Need to Know: Medical Malpractice
According to a 2016 study, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, ranking just behind heart disease and cancer. Researchers from John Hopkins School of Medicine, which led the study, cited errors such as bad doctors to systemic issues such as lack of communication when handing off patients between departments and medical providers as types of medical negligence.
The reality is that medical negligence costs billions of dollars, not to mention the mental and physical toll it takes on individuals and families. While most doctors strive to provide great care, there are some bad actors and mistakes are made. Knowing your rights and whether you have a medical malpractice case are areas with which I can assist.
First, there are some things you need to know about medical malpractice law in California:
- California caps the amount recoverable for pain and suffering due to medical malpractice to $250,000 – regardless of the severity of your injury;
- Many cases require forced arbitration rather than jury trials;
- You must prove that a breach by a healthcare professional in providing care to you directly resulted in injury, which usually requires expert witnesses.
Statute of Limitations
In California, patients can file a medical malpractice claim up to one year after the discovery of the act that caused the injury or up to three years from the date the injury occurred, whichever comes first.
Damages are the funds that a patient seeks as reimbursement for injury caused by medical malpractice. In California, damages include the following limitations:
- Compensatory damages: Sometimes referred to as “actual” damages, they are intended to compensate the victim for costs such as medical bills and lost wages due to missed days at work. California does not place a cap on compensatory damages.
- Non-economic damages: Intended to compensate a victim for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement or physical impairment. California places a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages.
Remember that healthcare providers must provide a standard of care that is the generally accepted policies and procedures that guide the provision of medical services. Medical malpractice claims must not only prove that the standard of care of was not met but that an injury resulted due to the lack of standard of care.
How Can I Lessen the Chance That I Will Be the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
First and foremost, patients must take an active role in their heath. In addition, patients should:
- Be proactive in researching and understanding their health conditions;
- Document symptoms and various treatments received;
- Write down questions and be sure that all questions are answered to the patient’s satisfaction;
- Speak up and advocate for their own well-being;
- Trust their healthcare providers, but also listen to their body for indications treatments may not be working;
- Have a trusted friend or confidant accompany them to medical appointments.
We are fortunate to have a caring and competent medical community in Kern County, and every day there are amazing success stories of people whose lives have improved due to the quality of medical care they receive.
Unfortunately, however, there are also too many cases where negligence and carelessness have resulted in severe injury and even death. Please contact my office if you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice so that we may determine the best course of action moving forward.
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Kyle Jones & Moneywise: A One-Stop Shop
I am fortunate to practice in Bakersfield where we have a host of local resources available to assist my clients. One such resource is Moneywise Wealth Management, with whom I have a professional relationship and the ability to tap into their expertise for a variety of matters.
Every weekday from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM, the Moneywise Guys host a radio program on Newstalk 1180 & The New 96.1 KERN. Using national and local news as a backdrop, the show discusses a variety of financial and legal issues facing Kern County residents. I appear on the show regularly to provide legal advice and information. My colleague John Duffield, CPA also appears regularly to provide tax-related information.
Located at 8700 Stockdale Highway, across from CSUB, Moneywise Wealth Management is a local firm with great talent. The Advisory Team of David Anderson, Sherod Waite, Garro Ellis, Kris Pelster and Justin Leland focus on financial advice and planning. I, Kyle Jones, provide assistance with the legal aspects of their work. It is a great partnership that provides my clients with access to key resources and advice — all under one roof.
Moneywise Wealth Management provides the following key services:
- Retirement & Financial Planning
- 401(k) and Pension Rollovers
- Education & Goal Funding
- Investment Advisory Services
- Asset Allocation
- Annuities & Insurance Services
One of the key aspects of the Moneywise approach is to understand that financial and legal issues are often intertwined. With expertise in a variety of areas, the Moneywise team provides a one-stop shop for a variety of issues. Call me today and see how I can help you, along with the Moneywise Guys, to make sure your financial and legal planning is done with care and expertise to protect your interests.
And remember to listen to the Moneywise Guys radio program every Monday through Friday from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM on Newstalk 1180 & The New 96.1 KERN and catch me regularly as I share advice from a legal standpoint that will help you with real life situations.
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Be Health Smart – The Importance of An Advance Medical Directive
According to HealthDay News, two thirds of American adults have not completed an advance medical directive. Meaning, they’re not telling their loved ones how to handle medical issues when the time comes for one’s final days.
An advance medical directive is a legal tool used to outline an individual’s wishes such as medical interventions and treatments. By designating an “agent”, you can ensure that your wishes are taken care of. An agent is someone who you trust will have your best interests at heart.
Unless you state otherwise on the advance medical directive form, your agent will generally have the right to:
- Consent or refuse consent to any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or otherwise affect a physical or mental condition.
- Select or discharge health care providers and institutions.
- Approve or disapprove diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and programs of medication.
- Direct the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- Donate organs or tissues, authorize an autopsy, and direct disposition of remains.
Generally speaking, advance medical directives gall into three categories:
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Proxy
A Living Will is a written document that specifies what types of medical treatments are desired should the individual become incapacitated. Living wills can be general; such as a statement about the use of extraordinary measures to prolong life. Living wills can also be quite specific; such as what types of antibiotics to use.
A Power of Attorney provides a trusted agent with the ability to take over the affairs for an incapacitated individual (see my blog post on February 20, 2018 for more information on a Power of Attorney.
A Healthcare Proxy is a legal document that allows someone else to make healthcare decisions on behalf of an individual. This is applicable when rendered incapable of making healthcare decisions on their own.
Situations where an advance medical directive become important can include comas, brain injuries, strokes, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and other critical medical issues that render an individual incapable of making decisions on a limited or permanent basis.
My office will help you sort through the complexities of having the right advanced medical directive! Every adult should have one as we never know when an accident or medical condition may make us unable to make decisions on our own behalf.
I look forward to meeting with you and your loved ones. Together we can develop an advance medical directive that meets your needs and that outlines your wishes for care. The peace of mind that such a directive can have is well worth the effort and cost. An advanced medical directive is one of the most important legal documents to have on hand.
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