Medical Malpractice Initiative Will Appear on November Ballot


Over the past year, consumer advocates across the state of California have been thinking about the current cap on medical malpractice damages and the possibility for raising that cap.  According to an article in Reuters, just last week advocates in favor of raising the medical malpractice cap indicated that “they had gathered enough signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot.”  The ballot initiative was a response to thus-far ineffective legislation attempts to raise the damages cap.

The ballot initiative is likely to be controversial, and until quite recently it wasn’t clear whether California residents would have to vote on raising the decades-old medical malpractice cap, or whether the state legislature would have taken care of this without a costly election fight.  The cap should have been raised, and the Walton Law Firm strongly supports the effort to raise it.

For San Diego residents who have sustained injuries because of medical negligence, the outcome of the ballot initiative will be very important.  In the meantime, if you have suffered a personal injury due to medical malpractice, it’s important to seek advice from an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we’re paying close attention to the ballot initiative, and we can talk with you about your case today.

Recap: California Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

As you might recall, California currently has a cap at $250,000 for damages connected to pain and suffering.  In other words, a jury cannot award more than that amount for pain and suffering sustained because of medical malpractice.  Many Californians don’t believe this cap is sufficient.  In particular, Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based organization, has been at the center of the current ballot initiative, which is also backed by trial lawyers, according to the article in Reuters.

What would the ballot initiative achieve?  The advocates at Consumer Watchdog are hoping to raise the damages cap to $1.1 million—a number that “would more than quadruple the amount of money a patient could be awarded for pain and suffering in a malpractice case.”  In short, raising the damages cap is patient-friendly goal.  The backers of the initiative have collected 840,000 signatures, which is far more than the 505,000 signatures required under California law to “get it on the ballot.”

Legislative Compromise Failures Leads to Ballot Initiative

In February, state senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg introduced a bill concerning the medical malpractice damages cap that would have “avoided a costly and ugly battle between doctors and lawyers over the ballot initiative,” Reuters reported.  The compromise proposed by Steinberg would have raised the damages limit to $500,000 under California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).  According to Steinberg, the $500,000 compromise would still be “far below the rate of inflation since MICRA became law 39 years ago.”

While representatives for both lawyers and doctors seemed like they “were close to agreeing on the deal proposed by Steinberg,” it turned out that “talks fell apart,” forcing Consumer Watchdog’s hand with the ballot initiative.  Without a legislative compromise, the medical malpractice cap is going to go to the voters.  Consumer Watchdog is joined by Consumer Attorneys of California.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “the most expensive race of 2014 could be this California ballot measure.”  Indeed, the article described the ballot initiative as one that “pits doctors against trial lawyers in a high-stakes political death match.”

It will be important to follow the ballot initiative closely, as it could have serious implications for medical malpractice lawsuits throughout our state.  If you have sustained because of medical negligence, contact us today to learn more about filing a claim for financial compensation.

Photo Credit: phalinn via Compfight cc

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