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Advocates question California's cap on malpractice settlements

By now, many people are familiar with the story of the young California teenager who suffered brain death after what should have been a routine procedure. The case has called attention to the state's medical malpractice policies, which many feel should be changed to favor the victims and their families. While one group has fallen under criticism for using her case to propel their mission, it is worth noting that the state may need to re-examine its settlement limits.

Currently, when a child who is injured as a result of medical negligence dies, there is a $250,000 limit on what the families stand to receive. However, according to the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, if the child lives, families could receive upward of millions of dollars to cover the cost of lifelong medical expenses. The group surmises that hospitals, then, may have an incentive to allow children to die.

There is currently a measure that Consumer Watchdog would like to see on the November ballot that would go a long way toward benefiting victims. The Troy & Alana Pack Patient Safety Act seeks to raise the cap on medical malpractice awards to $1.2 million.

While the advocacy group has taken heat for using the 13-year-old's case in an attempt to fundraise for its interests, they do make a good point that restricting settlements may not always serve justice. If a family loses a child - or anyone - because of a doctor error, they should be able to pursue compensation for both medical bills and damages such as pain and suffering. An attorney is best suited to help a family file such a claim and navigate the legalities to secure the maximum amount of compensation allowed.

Source: U-T San Diego, "Advocacy group uses 'brain dead' teen as fundraising tool," Scott Smith, Jan. 9, 2014

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