California Group Propose Ballot Measure to Raise Limit on Pain and Suffering Compensation

Consumer Watchdog California(CWC), a nonprofit organization committed to protecting taxpayers from special interest groups, are pursuing a ballot measure to raise the cap on pain and suffering damages in California medical malpractice cases from $250,000 to $1.1 million. CWC anticipate they will secure the necessary 750,000 signatures within the next two months. The push for the ballot measure is in response to what the CWC believe is a lack of accountability on behalf of doctors and hospitals. Several California medical groups, however, have begun to campaign hard against the CWC’s efforts.

The California Medical Association, California Dental Association, and Planned Parenthood have recently formed a campaign to fight the CWC’s efforts. The Los Angeles Times reports that the three groups are prepared to spend more than $50 million to fight the measure, should it receive enough signatures for ballot placement. The groups claim that raising the ceiling for pain and suffering damages could have catastrophic consequences on the state’s healthcare system, such as increasing the costs of liability and health insurance. While proponents of tort reform have sided with the California medical groups, many experts believe that caps on compensation do not have a major impact on insurance costs.

A recent study by the American Association of Justice found that caps on compensation in medical malpractice cases do not, in fact, decrease insurance premiums. The study points directly to the California law the CWC are attempting to change (The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act) as an example. The study shows that in the 13 years following the passage of the MICRA, California doctors’ premiums increased by 450%. Insurance premiums only began to decrease when California enacted proposition 103, an insurance reform act.

The ongoing battle in California should be watched closely by the rest of the country. Throughout the country, medical and special interest groups have been aggressively pushing tort reform. The consequences of capping compensation on medical malpractice lawsuits cannot be overstated. Caps on compensation mean that victims of medical malpractice may not be able to secure fair compensation for their damages. As a result, caps on compensation in medical malpractice lawsuits significantly lessen accountability in the healthcare field.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool have seen firsthand the damage a doctor’s negligence can cause a patient. As a result, we do not believe that caps on compensation in medical malpractice lawsuits are acceptable. Capping injured patients’ potential earnings in lawsuits not only prevent them from recovering suitable compensation for their injuries, but would also decrease physician accountability.

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