A new bill seeking to impose federal limits on how much can be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits is currently being hotly debated in Washington, D.C., with many opponents claiming that its limits are unconstitutional and would cause great harm to those injured by medical malpractice. The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act, also known as House Resolution (HR) 5, would impose a $250,000 cap on punitive damages that can be gained from medical malpractice lawsuits, no matter the accident or seriousness of the injury.
Among the bill’s staunchest opponents is Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, who stated in a speech on March 21 on the floor of the U.S. House of Representative that the HEALTH Act would “Take away rights of American citizens that are as old as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.” While supporters believe that the law would help relieve debt, Braley argued that the law doesn’t focus on patient safety and preventing medical errors, but focuses on taking away the rights of the most severely injured. Other opponents have argued that the law would do little to relieve the nation’s debt, as medical malpractice costs only make up a relatively small portion of U.S. debt at all. Watch the speech here:
Continuing in his opposition to the law, Braley said that caps on damages hurt those who are most injured, which are most often seniors, children, and stay-at-home mothers. In a matter of Constitutional provisions, the Congressman also stated it would violate the Seventh Amendment, which protect suits at common law (personal injury trials) and the right of the jury to decide all questions of fact, one of the most important being the issue of damages. In closing, Braley said that $250,000 was far too little to cover the average total losses incurred by a medical malpractice injury and that such caps should be decided by individual states and not the federal government.
Unfortunately, HR 5 was passed in the House of Representative by a 223 to 181 vote and is now awaiting hearing in the U.S. Senate. Opponents are confident that the bill will not pass the Senate and that in the event it does, President Barack Obama will veto the bill.
It is important to understand your rights to fair and full compensation for your losses caused by medical malpractice in California and that if you are injured in such an incident you should not wait to seek legal counsel. The Los Angeles medical malpractice injury attorneys at Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley have years of success and skills to apply to your case and aid you in your search for compensation. For a consultation on your case by our experienced legal team, call 213-514-8332.