Archives: July 2013

July 2013 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 8, Issue 7 July 2013 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Landmark Reform Law Again Under the Microscope Lawyers Quick to Pull the Trigger on Challenges to Liability Laws Survey of Physicians Fully Examines Medical Liability Landscape Landmark Reform Law Again Under the Microscope Nearly 40 years after California passed MICRA, the landmark medical liability reform, which helped stem the tide of physicians leaving the state, the personal injury lawyer lobby continues to push lawmakers to overhaul the law that is credited with preserving access to care. MICRA guarantees unlimited recovery for economic damages and places reasonable limits of $250,000 for non-economic damages (pain and suffering). California personal injury lawyers have aggressively fought this year for to increase damages for non-economic damages to $1.1 million with further increases each year, and just this week have filed paperwork to force a ballot initiative in 2014. Physicians, hospitals, and businesses have come out strongly in support of the current patient-centered law that already allows for unlimited compensation of medical bills and lost wages for patients with liability claims with merit. MICRA further protects patients by limiting the amount of fees lawyers can take for representing patients – allowing more money…

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Initiative to lift California medical malpractice cap filed

The drive to raise the amount victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits may be going to California’s ballot box. A coalition that includes the Consumer Attorneys of California, an organization representing trial lawyers, has been lobbying the Legislature aggressively this year to lift a $250,000 ceiling on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases. They argue that the current cap, enacted by the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, is outdated and insufficient to cover the prolonged effects of doctor negligence or a botched medical procedure. By suppressing the potential payout, they say, the law discourages attorneys from taking on malpractice cases. With a few weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers have yet to take on the issue. One member of the coalition, Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog, on Thursday said it had filed papers to take the matter directly to voters. It is overseeing a proposed ballot measure filed by proponent Robert S. Pack, whose two children were killed by a driver impaired by prescription drugs given to him by irresponsible doctors, according to Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court. “He sued Kaiser and found out that his kids’ lives were worth $250,000 each, simply because he was suing…

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‘The Worst Experience Ever’ and ‘A Total Surprise’

Any Doctor Can Be Sued Why Physicians Are Sued Blindsided by a Lawsuit Does Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ Discourage Lawsuits? Awards to Plaintiffs Are Getting Larger Paying for Settlements to Plaintiffs: Who Pays? Any Doctor Can Be Sued The specter of being sued for medical malpractice is never far from the minds of physicians. Even when doctors do everything right, any patient can suffer a serious complication or poor outcome that might lead to a lawsuit. Being sued is an upsetting event at best and a terrible, life-changing experience at worst. In an exclusive survey with almost 3500 respondents, close to 1400 physicians who were sued for malpractice told us why they were sued, what they might have done differently, how it affected their lives, and how it changed the way they practice medicine. About 40% of survey respondents were named in a lawsuit. Thirty-one percent of responding physicians were one of many parties named; another 9% were the only physician named. One key finding in Medscape’s Malpractice Report was that almost three quarters (74%) of the physicians sued were taken by surprise. In fact, 59% said there was no “trigger incident” that would have made them expect a lawsuit. The…

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Medical liability reform quick to trigger legal challenges

Hours after the measure took effect, trial attorneys filed five lawsuits. Physicians say the statute provides stronger legal protections for defendant doctors. A new Florida law aimed at improving the legal climate for physicians already is the subject of litigation by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The statute, which went into effect July 1, allows doctors and defense attorneys to speak with other treating physicians about a patient’s treatment during the fact-finding period of a potential lawsuit. Another provision of the law requires expert witnesses who testify in medical liability cases to practice in the same specialty as defendant doctors. Previously, experts needed only to practice in a similar specialty. Hours after the law took effect, trial attorneys filed five constitutional challenges in state and federal courts. The Florida Medical Assn., which advocated for the law, is not surprised by the lawsuits and plans to aggressively defend the legislation in court, said Jeff Scott, FMA general counsel. “We will certainly do whatever we can to make sure this law survives whatever the trial bar throws at it,” he said in an email. The Florida Justice Assn., which spearheaded the lawsuits, said the statute violates state privacy rights and the federal Health Insurance Portability…

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Viewpoints: Raising cap on malpractice law will increase health care costs

The Consumer Attorneys of California, a trade association representing trial lawyers, and their allies are “declaring war” on physicians, according to a story last month in The Bee. Their coalition has committed to spend $1 million for a political and public relations campaign to pass legislation that would increase lawyer payouts in lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, nurses, community clinics, firefighters, EMTs and other health workers who provide care for patients. This all-out assault by the trial lawyers includes advertising, billboards and lobbying in an attempt to significantly alter California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The law, known as MICRA, governs legal proceedings and payouts when someone is injured in the course of medical care. The law fairly compensates patients by providing unlimited compensation for past and future earnings, past and future medical care, and punitive damages, while reducing incentives to file meritless lawsuits. If the trial lawyers are successful, it will mean more lawsuits against health care providers and higher payouts that benefit lawyers. Everyone else will pay through higher health insurance costs, higher taxpayer costs for state and local governments, and less access to the doctors, hospitals, clinics and other health workers we all rely on. In other words,…

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