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Capping Non-economic Damages Doesn't Improve Patient Safety

After years of discussion, Congress is moving forward on enacting legislation that seeks to place limits - or caps - on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. When an individual suffers harm as a result of a doctor’s negligence, he or she may recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These damages are broken down into various elements, including "economic" and "non-economic." Economic damages include things such as lost wages and lost future earnings. "Non-economic" are more generalized and include pain and suffering and the emotional distress that is a result of the harm caused by a medical professional. Often noneconomic damages account for a significant amount of the recovery for those individuals who do not earn significant wages and suffer injuries. Where the amount of non-economic damages is limited, bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit may be not be economically feasible.

Although a primary reason given for capping non-economic damages is to lower medical malpractice insurance premiums on doctors by reducing the amount of "defensive medicine" (ordering unnecessary tests out of fear of lawsuits), many doctors express doubt that the caps will actually translate into savings, or into improvements in the practice of medicine, and may even deter efforts at improving patient safety. One commentator noted, “This approach, the tort reform approach, is the equivalent of treating a patient with pneumonia purely with aspirin to lower the temperature but not getting to the root cause ... Historically, medicine has not been good at self-policing. In many places, the only way to hold anyone accountable is through the courtroom."

As California medical malpractice attorneys, we have seen the challenges raised by California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act and oppose similar federal legislation. We are dedicated to ensuring victims of medical negligence recover all the compensation they are entitled to. For more information, or if you have suffered injury as a result of medical negligence, please contact our experienced California medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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