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A measure that will be on the California ballot this November could help improve patient safety and provide fairer payouts to victims of medical negligence.
Whenever a patient is harmed through medical malpractice, he or she should be entitled to fair and full compensation. In the event of a patient death caused by caregiver negligence, full and fair compensation should be paid to the family. But, when it comes to medical malpractice in California, there are artificial limits imposed on the amount a patient or a patient’s family can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In a ballot measure that will come before California voters this November, supporters are trying to modestly increase the medical malpractice damages cap that has remained stagnant for nearly four decades.
In 1975, a California law went into effect that limited recovery for noneconomic damages – compensation that accounts for things like pain and suffering – to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. Over the years, the cap has remained at $250,000, despite great leaps in inflation and the cost of living since it was first introduced.
Proposition 46 will come to voters on the November ballot. Prop. 46 would raise the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractices cases to $1.1 million (approximately equivalent to the 1975 limit when factoring in inflation) and would create a mechanism allowing the cap to be adjusted for cost of living increases in the future without the need for more new laws.
Prop. 46 would also mandate drug and alcohol testing for physicians (random testing as well as mandatory testing targeting doctors who made preventable medical errors) and would require doctors to utilize a state database when prescribing certain potentially dangerous medicines.
Prop. 46 advocates say the measure would improve patient safety, would ultimately save money in the healthcare system and is the right thing to do for those who are harmed by medical negligence. But opponents of Prop. 46 – mostly medical malpractice insurance companies and the doctors they insure – have supporters vastly outgunned in the fundraising department. While Prop. 46 proponents have raised approximately $4.5 million as of mid September, those opposing Prop. 46 have gathered a $59 million war chest.
It seems that Prop. 46 detractors have achieved some results through their massive spending campaign. In a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, 61 percent of likely voters said they would support Prop. 46 if the election were to be held today, while 29 percent said they would oppose the measure; however, after hearing the main campaign arguments of both sides, support for Prop. 46 slid to 37 percent among poll respondents with 50 percent opposed.
If Prop. 46 passes, it could mean larger compensatory awards for those harmed by medical malpractice. If it does not pass, it will become all the more important for medical malpractice victims to secure larger awards for economic damages, which are not subject to the cap.
Part of the equation in getting the full, fair compensation you deserve after suffering the consequences of medical malpractice is going into a lawsuit with the right legal representation. Get in touch with a California medical malpractice attorney today to learn more about how Prop. 46 could affect your case and to ensure you get the just compensation you deserve.