The Barnes Firm

The Science of Damage Caps

SAN FRANCISCO – Medical malpractice doesn’t grab the headlines like plane or train crashes. On the surface, it seems like a rare occurrence stemming from typical human error and a little bad luck but this can’t be further from the truth.

Each year, nearly 100,000 Americans are killed in hospitals because of preventable errors. This cost of these errors is estimated at nearly $30 billion but malpractice insurance is only a $6 to $10 billion industry.

San Francisco medical malpractice attorneys at The Barnes Firm say the number of errors is increasing but some hospitals refuse to take responsibility.

“Many states have implemented damage caps and it can affect anyone who files a claim in San Francisco,” medical malpractice attorney Landon Vivian said. “Like many states, California laws limit the amount of money a patient can receive.”

According to California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, patients can only receive up to $250,000 in non-economic damages like pain and suffering, future discomfort, anxiety, and psychological impacts associated with disfigurement.

The Golden State does not cap the amount of money an injured patient can receive as compensation for past and future medical care but more states are beginning to examine the idea.

“These patients are victims,” Vivian said. “Thousands of people are killed each year and the insurance companies use every tool they have to fight against these victims and their families.”

A new study authored by researchers at Northwestern University analyzed the effects of damage caps and discovered safety takes a back-seat in states with limits.

According to their research, hospitals and doctors implemented “consistently gradual relaxation of care or failure to reinforce care standards over time” following the installation of damage caps.

“We find evidence that reduced risk of med mal litigation, due to state adoption of damage caps, leads to higher rates of preventable adverse patient safety events in hospitals,” the study stated.

In other words, damage caps reduced the threat of large lawsuits and allowed hospitals and other health facilities to reduce their care standards. This results in more malpractice suits but lower pay-outs for victims.

“Victims of medical malpractice need to find a good lawyer,” Vivian said. “Without one, hospitals and insurance companies have shown, again and again, that they will fight for every penny they owe.”

Damage caps have been implemented in many states as a way to control healthcare costs, so they say. The Northwestern study, corroborated with others, found no evidence that damage caps reduced healthcare spending.

To learn more about medical malpractice caps, damages and statutes of limitations, contact an attorney for a free case evaluation.

The Barnes Firm 1-(800) 800-0000