Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Over the past year, consumer advocates across the state of California have been thinking about the current cap on medical malpractice damages and the possibility for raising that cap.  According to an article in Reuters, just last week advocates in favor of raising the medical malpractice cap indicated that “they had gathered enough signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot.”  The ballot initiative was a response to thus-far ineffective legislation attempts to raise the damages cap.

The ballot initiative is likely to be controversial, and until quite recently it wasn’t clear whether California residents would have to vote on raising the decades-old medical malpractice cap, or whether the state legislature would have taken care of this without a costly election fight.  The cap should have been raised, and the Walton Law Firm strongly supports the effort to raise it.

For San Diego residents who have sustained injuries because of medical negligence, the outcome of the ballot initiative will be very important.  In the meantime, if you have suffered a personal injury due to medical malpractice, it’s important to seek advice from an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we’re paying close attention to the ballot initiative, and we can talk with you about your case today.

After a serious accident, injury victims often are transported to a local hospital. However, a personal injury can become significantly worse if it’s not treated properly and quickly. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times suggests that speedy injury treatment may be a problem for some California hospitals. Specifically, a report released by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicated that California earns a failing grade when it comes to “access to speedy treatment,” the article stated. Indeed, our state “has the lowest number of hospital emergency rooms per capita in the nation.” Could this overcrowding lead to medical negligence or medical malpractice claims?

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The report used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make its findings. Given the state of emergency room overcrowding in California, the advocacy group described the lacking access to injury care as a “critical problem.”

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Hospital Overcrowding?

A recent out-of-court medical malpractice settlement in Sacramento awarded the parents of Leah Gumb $9 million. Nearly two years ago, Leah Gumb suffered permanent brain damage after she was born at the UC Davis Medical Center, according to KTXL Sacramento. This case concerned a C-section that doctors failed to perform after Leah’s heart rate dropped. As a result, the infant requires “24-hour nursing care for the rest of her life,” reported CBS 13 Sacramento.

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Have you been the victim of medical malpractice? It’s important to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. California law has a statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims, which affects the time period in which you’re permitted to file a lawsuit. At the Walton Law Firm, we have years of experience handling medical negligence cases and can discuss your claim with you today.

What is Medical Malpractice?

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?

In 1975, the California Legislature capped the damages that victims of medical malpractice could seek for pain and suffering. Since then, about half of the states in the U.S. have done the same, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Now, a new ballot initiative in California seeks to relax that cap.

Nearly forty years after the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act capped noneconomic damages in our state to $250,000 for medical malpractice, “trial lawyers and consumer groups have unveiled a ballot initiative that would relax the cap considerably,” said the Los Angeles Times. Indeed, if voters approve of the new measure, the “allowable amount for noneconomic damage payouts for victims of medical malpractice would quadruple.”

For advocates of tort reform, limiting noneconomic damages has been a point of much significance. Simply put, noneconomic damages, such as those for pain and suffering, provide compensation for injuries that aren’t directly related to medical bills or lost income, for example. So why the ballot measure, and why now?

A recent article in UT San Diego reported that the state of California fined three North County hospitals “a total of $200,000 for preventable lapses in care.” These incidents of medical malpractice included “two deadly falls,” as well as a medication error that led a newborn baby to suffer from seizures.

In fact, the California Department of Public Health actually fined a total of ten hospitals in our state during the first week of June 2013, and three of those hospitals included the facilities mentioned above in the San Diego area. The fines highlighted medication errors and patient care problems at Fallbook Hospital, Palomar Health in Escondido, and Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.

If you or your loved ones have suffered injuries as the result of medical negligence or medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. While recent hospital fines in California alert us to medical negligence in several facilities in our area, medical malpractice and medical ‘never events’ happen more often than we’d like to think. An experienced personal injury attorney can speak to you about your case today.

Many people have heard about typical medical malpractice cases. However, dental malpractice is not something many people think about, because most people visit the dentist so infrequently. A dentist commits malpractice when he or she causes a patient personal injuries by failing to act within the acceptable standard of care. Dental malpractice is more common than many people realize, with approximately one out of every seven malpractice claims involving a dentist, dental hygienist, or other dental health care professional. dentist.jpg

Recently, the issue of anesthesia and other forms of sedation has become prevalent with regard to the dental industry. Typically, an anesthesiologist must attend school for twelve years, including four years of college, four years of medical school, and an additional four years in an anesthesiology residency before they are permitted to administer anesthesia on their own. On the other hand, the anesthesia industry has begun offering dentists an opportunity to receive certification to use anesthesia by attending weekend courses. More than 18,000 dentists have attended these weekend anesthesiology courses in the past five years. The courses are intended to allow dentists to start anesthetizing patients immediately. Many dentists are lured into the taking these classes by the promise of tens of thousands in extra income annually, which a great deal of dentists need to offset the high cost of attending dental school.

