New Legislation In California Proposed to Increase Medical Malpractice Damage Caps: Why It is Important if you Are Having Wisdom Teeth Extracted

A recent piece over on DrBicuspid.com titled “Dentists fight Calif. malpractice insurance ballot measure” draws attention to new proposed legislation in California (California Proposition 46) see http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=log&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.drbicuspid.com%2findex.aspx%3fsec%3dsup%26sub%3dbai%26pag%3ddis%26ItemID%3d316366. The article discusses the previous medical malpractice legislation in California called the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) which placed a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards. The act did allow for unlimited economic damages and out of pocket costs.

The article then discusses Proposition 46 in California written as “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act,” to quadruple MICRA’s cap on noneconomic damages to $1.1 million. This actually simply changes the original $250,000 non-economic damage cap established in 1975 to what it would be today if it was indexed for inflation. I have previously discussed this over at http://www.teethremoval.com/legal_standpoint.html. The article goes on to get commentary from a past California Dental Association president and why dentists should vote no on Prop. 46 come November. The dentist is quoted as saying

“Proposition 46 was written by trial lawyers who stand to profit from medical lawsuits. They have thrown in other provisions under the guise of so-called patient safety, but this is really about lawsuit profits.”

The dentist encourages people to visit the noon46.com website. The website provides further information on their interpretation of the facts of Proposition 46. A more impartial discussion of Proposition 46 is found over at http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_46,_Medical_Malpractice_Lawsuits_Cap_and_Drug_Testing_of_Doctors_%282014%29. As stated on this website the initiative if approved does the following:

  • Increase the state’s cap on damages that can be assessed in medical negligence lawsuits to over $1 million from the current cap of $250,000.
  • Require drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board.
  • Require the California Medical Board to suspend doctors pending investigation of positive tests and take disciplinary action if the doctor was found impaired while on duty.
  • Require health care practitioners to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence.
  • Require health care practitioners to consult the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.

I am not really sure why the proposition includes different areas that are lumped together. This has caused some controversy as the drug testing of doctors was called out as deceiving voters behind the real intent.

Nonetheless the important point here is for those young patients in California who may be having wisdom teeth removed; how will this effect them? Many young adults having wisdom teeth extracted are still in school (high school or college). Thus they are not in their chosen career yet and in many cases have no wages. The unlimited damage caps established under MIRCA only cover lost wages and lifetime earning potential. If you have your wisdom teeth removed while in school and suffer a complication and sue and win in California currently you will only get $250,000 at the most, before attorney fees. If you then can not go on to your intended career, due to disability, you won’t be seeing anything else. If you are only around 20 years of age, $250,000 won’t last you very far for 60+ years potentially.

Thus I have advocated for those in California having wisdom teeth extracted, they should get it done in another state that has higher non-economic damage caps. If you want to be able to instead see local doctors then I would consider voting yes on Proposition 46.

Several health groups are against Prop. 46 such as they California Dental Association, California Medical Association, American Medical Association, and California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Look as discussed in the In My View column in AAOMS Today (June 2014) first year oral and maxilofacial surgery income is $250,000. After a few years the compensation increases to $337,000. Hence the MIRCA cap non-economic represents a year or less than a year wage of what an oral and maxilofacial surgeon makes. If you get injured while having wisdom teeth extracted in California and have not yet established your career you will be the one hurting, not the surgeon.

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