Patient Safety

Preventable medical errors kill as many as 440,000 Americans each year. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people. Medical malpractice isn't a crisis of lawsuits. It's a crisis of medicine.

It’s a staggering statistic: Each year, as many as 440,000 Americans die because of preventable medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in America. The civil justice system has often stood as the last line of defense for patients who have been harmed instead of healed. But in California, where physicians enjoy protections from accountability that eclipse nearly every other state, there are limits to what consumer attorneys can accomplish.

It’s because of California’s MICRA law. That’s the acronym for the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, a 1975 law that capped non-economic (human suffering) damages at $250,000 with no provision for adjusting the dollar amount along with inflation. To enjoy the equivalent buying power that $250,000 gave you in 1975, you’d need more than $1.3 million today. But the MICRA cap remains unchanged.

Consumer attorneys oppose the arbitrary $250,000 cap on non-economic damages because it places an undue hardship on stay-at-home parents, low-wage earners, elderly Californians, and disabled children. That is because these populations are unlikely to have significant economic damages (lost wages etc.) when they are injured.

CAOC has also helped in the fight to protect patients by waging a multi-year campaign to stem the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. In 2016, CAOC along with patient protection advocate Bob Pack and Shatterproof, a nationwide prescription-drug abuse prevention nonprofit, pushed through legislation that requires physicians and other prescribers to check the state’s online prescription database to ensure addictive opioids don’t fall into the hands of “doctor-shopper” narcotics addicts. By ensuring that doctors check the database, the tide of illicitly obtained drugs and destructive abuse will be stemmed. In one recent year, more than 4,000 Californians lost their lives because of prescription drug abuse. Working with our allies, CAOC helped address this big problem – and to save lives.