Hospitals Carry Insurance for Medical Malpractice:
When a patient is admitted to any hospital a statistical probability that something may go wrong is always present. In poor quality hospitals, more things may go wrong. However, when events have gone terribly wrong an act of medical malpractice may have occurred. Just as auto insurance is required for every driver, hospitals carry insurance to cover the costs when patients are wrongfully harmed and liability ensues. However, there are strict legal requirements for a claim of medical malpractice to be deemed valid by a California court.
Basic Medical Malpractice Requirements:
#1: The quality of medical care must clearly fall below the accepted medical standard of care in the community to be considered medical negligence
#2: There must be a direct link between the medical negligence and the harm suffered by the patient.
#3: The harm must translate into damages to the patient.
Time Limit To File A California Medical Malpractice Lawsuit:
The time limit (statute of limitation) during which a medical malpractice case must be filed is within one year after the patient discovers or should have discovered the injury, or within a maximum of three years from the date of the injury. Most people know they are harmed relatively soon after the medical negligence occurs. But once a person learns they were harmed by a providers’ negligence they must file in the Superior Court within a year.
There is a rare exception to the three-year rule. If a foreign object is left in a patient’s body a complaint can be filed at any time in the future, but still within a year after the foreign object is discovered.
A person who files a lawsuit is called a “plaintiff.” The origins of the word “plaintiff” can be traced to 1278 and the Anglo-French word “pleintif” meaning unhappy or complaining.
Prior To Filing A Case A 90-Day Notice Is Required:
Before filing a complaint, the plaintiff is required to provide the defendant health care provider with at least 90 days notice of intent to file a lawsuit.
$250,000 Cap on Damages from Med Mal:
California passed a law in 1975 that places a limit or cap on verdicts. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) placed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice. Non-economic damage refers to pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, scarring, etc. Frequently, juries award far more than $250,000, (sometimes millions), but the court always reduces the judgment to meet the MICRA cap. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, the MICRA cap made no allowance for inflation while most states in the U. S. have higher caps or no caps. The outdated California MICRA cap is one reason that often makes it particularly difficult to find an experienced attorney who will take a case. In general, experienced attorneys carefully evaluate the worthiness of a case, before accepting the case.
No Cap for Economic Damages:
In those cases where a person’s ability to earn a living is impacted, there is no cap on the impairment of a person’s ability to earn a living. These damages are considered economic damages and the MICRA cap does not apply.
Physicians Frequently Prevail Even With Strong Evidence Against Them:
Research on the outcome of medical malpractice claims demonstrates that physicians win 80% to 90% of jury trials with weak evidence against them. Physicians win 70% of borderline cases and physicians win about 50% of trials even with strong evidence of medical negligence. Research shows that juries give physicians the benefit of the doubt. Even so, some cases are settled in favor of the plaintiff right before trial when both sides are able to objectively view the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases.
Medical malpractice plaintiff’s lawyers usually work on a contingency. They get paid if the plaintiff wins.
- 40% of the first $50,000 recovered
- 33% of the next $50,000 ($50,001 – $100,000)
- 25% of the next $500,000 ($100,001 – $600,000)
- 15% of any amount over $600,000
Medical Malpractice At Lompoc Hospital:
Two examples of medical malpractice cases at Lompoc hospital are reported on this site. In both cases, the plaintiffs found Santa Barbara County attorneys with considerable medical malpractice experience.
In the first case, Dr. Steven Reichel, an emergency room physician, caused a miscarriage by administering the wrong procedure, causing the traumatic and profound loss of the fetus to the mother. Medical experts testified for the mother stating that the miscarriage could have been avoided if the doctor had used a different procedure. The Santa Maria jury ruled that medical negligence occurred and awarded the plaintiff $200,000. (The amount of the jury’s verdict was adjusted by the court.)
The second case may go to trial in Santa Maria in 2018. The complaint alleges that Lompoc hospital surgeon Dr. William Pierce (or other hospital staff) punctured the patient’s small bowel during surgery. The punctured bowel went undetected at the time of surgery and for nearly the next three days as the patient lay in a Lompoc hospital bed.
A serious infection developed as the patient’s condition became life-threatening. Septic shock, with a near 50% death rate, set in. Acute renal failure and loss of consciousness followed. A helicopter was called to transport the patient to Cottage Santa Barbara. The complaint alleges that the hospital staff failed to promptly diagnose the medical error in surgery and the hospital staff failed to diagnose the pervasive infection in the days that followed, leading to terrible harm for the patient.
(To be continued)