Many of our blog posts have featured discussions on civil justice, as well
as efforts from powerful corporations that lobby politicians and lawmakers
to pass laws that allow them to profit at the expense of real people.
Many of these laws target the civil justice system directly by limiting
the rights of Americans who seek redress through civil lawsuits –
personal injury lawsuits like the ones we handle daily at Biren Law Group. Most notably,
their efforts center around tort reform and damages caps.
A term used by corporate powers with financial interests in paying victims
less than they deserve, tort reform has become a major topic of debate
in recent years. Driven by rhetoric that claims civil lawsuits have become
frivolous, tort reform often targets innocent victims who suffer injuries
and losses due to the negligent, wrongful, and profit-driven motivations
of corporations, including product manufacturers, insurance companies,
commercial trucking operators, and other businesses that make money off
consumers – and which are traditionally held liable for damages
those consumers suffer.
Unfortunately, the flood of money into U.S. politics has resulted in many
states passing tort reform initiatives that slash victims’ rights
and their ability to recover the compensation they need and deserve. In
particular, many of these laws place caps on the amount of damages victims
and families are able to recover in certain lawsuits. These caps essentially
limit victims’ damages to an arbitrary sum, regardless of how much
they have suffered.
Today, most U.S. states place some type of cap on damages recoverable in
medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Usually, they cap non-economic
damages, or the types of non-financial losses suffered by victims, including
their pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of quality of life, and
other emotional injuries. Although California is a progressive state where
lawmakers have fought against damages caps (and where
most personal injury cases are NOT subject to damages caps), there are still laws that either limit recoverable damages in certain
cases, or which impact the ability of injured plaintiffs to recover certain
damages. Examples include:
Medical malpractice – Like the majority of states, California does impose a limit on
non-economic damages caps in medical malpractice cases. In cases where
medical negligence causes preventable injury, non-economic damages are
capped at $250,000. This cap was established by the Medical Injury Compensation
Reform Act (MICRA), which was passed in 1975 and has never been adjusted
for inflation and rising medical costs.
Uninsured drivers – Because California law requires all motorists to carry auto insurance,
it also bars uninsured and even uninsured motorists from recovering their
non-economic damages in
car accident injury cases against at-fault drivers – even if the other driver
is fully insured. However, there may be exceptions to this law, such as in
drunk driving accidents when the at-fault motorist was driving under the influence and is convicted
of DUI in connection to the accident. In DUI accidents, even uninsured
motorists are entitled to a recovery of their non-economic damages when
caused by such an egregious disregard for the safety of others.
While it may be reasonable to bar individuals convicted of felonies from
recovering damages in connection to those crimes (as most states do),
caps that affect innocent victims harmed through no fault of their own
are simply inexcusable. Damages caps are a product of “tort reform” initiatives waged
by powerful corporations, health care providers, and insurance companies
that have financial interests in limiting the amount of money they pay
victims – including victims harmed by their negligent and wrongful
conduct, or the negligence of their policyholders. These corporate powers
care more about profits than they do people – and it is clear from their misleading rhetoric, aggressive lobbying,
and continued injection of exorbitant amounts of money into American politics
that they will go to great lengths to pay victims as little as possible.
The impact of those profit-motivated efforts is a tremendous injustice
for thousands of seriously injured victims and families who exercise their
right to bring civil lawsuits against the parties who’ve caused
them preventable harm, and who are all too often deprived of adequate
compensation – especially compensation for non-economic damages
and emotional injuries, which are often the most profound and persistent
form of suffering they endure. Damages caps take decision-making power
over damages awards away from real people who comprise our juries and
understand the extreme losses suffered by victims – and place that
power in the hands of corporations instead.
If there is any consolation to existing laws that cap victims’ damages
in medical malpractice and other injury cases, it is that they are being
increasingly targeted as unfair, criticized, and even struck down. In
very recent months, many states have begun to act on arguments raised
by victims’ advocates, and have issued landmark decisions (such
as in Florida) where certain damages caps have been struck down. According
to the courts handling these cases, caps are viewed as unconstitutional,
and they unfairly limit the rights of victims who suffer the most severe
injuries and harms.
While California may have a more progressive stance when it comes to damages
caps, there are still numerous efforts to pass tort reform initiatives
that include capping damages and limiting victims’ rights –
both at the state and federal level. For example, the aptly named “Protecting
Access to Care Act” being considered by Congress would place a non-economic
damages cap on all medical malpractice and nursing home injury cases nationwide.
Fighting this type of legislation requires increased awareness, advocacy,
and outspoken voices of victims and voters.
Help in Your Fight for Justice & Compensation
Whether there are damages caps or not, any victim can face challenges in
recovering what they rightfully deserve after being harmed by negligent
and wrongful acts. That’s largely due to corporations and insurance
companies that fight to pay victims as little as they can, or nothing
at all. To level the playing field with these corporate powers, and ensure
you have the support and advocacy you need to secure justice and full
compensation in your case, you can work with experienced personal injury
lawyers like those at Biren Law Group.
Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys have spent decades fighting on
behalf of the injured and the wronged, and working against insurance companies
and defendants that do all they can to pay as little as possible. If you
would like more information about our team and how we can help you fight
back in your personal injury case,
contact us for a FREE consultation.