Back in August, we told you about a California ballot initiative that is looking to raise the cap for medical malpractice awards. Many commentators believe the cap should be relaxed, permitting victims of medical malpractice to collect more than a mere $250,000. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) put this limit into place back in 1975.
However, the California Medical Association vehemently opposes a raise to the cap. According to an article in Sacramento’s local KABC-7, some experts believe the doctors may win this fight. Since the legislative session ends this month, it’s a good time to return to this issue. Will lawmakers create a solution to the debate between commentators in the medical and legal arenas before the session ends? Or will voters get to choose?
What’s the Ballot Initiative, Again?
Just to remind you about the key players involved in the proposed alterations to MICRA: Bob Pack, whose two children were killed by a woman who was driving while impaired by medications that her doctor carelessly prescribed. At the time of the incident, Pack was only eligible for $250,000 worth of compensation for each of his children’s lives due to the medical malpractice cap.
Does the ballot initiative propose anything besides relaxing the cap on medical malpractice damages? The Pack ballot measure, if it passes, would “require random drug testing of doctors,” and it would also “mandate the medical profession use a state database that keeps track of prescriptions,” according to KABC-7. The primary part of the initiative, however, is to raise the ceiling on medical malpractice damages to $1.1 million and to permit that number to change over the years in order to adjust for inflation.
The president of the California Medical Association, Dr. Paul Phinney, recently explained why he’s opposed to the ballot initiative. In short, he believes it will drive up costs unnecessarily on both the medical and legal ends of the spectrum. Phinney said, “it will increase meritless lawsuits, which will increase lawyer fees, increase healthcare costs, decrease access to care and won’t do anything to improve the quality of medical care.” Some commentators like Phinney have also expressed concerns about the very expensive campaign that the ballot initiative is likely to produce.
So, who’s right? A recent news story in ABC10 shows one victim’s side in the fight to relax the medical malpractice damages cap.
Chula Vista Family Fights for Medical Malpractice Damages
As lawmakers and medical professionals contend with the large-reaching implications of the ballot initiative, a report from ABC10 depicts the personal and individual consequences of the current medical malpractice damage cap.
In Chula Vista, one family has been suffering the consequences of the $250,000 cap since 1994. In the early 1990s, medical professionals misdiagnosed Kathy Olsen’s 2-year-old son Steven with meningitis. In fact, Steven had a dangerous infection that led to a brain abscess. Medical professionals missed the serious brain infection attacking Steven, and he ended up suffering severe brain damage as a result. After doctors discovered that Steven had a brain abscess following a CAT scan, he underwent surgery but he “could not see, eat, walk or even speak” after the surgery.
Olsen filed a lawsuit in 1994, and a jury awarded her family $7.1 million. However, the California MICRA capped her damages at only $250,000. Olsen recently spoke out about the ballot initiative, making clear that she and her family hope the damages cap is relaxed. For Olsen, even $1.1 million isn’t enough, “but at least it will be a little bit more,” she told ABC10.
Right now, Californians will have to wait and see what happens with the ballot initiative. But in the meantime, if you or a loved one have been injured because of medical malpractice, you could be eligible for compensation. Contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Walton Law Firm today to discuss your case.
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