Unfortunately, the consequences of using anesthesia without proper training can be severe. Even a well-trained dentist will have difficulties with anesthesia, and most likely will not have the facilities or equipment to handle such emergencies. Particularly with children, using too much anesthesia can be deadly.

Many San Diego wrongful death lawyers will be watching the legal battles of Dr. Conrad Murray, doctor of the late pop-star Michael Jackson, even more closely in the coming year. Dr. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on November 7 in a criminal trial that caught the world’s attention. After hearing the verdict, the pop-star’s father, Joe Jackson, told waiting crowds, “There’s more.” pills.jpg

Two California wrongful death lawsuits have already been filed, one each by Mr. Jackson’s parents and also on behalf of his three children, against Dr. Murray and the company behind Michael Jackson’s final “This is It” tour, AEG Live LLC. On November 9, a Los Angeles judge ruled that the civil suits can move forward, so Dr. Murray’s court battles are by no means over. Under California tort law, a criminal verdict can be used as evidence in a civil trial. Also, the burden of proof in a civil trial is lower than in a criminal trial. A prosecutor has to show the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a difficult standard to meet. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only show responsibility by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which in layman’s terms means it is more than 50% likely that the defendant is responsible. Also, evidence laws are more lenient in civil cases than criminal, meaning that evidence excluded from the criminal trial may be used in the upcoming civil cases.

The end result of these actions is hard to guess at this point, even for San Diego medical malpractice lawyers. AEG’s responsibility will likely depend on the specific wording of the contracts involved and also the nature of the company’s ties to Dr. Murray. With the appeal of his criminal verdict pending, Dr. Murray may also wish to avoid further court battles and the accompanying media frenzy by settling the suit out of court. It is unclear at this point what kind of medical malpractice insurance he may have, as well.

needle.jpgThere are very few relationships that are more sacred and more demanding of our trust than those between us and our doctors. Our doctors often know more about us than our closest friends, and they are the ones who we turn to when we need answers about our health and well-being. But what happens when our doctors fail us?

Few of us can imagine the nightmare of losing our mobility and becoming paralyzed, but that is exactly what happened to a 14-year-old girl who entered Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a relatively minor surgery and left as a paraplegic.

According to an article from Fox News, Sophie Tyler was admitted to the hospital to have gallstones removed. In order to keep her from feeling pain during the surgery, she was given an epidural anesthetic. However, the hospital staff failed to remove the epidural for 48 hours following insertion. During those 48 hours, Sophie suffered increasing numbness in her feet and legs, and she even told the hospital staff of her symptoms, but no one realized what was causing the numbness until it was too late. The anesthetic entered her spinal cord and caused permanent damage that will leave Sophie paralyzed from the waist down for the remainder of her life.

Doctors are some of the most well-respected members of our communities. They are usually highly trained, caring, and competent people. We can probably all think of a great doctor that helped us or a loved one get through a difficult period in our lives. Unfortunately, just like in any other profession or occupation, not all doctors are as competent and capable as we would like them to be. Sometimes, they make mistakes and commit medical malpractice. Unfortunately, new reports indicate that some area doctors make a lot of mistakes and the California medical board—the state agency that is supposed to make sure our doctors are competent—fails to take appropriate disciplinary action.

This is all according to a report released by the Washington D.C.-based public interest group, Public Citizen. The contents of the report should be troubling to all area residents who would like to avoid becoming a San Diego medical malpractice victim. The most significant findings of the report were that the California state medical board failed to file a disciplinary action against more than 700 physicians who were disciplined by hospitals for wrongdoing. Thirty-five percent of those physicians were repeat offenders. In addition, the report classified more than 102 doctors as being an “immediate threat to health or safety” of patients. Only 118 other doctors in the entire United States were given this label, meaning that California has almost half of all dangerous doctors. surgery.png

The mistakes cited by the report were numerous. They include faulty diagnosis and treatment of patients, failing to remove medical devices and instruments from patients after surgery, and personal problems of the doctor interfering with his or her work.

According to the report, the reasons for this terrible state of affairs are obvious. First, the California review board lacks the funds it needs to go after doctors who deserve discipline. Second, the board has a slow rate of processing disciplining actions, ranking 35th in the nation on that measure. According to the report, it takes more than 400 days for the average disciplinary action to be investigated. In the meantime, doctors continue to practice, regardless of their competence level or the risk they pose to patients.

According to Public Citizen, the poor condition of doctor oversight is nothing new for California. In 2005, a report by the California Medical Board Enforcement Program made a series of recommendations to improve doctor oversight, most of which have not been implemented. The state has a very poor record with respect to disciplining its doctors, who will undoubtedly be left free to practice and commit potentially costly errors. Until the California medical board improves its oversight of doctor mistakes, it will be up to California medical malpractice attorneys to fill the gap and hold doctors accountable for the harm they cause patients when they make serious mistakes.

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