Special rules protect careless health care providers in California. The rules, collectively known as MICRA, were designed to make it harder for medical malpractice victims to sue the doctors who injure them. For example,
- The medical malpractice victim must provide the defendant doctor a special notice before filing suit.
- At any trial, special rules of evidence apply that favor the doctor.
- There is a $250,000 limit on what the negligent doctor or his insurance company ever has to pay to compensate parents when the doctor causes their child’s death.
- An injured party cannot recover against a negligent doctor more than the $250,000 limit for causing any sort of pain or disfigurement.
But what do the MICRA rules have to do with helicopter crash cases?
In March 2008, a California court of appeal ruled that the medical malpractice rules apply to the claims of a someone injured in an ambulance. In that case, called Cannister v Emergency Ambulance Service, the court ruled that a negligent ambulance company that injures a patient en route to the hospital was entitled to all the protections of MICRA, because the ambulance company was properly considered a “health care provider.” The ruling extended the umbrella of MICRA’s protection from doctors to ambulance drivers, at least when those drivers are licensed as EMT’s.
An EMS air ambulance company will undoubtedly argue that Cannister — regardless of how unfair — applies not just to road-bound ambulances, but to air ambulances as well. The aviation lawyer must keep the MICRA rules in mind in handling EMS helicopter accidents in California, and he should be familiar with the strategies that medical malpractice lawyers use to minimize MICRA’s unfair impact on his clients.