Lacking lawyers, justice is denied.
That’s the title of a major piece by Daniel Costello in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times.
Costello examines the effects of the 1975 cap on California medical malpractice awards known as MICRA. MICRA (the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act) puts a $250,000 limit on awards for non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and so forth).
The $250,000 cap hasn’t been adjusted in over 32 years. That’s 32 years unadjusted for inflation.
Meanwhile, insurer malpractice insurers are reaping large profits. Costello notes that since 1991 the national average payout of malpractice insurers is 63 cents on the dollar, but in California, it’s 39 cents on the dollar.
Voila! Medical malpractice insurers are making profits almost as great as the workers’ comp carriers.
Medical malpractice case filings are down significantly. In Los Angeles County, they are down 48% since 2001- to their lowest level per capita in four decades.
An injured worker who is harmed by the medical negligence of a doctor or hospital will often find it hard to locate an attorney to sue the medical provider. The civil jury trial lawyers at Boxer & Gerson do take these kinds of cases, but the cost of handling these cases (expert witnesses, depositions and trial) are often prohibitive unless there are substantial economic damages, such as large future earnings losses.
Among the groups that have a particularly hard time finding attorneys are low wage earners, minorities, and the families of infants and the elderly who die at the hands of medical providers. Rural Californians-who often have limited incomes and who do not have access to top quality care in the first place-are also in that group.
It’s unlikely that the Schwarzenegger administration will look favorably on any adjustment to MICRA.
But it will be interesting to see how the presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner develops his position on MICRA. At some point, it’s hard to keep justifying a three decades-old cap while insurers pocket big profits. Something has to give.
You can find the LA Times article by clicking here:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-m … ome-center
Stay tuned. Over the next week, I’ll be doing a recap of the key 2007 comp developments and a piece on projections for 2008.
Category: Medical treatment under WC