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Peter Wetherall
Peter Wetherall
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Due to Caps On Damages, Choose Healthcare Providers Carefully

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Does it matter which hospital you choose when you’re in need of medical care or surgery? YOU NEED TO KNOW, that if you’re the victim of medical malpractice here in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada, your ability to recover damages is dramatically impacted by the hospital involved. Here’s why…

Under Nevada law, governmental entities and their employees incur very limited financial responsibility for causing harm. Specifically, one who is injured by a governmental entity or employee thereof can only recover up to $75,000 (recently increased from $50,000), pursuant to NRS 41.035(1). In recently upholding the constitutionality of this meager right of recovery, specifically in the context of a medical malpractice case, the Nevada Supreme Court in Martinez v. Maruszczak held:

Under this court’s precedent in Arnesano, protecting the state treasury remains a legitimate state interest, thus providing a rational basis for capping damages at $50,000 for allegedly negligent acts committed within the scope of state employment. Going further, capped damages also advance a legitimate state interest in encouraging qualified professionals to accept state employment to serve the people of Nevada. We therefore discern no reason to depart from our precedent upholding the constitutionality of NRS 41.035(1). Accordingly, we reject the instant challenge to this statutory limitation on damages.

The upshot is, if you go to UMC, or any one of a number of other governmentally-owned facilities for your health-care, and you are malpracticed, your damages claim will be capped at $75,000 per claim. If instead you go to Sunrise or Spring Valley Hospital, your cap under our regular medical malpractice scheme is $350,000 as to pain and suffering damages, and no cap on economic losses (with certain exceptions).

I don’t know about you, but my own health insurance gives me the option of treating at various hospitals around town, including UMC. If you’re in the same boat, and you’re ever presented with the choice of having surgery at UMC or elsewhere, choose a private hospital, because the State of Nevada has all but eliminated your right of recovery against a governmental hospital and the physicians and nurses the hospital employs. By the way, the longstanding $50,000 statutory cap has just been increased to $75,000, and will increase again in 2011 to $100,000, so thanks for (PRACTICALLY) NOTHING, Nevada legislators! If a government employee permanently or catastrophically injures me or a member of my family due to their commission of negligence or malpractice, those paltry, downright insulting increases will mean absolutely nothing.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.