California’s Role in Reforming the Climate of Medical Malpractice
The medical malpractice climate in California has improved during recent years as error and omission rates for the practicing physician had declined significantly. As far back as 2012, California was already experiencing a rate reduction of 19 percent across the board, establishing premium savings of 5.3 million dollars.
This was not always the norm. At one time, the Golden State experienced excessive and skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums, often making it difficult for physicians to ensure they were adequately insured. Historically, this has been changing as California has become a national model for other states for reforming the structure of medical malpractice.Medical Injury Compensation Reform act
California’s decline in premium rates was emphatically due to a 1975 law limiting non-economic damages as well as medical malpractice attorney fees. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, capped such non-economic damages, including pain, suffering and inconvenience. The cap was established at $250,000 and reconfigured medical malpractice attorney fees to a sliding scale.
Under MICRA, medical malpractice attorneys are financially limited by a scale of 40 percent of the first $50,000 awarded, 33.3 percent of the next $50,000, 25 percent of the next $500,000, and 15 percent of any monetary amount awarded over $600,000.
It is apparent that MICRA has played a significant role in leveling the playing field, not only for physicians and attorneys but for patients seeking restitution for injuries sustained during medical procedures or issues of medical diagnoses.
As MICRA provided significant changes in the reduction of medical malpractice insurance rates and the malpractice structure, the model soon became a national model for reform. This reform also benefited the healthcare consumer as lower insurance rates led to an increase in practicing physicians.
Not only has MICRA brought reforms to how physicians and attorneys conduct business, MICRA is also responsible for increasing the possible liability risk of the host hospital or healthcare facility. For example, those seeking compensation for a medical malpractice error can now name the hospital or healthcare facility in a suit as long as the practicing physician is an employee of the institution.Statutory Requirements
To keep unsubstantiated claims under control, California law requires claimants to produce credible medical testimony to support their initial claim. Negligence becomes the burden of proof. Under the current structure, California may also produce previously-received compensation for medical malpractice, injury-related Social Security payments or worker’s compensation claims awarded to the claimant.
Under MICRA, California also requires that all claims be presented within one year of the alleged negligent act but no more than three years following the incident. Certain exceptions can be made if a child is involved.
Although it is highly discouraged, California does not require practicing physicians to carry malpractice insurance although the majority of medical facilities and physician groups will request a practicing physician to be covered at the time of hire. These historical reforms instituted by the Golden State has been influential in controlling malpractice costs for all involved with considerable success. It has allowed the practice of healing to once again become the main purpose of practicing medicine.
Even with all reforms in place, medical mistakes do occur. If you believe that you or a loved one has sustained injuries due to medical negligence, the award-winning California medical malpractice attorneys of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. are ready to help. Contact our office at (408) 289-1417 to schedule your medical malpractice consultation today.Sources