Spectrum.  The group was diving in Emerald Bay late in the evening, and around 11p.m., the other physicians noticed that Royer had not returned to the boat.

Royer was an anesthesiologist, and he worked in the operating room and birthing center at a Southern Utah hospital.  In addition to his work and prior diving experience, he was an “accomplished triathlete” who had also run the Boston Marathon.

What happened off the coast of Orange County, then?  While autopsy results are pending, early indications suggest that Royer “may have run out of air and made a rapid ascent.”  The accident happened on the third day of Royer’s dive, and according to the other physicians in the group, he was in about 110 feet of water at the time of the incident.

Royer made it to the surface and called for help, but the other divers could not locate him afterward.  After nearly 70 hours in which search and rescue officials from Los Angeles County attempted to locate him, including the Los Angeles County Fire Department dive team, divers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard, Royer’s body was found nearly 100 feet underwater at around 11:30a.m.

Diving Accident Trend in Southern California

Since lobster season began on September 27th, Southern California has experienced a striking number of diving-related deaths.  While diving fatalities are more common among inexperienced divers or those with existing medical conditions, these dangerous accidents can happen to anyone.

As of October 2nd, five deaths were already been reported, according to Fox 5 San Diego.  Four of those deaths occurred at night during lobster-diving excursions, and one of the deaths resulted from a diver’s medical complications.  Royer was the fifth fatality reported in just about a week’s time.

What are the primary causes of diving fatalities?  According to statistics from the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), the following represent the top three causes of death resulting from diving accidents:

  •      A pre-existing medical condition in the diver (such as a disease or other pathology);
  •      Poor buoyancy control;
  •      Rapid ascent or violent movement in the water.

While the overall risk of death during scuba diving is low (only 1 in every 211,000 divers suffers a fatal injury, according to the DAN), nighttime diving in Southern California can prove deadly.  If you lost a loved one in a diving accident, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego wrongful death lawyer.  You may qualify for compensation.

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New Court Documents on NFL Brafile3091346979128in Injuries

Even after the NFL settlement related to concussions and traumatic brain injuries last summer, many former players are still not satisfied.  A current lawsuit accuses the NFL of “hiding information that linked concussions to brain injuries,” according to a recent story from ABC News.  In response to those accusations, the NFL filed documents suggesting that “NFL players are likely to suffer chronic brain injury at a significantly higher rate than the general population,” and “show neurocognitive impairment at a much younger age.”

What kinds of long-term symptoms do tackle football players experience?  According to the article, the following statistics concern rates for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia:

  • Former NFL players between the ages of 50 and 59 develop Alzheimer’s and dementia “at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population in the same age range;”
  • Former NFL players between the ages of six and 64 are up to 35 times more likely than the general population to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In addition to developing these dangerous diseases more frequently than others, NFL players are also more likely to receive diagnoses at an earlier age.

Concussion Settlement and Compensation

Will all these players receive adequate compensation from the concussion settlement?  The court documents anticipate 3,488 former players making almost 6,700 claims for “payments related to brain injuries caused by playing football.”  Of the estimated claims, more than 90 percent are expected for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia.  However, it is likely that a majority of the players are “ineligible for compensation before reaching age 80.”

Referring to the data, the former players question whether the settlement actually provides suitable coverage for sports-related brain injuries.  To be sure, the average player with Parkinson’s will only receive about $320,000, while the average player with Alzheimer’s will only get $340,000.  According to an attorney for the former players, that is “just utter nonsense.”

The NFL’s actuary report suggested even higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s for former players in all age groups.  According to the article, “players younger than 50 were at least eight times more likely to develop those diseases.”

Judge Brody is asking to see documentation about the settlement due to concerns that “not all qualifying players would be paid.”  What are the players hoping to get?  According to the article, players who were in the league for at least 5 years would be eligible for a plan that would pay up to $5 million for players with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), up to $4 million for deaths resulting from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), $3.5 million for Alzheimer’s disease, and up to $3 million for “moderate dementia and other neurocognitive problems.”

