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California lawmakers raise awards for malpractice lawsuits

The California Legislature on Thursday agreed to increase how much money people can earn in medical malpractice lawsuits, resolving one of the most thorny differences in state policy, raising the compensation threshold for the first time in 47 years. California is one of 33 states limiting how much money people can earn in medical malpractice lawsuits, according to an analysis last year by the National Conference on State Legislation. As of 1975, most of the money that Californians could earn for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits was $ 250,000. From January 1, this ceiling will be increased to $ 350,000 for injured people and $ 500,000 for relatives of people who have died. These amounts will increase gradually over the next decade until they reach $ 750,000 for the injured and $ 1 million for the families of the deceased patients. After that, the ceilings will increase by 2% each year to keep pace with inflation. The state assembly voted 60-0 on Thursday to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said he would sign it into law. It was a rare display of unity on a controversial issue. “The battles that seem to be holding us back for decades are as impossible to overcome as we allow them to be,” said Congressman Eloise Gómez Reyes, a Democrat who drafted the bill. California does not limit how much money patients can earn in negligence lawsuits. things that can be calculated, such as medical expenses and lost salaries. But limiting the amount of money patients can earn for things that are more difficult to calculate, such as pain and suffering, has been one of the most hotly debated issues in California for decades. The ceiling prevented significant increases in medical malpractice premiums for doctors. However, lawyers and consumer advocates have argued that the ceiling protected misconduct by discouraging many patients from taking complex and costly medical malpractice lawsuits. with 66% of the vote.Nick Rowley, a wealthy lawyer who said his son died 14 years ago of medical malpractice, spent millions of dollars of his own money to qualify for a new ballot initiative state this fall that would have raised the ceiling to about $ 1.2 million. Rowley has pledged to withdraw his proposal from the ballot after Newsom signed the bill into law – avoiding costly campaigns on both sides of the issue. Rowley praised Dustin Corcoran, CEO of the Medical Association of California, for “working as hard as I can to figure this out” and “ending a 47-year war.” “I’m proud to say that we are now allies,” Rowley said. The bill includes other changes to the medical malpractice procedure ts. If doctors say or write something that expresses sympathy or regret for patients’ pain and suffering, it can not be used against doctors in trials or disciplinary hearings. Dr. Robert E. Wailes, president of the California Medical Association, said the new rules would allow discussions between patients and their physicians to “facilitate greater openness, trust, and long-term kindness between patients and physicians.” Rowley said he hopes the California compromise can set an example for others to follow. “We will see more changes,” Rowley said.

The California Legislature on Thursday agreed to increase the amount of money people can earn in medical malpractice lawsuits, resolving one of the most thorny differences in state policy by raising the compensation ceiling for the first time in 47 years.

California is one of 33 states that limit how much money people can earn in medical malpractice lawsuits, according to an analysis last year by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As of 1975, most of the money that Californians could earn for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits was $ 250,000. From January 1, this ceiling will be increased to $ 350,000 for injured people and $ 500,000 for relatives of people who have died.

These amounts will increase gradually over the next decade until they reach $ 750,000 for injured patients and $ 1 million for the families of deceased patients. After that, the ceilings will increase by 2% each year to keep pace with inflation.

The state assembly voted 60-0 on Thursday to send the bill to Democratic Govin Gavin Newsom, who said he would sign it into law. It was a rare display of unity on a controversial topic.

“The battles that seem to have bound us for decades are as impossible to overcome as we allow them to be,” said Democrat Eloise Gomez Reyes, who drafted the bill.

California does not limit how much money patients can earn in malpractice lawsuits for things that can be calculated, such as medical expenses and lost wages.

But limiting the amount of money patients can earn for things that are more difficult to calculate, such as pain and suffering, has been one of the most hotly debated issues in California for decades.

The ceiling prevented significant increases in medical malpractice premiums for doctors. However, advocates and consumer advocates have argued that the ceiling protects against misbehavior by discouraging many patients from having to deal with complex and costly medical malpractice treatments.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Nick Rowley, a wealthy court lawyer who said his son died 14 years ago of medical malpractice, spent millions of dollars of his own money to qualify for a new state ballot initiative this fall. raise the ceiling to about $ 1.2 million.

But Rowley has pledged to withdraw his proposal from the ballot after Newsom signed the bill – avoiding costly campaigns on both sides of the issue.

Rowley praised Dustin Corcoran, CEO of the Medical Association of California, for “working as hard as I can to figure it out” and “putting an end to a 47-year war.”

“I’m proud to say that we are now allies,” Rowley said.

The bill includes other changes to the medical malpractice process. If doctors say or write something that expresses sympathy or regret for patients’ pain and suffering, it can not be used against doctors in trials or disciplinary hearings.

Dr. Robert E. Wailes, president of the California Medical Association, said the new rules would allow discussions between patients and their physicians to “facilitate greater openness, trust, and long-term kindness between patients and physicians.”

Rowley said he hoped the California compromise could “set an example for others to follow.”

He said he planned to turn his attention to other states and plan to fund ballot initiatives to increase the limits of unfair practices in Colorado, Montana “and any other state.”

“I think in 2024 we will see more changes,” Rowley said.

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