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Screenings and caps: two critical medical malpractice issues

Let’s say that you get get sick or need to have a medical procedure done. You go to the hospital and they take action to correct your medical condition — but ultimately, a mistake is made. You hire a lawyer and sue the doctors responsible, as well as the medical institution that cared for you. Your lawsuit is successful and you are awarded compensation for the harm done to you.

There’s just one problem: state laws prevent you from obtaining the amount of money that would seem to correlate with the harm done to you.

This is a critical issue in many states. Medical malpractice caps essentially protect medical professionals and medical institutions from incurring too much liability. The caps vary from state to state, but the cap is usually set in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars (think somewhere in the $250,000 to $500,000 range).

Now let’s expand on the hypothetical situation above, and say that the doctor handling your care was intoxicated at the time that he or she treated you. Beyond the fact that the specifics of your case may have become a bit more extreme and it may have allowed you to accuse the doctor of enhanced offenses, you will probably wonder “why wasn’t that doctor screened for alcohol or drug abuse?”

This is another debated aspect of the medical field. Regular screenings, or even random screenings, to ensure that medical professionals are in the right frame of mind before clocking in are not widely used — but they probably should be.

Source: The Press Enterprise, “DECISION 2014: Prop. 46 seeks to raise medical malpractice cap,” Michael R. Blood, Associated Press, Oct. 13, 2014