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The surviving family members and the estate of a woman who died after she received an overdose of pain medication after surgery recently won a settlement of $958,000, according to The Daily Record in Harford County, Maryland.

The woman was receiving treatment for leg ulcers at Upper Chesapeake Health Center in Bel Air, Maryland.

According to court documents, doctors there gave the patient morphine, oxycodone and other narcotics under the belief that they had been given permission from her family to give her hospice-like care rather than to keep trying for a cure. The hospital is denying this allegation and is planning to appeal.

This case is another example of the terrible consequences of medical mistakes. Although people tend to trust their doctors to provide us with the best health care, medical malpractice lawsuits are very common. Every year, thousands of patients and their families are injured or killed by medical mistakes made by doctors, surgeons and hospitals. Surprisingly, most of those affected never file a claim for medical malpractice!

Did you know:

·         225,000 people die annually from medical malpractice?

·         The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that there are 7,000 deaths annually from medication errors in hospitals, and 20,000 deaths annually from other hospital errors?

·         90% of trials for medical malpractice involve a plaintiff who died or suffered from severe injury, according to the Department of Justice?

·         50% of trials for medical malpractice involve surgeon mistakes, and 22% involve doctors who were not surgeons?

·         Yet, just one in eight medical malpractice victims ever file a malpractice claim?

But even as common as these unfortunate events are, many states have a strict cap on medical malpractice damages. In Virginia – where our law office practices –  no matter what harm a patient suffers, the patient and family is limited to a maximum malpractice award of $2 million.

If the jury decides to award more than that, the judge in Virginia must automatically reduce the verdict to just $2 million. We believe that this law – pushed for aggressively by health care industry and insurance lobbyists in Richmond – provides doctors and insurance companies with a big edge over consumers and patients that no other industry enjoys in our state. Further, the arguments for such caps, i.e., that frivolous lawsuits tie up our courts and drive up our premiums, are totally unfounded and frankly illogical.

Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro is a personal injury law firm with offices in both Virginia and North Carolina. Its team of lawyers often writes legal commentary about medical malpractice law.

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