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Raising Limit on Pain and Suffering Damages Will Help Victims Harmed by Medical Negligence

This year, voters will have the chance to make a critical impact on the ability of medical malpractice victims to seek justice. A reform measure is now circulating which will be placed on the November ballot if supporters gather enough signatures.

The ballot initiative – "38 is too late" seeks to raise the cap on pain and suffering damages that deny victims just compensation for horrible medical mistakes such as surgical errors, anesthesia errors and negligent medical care. The initiative's backers, which include patient safety advocates and skilled attorneys representing victims of medical malpractice, have until March 24 to obtain signed petitions to get the proposal on the ballot.

Such reform is crucial. The current caps have been in place since 1975, and limits malpractice damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages to $250,000. In today's dollars, this amounts to a scant $65,000.

Pain and suffering damages cover the intangible costs associated with catastrophic injuries – such as the pain experienced as the result of a doctor's error, that victims may suffer for the rest of their lives.

As the result of this nominal limit, it may not be feasible for individuals who don't suffer significant economic damages to bring a lawsuit to redress their harm. The costs associated with bringing a lawsuit, which may include obtaining testimony from medical experts often exceed the expected recovery, leaving individuals such as the elderly, children and adults without jobs unable to be compensated when doctors make errors.

In the past doctors and insurance companies have objected to eliminating caps, claiming that high medical malpractice awards place a burden on insurance companies, forcing them to raise their fees. However, this is simply not the case. In fact, evidence shows that such payouts are but a fraction of overall health care costs.

If the proposal passes, the cap on pain and suffering would be raised to $1.1 million, accounting for inflation in the years since it was originally instated.

As California medical malpractice attorneys committed to improving patient safety, we are hopeful voters approve such desperately needed reforms. For more information or if you believe you have suffered harm from medical malpractice, please contact the experienced birth injury lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson for an immediate consultation.

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