While approximately 28 percent of all former players are expected to meet the eligibility requirements to receive this compensation, only about 60 percent of that group are actually likely to seek compensation, given their involvement in other class-action litigation, ABC News reported.

Do you have a loved one who sustained a sport-related concussion or other traumatic brain injury?  It is important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego brain injury lawyer.  Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Many Californians are wondering about the outcome of a ballot initiative to raise the damages cap in medical malpractice claims. If the proposed legislation goes through, California residents who sustain injuries because of medical negligence will be eligible to obtain up to $1.1 million in certain compensatory damages, as opposed to the current cap at $250,000. But what types of medical errors usually result in medical malpractice lawsuits?

Small and Underused Militarfile000850100179y Hospitals

According to a recent article in the New York Times, military hospitals that care for about 1.35 million active-duty service members and their families show “signals of failing in a system” of care.  What is wrong with these hospitals? Investigators for the New York Times identified two major issues.

The first issue was size. The hospitals are so small, and so few patients use them, that “it compromises the ability of doctors and nurses to capably diagnose and treat serious illnesses.”

The second issue was underuse. About two-thirds of military hospitals served only 30 patients or fewer per day in 2013, and many served 10 or fewer patients each day. To put this number in perspective, the highest number of inpatients is still “less than a third as many as the typical civilian hospital. That means about half the beds in these military hospitals remain vacant on a daily basis.

According to Dr. Lucian L. Leape, a patient safety expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, these hospitals “should be outlawed.” The Pentagon is planning to scale back on the military hospital system, thus encouraging patients who would otherwise enter the doors for surgery or treatment for a serious illness to visit a civilian hospital instead. What will happen to the hospitals? Many will be converted into outpatient clinics or birthing centers.

Medical Errors and High Rates of Patient Injury

The New York Times report emphasizes the serious problems these hospitals experience in relation to maternity patients and birth injuries or birth defects. The following birth injuries occur with much more frequently at military hospitals:

  • Trauma to the infant during birth: 95 percent higher risk at a military hospital than a civilian hospital;
  • Postpartum hemorrhage: 43 percent higher risk, on average, at a military hospital;
  • Shoulder dystocia and resulting harm in the infant: 40 percent high risk on average;
  • Maternal trauma with instruments: 22 percent higher risk at a military hospital than at a civilian hospital.

Birth-related injuries are not the only ones that patients are at risk for at military hospitals. The article also demonstrates higher rates of injury during even routine surgeries, such one to correct a hiatal hernia. Although more than 25,000 Americans undergo this surgery each year, one patient at military hospitals lost her stomach as a result of a medical error. Another example involves the six-year-old son of a Navy officer who suffered fatal injuries after receiving improper treatment at a California military hospital.

Some commentators suggest these high rates of injury are caused by a lack of training for young doctors at these facilities. Other suggest that limited financial resources are to blame.

If you or a loved one suffered personal injuries because of a medical professional’s negligence, it is important to talk with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer. Given the recent focus on raising the damages cap, you may be eligible to receive substantial compensation for your injuries.

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The Deadliest Year for the Hit-and-Run?

Have hit-and-run accidents become a serious problem in the San Diego area?  At the beginning of the summer, we told you about recent data suggesting that San Diego County is experiencing increasing incidents of deadly hit-and-run crashes.  By June of 2014, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) catalogued more than 17,000 of these dangerous collisions.  Those accidents resulted in 60 fatalities, and left more than 7,000 seriously injured.

Are pedestrian fatalities becoming the norm in Southern California?  According to a recent story from NBC San Diego, deadly hit-and-run accidents continue to happen in our area.

Marine Dies in Hit-and-Run Accident

The frightening trend surrounding hit-and-run accidents continued over the summer.  An active duty Marine suffered fatal injuries after he was struck by a box truck in Oceanside, California.  The 22-year-old Marine, Joseph Bizzarro, was riding his motorcycle when the truck hit the back of his bike.  Bizzarro “suffered major blunt head trauma,” while the “truck driver fled from the scene,” according to NBC San Diego.

