Since 1975, California’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases has remained at $250,000. What that means is that the most egregiously and seriously injured victims of medical malpractice in California will not receive compensation in excess of $250,000 for their pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages, even if they are in pain 24/7, are confined to a bed and unable to move, etc., due to medical negligence.
The Fairness for Injured Patients Act that is on California’s statewide ballot in November intends to remedy the injustice of the $250,000 cap by increasing the cap in recognition that the cap amount has not increased in over 47 years and that the most seriously harmed medical malpractice victims are not fairly compensated for their losses.
The California Medical Association has published its vociferous opposition to the effort to provide greater fairness to victims of medical malpractice in California because of the possible financial impact on its membership. In its February 7, 2022 Op-Ed entitled “Op-Ed: Medical malpractice ballot measure would benefit lawyers” (notice that the title does not mention the primary and intended beneficiaries of the proposed new law: innocent victims of medical malpractice), the California Medical Association continues its concerted public affairs campaign to mislead consumers’ attention away from why the legislation is desirable and necessary to address the disparate impacts of medical malpractice of those who are the most seriously injured due to their members’ negligence.
The California Medical Association states in its Op-Ed, in part: “[T]he Fairness for Injured Patients Act brazenly creates a new category of injury with no cap whatsoever – which is broadly defined and can include outcomes as innocuous as unwanted scarring. This is the loophole that would effectively obliterate the MICRA cap and start a mad dash by enterprising attorneys filing countless new lawsuits in already overcrowded courts.
To no one’s surprise, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act’s fine print stealthily removes all existing caps on attorney’s fees, resulting in huge financial windfalls for trial lawyers who sue doctors, nurses, clinicians and other health providers for a living. It also creates a new process that prohibits judges from independently verifying the truthfulness of statements made by trial attorneys in the initial court filings – another incentive for more frivolous lawsuits.
And who pays for this onslaught of new lawsuits and attorney payouts? The rest of us. The initiative would place an unmanageable burden on our health care delivery system at a time when many of our community health centers are already operating on razor thin margins and are faced with staffing shortages.
Taxpayers are on the hook as well. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office said the Fairness for Injured Patients Act “would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” including “annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The trickle-down effect of this measure would result in community clinics closing their doors, essential health services being slashed and health care providers having to limit new patients. The hardest impact will be felt by women, communities of color and individuals with special needs – all when we should be reducing health inequities and expanding access to health care for those who need it most.”
Intentionally not mentioned in the Op-Ed are the individuals who would benefit from the Fairness for Injured Patients Act: those most seriously injured by the medical negligence of their physician-members who could have and should have avoided the harm they caused to their patients. The Op-Ed hawks the sky-is-falling method of scare tactics that is often effective because most people will need medical care of some sort and at some time, and when people are told that their medical care is threatened (which the Fairness for Injured Patients Act does not threaten), their shoot-from-the-hip reaction is to vote their fear and not for fairness.
The California Medical Association’s (CMA) states on its website: “The California Medical Association (CMA) is a professional organization representing California physicians. The association was founded in 1856 by a small group of physicians who understood it was their duty to fight for their patients and profession.” Source
But when the financial interests of its members are threatened and a conflict arises between those financial interests and their patients’ well-being, the espoused “fight for their patients” goes out the window and the financial and political might of the health care industry is mobilized to fight against their patients’ interests.
Financial responsibility for harming patients is a strong incentive to provide safe medical care. Reducing such financial incentive risks patient safety – the risk of becoming a medical malpractice victim rises for all of us when health care providers are insulated from the consequences of their substandard medical care.
If you or a family member were injured as a result of medical negligence in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your family member in medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in California or in your state who may assist you.
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