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California's compensation cap in medical malpractice cases

When people in Riverside go to the doctor, they expect that they will be given a correct and prompt diagnosis of any medical problems and also get appropriate care. After all, they pay big bucks for medical care either directly or in the form wage withholdings for premium. Moreover, there are always outstanding medical bills even after health insurance kicks in.

A California patient who suffers an injury or a worsened medical condition because of the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional therefore should be entitled to compensation for all of their losses. Many times, simply paying for a person's medical bills and covering lost income is just not enough to really compensate someone for their emotional stress and physical pain and suffering.

Traditionally, an injured patient could ask for these sorts of "non-economic" damages via a medical malpractice cause of action. However, since 1975, California law has capped these damages at $250,000. What this means is that, while a patient can always get their medical bills and lost wages compensated, there is a definite cutoff for other damages, and this cutoff has not been changed since the 1970s.

Some groups criticize the current cap because it has not been adjusted to reflect over 40 years of inflation. Moreover, the cap does not appear to be attracting more doctors to practice in California, nor has it really done anything to reduce medical malpractice premiums. One group argues against the very concept of caps, believing a jury is in the best position to decide what a negligent doctor owes to his or her injured patient.

In any event, though, the current cap should not scare people off from filing medical malpractice cases. A lawsuit is often necessary to get a fair amount of compensation even on items like lost wages and medical bills, and there is still some possibility, albeit limited, to recover for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

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