If you believe you or a family member have been a victim of medical malpractice you should be aware of some of the most important provisions of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). This enactment more than 35 years ago imposes certain restrictions and limitations on civil actions that most malpractice victims would likely consider unfair, or at least outdated. If you believe a doctor or other health care professional has committed malpractice, below are some of the California rules you should keep in mind before filing such a case.
First, unlike other types of personal injury lawsuits (in which the statute of limitations is two years), an action against a health care provider must generally be filed within one year from the date of the alleged malpractice. The timing for cases involving small children is, however, considerably longer. Additionally unlike other defendants in injury cases, a health care provider is entitled to a 90-day warning that a lawsuit is going to be filed. In theory, the Notice of Intent was intended to allow the health care provider the opportunity to resolve meritorious claims before a lawsuit is filed and the reputation of the doctor further tarnished. In practice, this almost never works as medical negligence cases are rarely settled before a lawsuit is filed with the court.
Perhaps the next most important difference between medical malpractice lawsuits and those involving other types of personal injury claims is what is commonly referred to as the "MICRA cap". Under the rules enacted more than 3 decades ago, the limitation on recovery for pain and suffering (so-called "non-economic" damages) is $250,000.00. There is generally no limitation whatsoever in other types of personal injury cases. The absurdity of this rule is perhaps best demonstrated by the following: If a physician were to carelessly run you over in his car on his way to the hospital one day (causing injuries requiring amputation of both legs), you would be able to recover the full amount of your injuries and damages against the doctor, in the millions of dollars. However, if that same physician on the same day committed medical malpractice during your care, causing you to lose both legs, your compensation for exactly the same injuries would be only $250,000.00. Maybe this limit was fair and justified back in 1975. However, more than 35 years later (with not so much as a penny increase for the inflation/cost of living rate) it often works a substantial injustice in today's world.
Finally, in California courtrooms and particularly those in Orange County, juries very often favor the physician and his or her side of any malpractice case. Generally speaking, physicians prevail in roughly 90% of the medical malpractice cases going to a verdict in Orange County courtrooms. That juror bias is often difficult to offset, even in the strongest of cases. This, and the MICRA cap referenced above, generally translate to lower settlement values, even for very strong cases.
Fair compensation for victims of medical malpractice should be an important concern for all Californians. When a physician carelessly harms a patient, they should be held accountable. An Orange County medical malpractice lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has over 21 years of experience handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a loved one been the victim of medical malpractice?
Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.