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Two Takes on Medical Malpractice Damage Limits, Part 2: Congress Considers National Limits

Medical MalpracticeA couple weeks ago, a previous post on this blog discussed the Florida Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s limit on medical malpractice damages violates equal protection clauses in the Florida constitution. The existing limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases was similar to one currently in place in California. Change, however, could be on its way in the opposite direction, as the United States Congress is considering a measure that would institute damage caps on medical malpractice claims nationwide.

Campaign Promises

In the last election cycle, a large number of Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Congress, Senate, and even the White House ran on a platform that included repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act—a landmark health coverage measure that was signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010. Today, following the election of President Donald Trump and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, GOP lawmakers are looking to make good on their promises.

As part of a series of bills designed to address the issue of health insurance, H.R. 1215 specifically targets concerns related to healthcare-related lawsuits, including medical malpractice claims. The measure—which may see House action as early as next week—would place a limit of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Non-economic damages include considerations such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and reduced quality of life.

The measure would also introduce a new national statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim. An injured patient would have three years to file a claim after an injury occurs, but only one year to initiate action from the date that he or she discovers or should have discovered the injury.

Comparisons to California

On the topic of damage limits, the proposed bill is similar to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) that has been part of California law since 1975. MICRA also limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. Notably, however, MICRA’s limits do not apply in cases related to elder abuse or nursing home negligence—exceptions that are not carved out in the federal version.

While lawmakers point to existing limits like MICRA as they try to push the bill, there is another consideration worth mentioning. The House measure, if approved, would create a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages, the same as the cap in California. California’s bill, however, was passed more than 40 years ago, but its limits have never been adjusted for inflation. According to experts, $250,000 in 1975 is at least the equivalent of $1 million today. This means, in the opinion of many, that the proposed federal limit is far too low and that the existing law in California is due for an update.

Speak to an Attorney

If you or a loved one has been the victim of substandard care provided by a doctor or health care facility, an experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorney can help you explore your options for collecting compensation. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today.

Sources
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