I am a trial lawyer. A personal injury lawyer in the San Fernando Valley, who is proud to represent victims of car crashes and dangerous conditions that cause falls, which injure or kill. But, I am perhaps proudest of the work I do as lawyer representing victims of medical malpractice. It is my work as a medical malpractice attorney that has brought me the most satisfaction and made the biggest difference in the lives of my clients.
Unfortunately, limits on the amount a victim of medical negligence can recover in California have made it increasingly difficult to help those injured by health care workers. A $250,000 cap on damages, which was passed in 1975, has never been adjusted for inflation.
We know who has been hurt by this decades old cap – victims of medical negligence and the families of people who die because of medical mistakes. The prestigious Journal of Patient Safety estimates that 440,000 people die each year because of preventable medical mishaps, a figure also cited by the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s a population the size of Atlanta – killed off each year by negligent health care providers. Only a very small fraction – estimated at less than 5% of medical malpractice victims or their families – receive any compensation for their injuries or loss.
Medical malpractice insurance companies, not doctors, have most benefitted from the limit on damages. As the value of the $250,000 cap has decreased over time, fewer claims of medical negligence are filed because they are too costly to litigate. The pay-out for non-economic damages is the same today as it was in 1975, while the insurance companies keep raising the premiums doctors pay. As a consequence, medical malpractice insurance companies earn 5 to 6 times the profit that California auto insurers enjoy. The cap is a cash cow for insurance companies.
Voters in California will have a chance to change the cap this fall when they vote “yes” on Proposition 46, the Pack Patient Safety Act initiative. We urge you to help us help more victims of medical malpractice by voting “yes” on November 4th.