The truck was identified as a “Bfile5051241612699udget Rental.” The driver attempted to make an illegal U-turn in front of the motorcyclist; after realizing the truck’s intended movement, Bizzarro was not able to stop in time.  Bizzarro was riding his bike to the military base when the accident occurred.

Emergency medical responders arrived on the scene the morning of the accident, and Bizzarro was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was placed on life support.  He died as a result of his injuries several hours later.

In Bizzarro’s case, the hit-and-run driver actually “changed his mind and returned to the scene,” according to Oceanside police.  The driver, Ezequiel Garcia, was arrested for a felony hit-and-run accident.  Later reports indicated that Garcia was driving on an expired driver’s license.

Bizzarro’s wife has mobilized members of the community to remember her husband and to seek justice.  In an interview with NBC San Diego, she emphasized that she wants Garcia to receive the maximum punishment for his role in the Marine’s death.

Hit-and-Run Laws in California

In California, an offender can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for a hit-and-run offense. Under the California Vehicle Code, one can be charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident without identifying one’s self to those involved in the crash, and if another person’s property sustained damage in the collision.

One can be charged with a felony hit-and-run offense for leaving the scene of an accident without identifying one’s self to those involved in the crash, and if another person sustains an injury, which can run from a minor injury to a fatality.  In other words, a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense deals with property damage, while a felony offense applies to situations where a person suffers an injury–the seriousness of the injury does affect the charge.

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a dangerous hit-and-run accident, contact a San Diego car accident lawyer as soon as possible.  We may be able to help you secure compensation for your injuries.

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A ballot initiative over penBarbara_Boxerding medical malpractice legislation in California, called “one of the nation’s most expensive ballot campaigns” by the Washington Post, received additional support via a television advertisement from Senator Barbara Boxer.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times explains that Boxer “emerged as a forceful spokeswoman for an initiative to raise some medical malpractice awards in the state.”

Proposition 46, Damage Caps, and Medical Malpractice Legislation

The ballot measure, known as Proposition 46, “would increase the limit on certain medical malpractice damages from $250,000 to approximately $1.1 million.”  Since 1975, non-economic damages have been capped at $250,000.  Unlike economic damages, which typically compensate a victim for hospital bills, medical visits and treatments, and so forth, non-economic damages compensate victims for injuries such as loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and pain and suffering. Also unlike economic damages, non-economic damages cannot be measured in a fixed dollar amount, and can therefore vary widely from case to case.

According to Senator Boxer, putting a higher cap on medical malpractice damages would help to “prevent medical errors in the first place because there is more at stake.”  In order to prevent medical errors, Proposition 46 would require additional safety practices.  Specifically, it would “require hospitals to randomly test physicians for drugs,” and it also would “[r]equire doctors to check a statewide database of prescriptions before prescribing certain drugs in an effort to curb abuse of those medications.”

Advertising in a Costly Campaign

In the recent advertisement narrated by Boxer, viewers are shown images of children who died because of “preventable medical errors.”  The advertisement does not specifically refer to raising the medical malpractice damages cap, but instead emphasizes that changes to the current medical malpractice law would “hold the medical industry accountable for mistakes.”

Currently, trial attorneys who support Proposition 46, along with consumer and healthcare advocates, have raised approximately $5 million for the campaign.  Opponents of the ballot initiative, who released a television ad in late August, include doctors and malpractice insurers, have raised more than $54 million.  While the opponents are better funded, a spokesperson for a consumer advocacy group emphasized that those in favor of the initiative “will be competitive on television.”

Medical malpractice awards are a very hot topic in California.  News of the ballot initiative to raise the cap for certain compensatory damages even made national news, and California residents eagerly await the November vote.  If you or a loved one has been injured because of medical malpractice, contact an experienced San Diego medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case.

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