Attorney Gerald Gillock joins Sharp and Shapiro to discuss Nevada physician damages cap. A particularly strange story January 3rd, a Las Vegas dentist set a five-year-old girl’s mouth on fire while she underwent a routine dental procedure. About a year ago, the child’s parents took the child to Just for Kids Dentistry and Orthodontics and had multiple crowns placed in her teeth. When the dentist used a tool, known as a diamond bur, to smooth the child’s teeth down while was under anesthetic, the tool caused a spark that caused a throat pack in the back of their mouth to ignite. The fire in her mouth lasted one to two seconds.
The hosts first ask Gillock his take on the respect Las Vegas has for the medical community. Known for its gambling and extravagance, some forget that Las Vegas is a full functioning city beyond tourism. They ask if he thinks there are more people there that shouldn’t be accredited physicians as opposed to other parts of the country. Gillock responds that he does believe there are really great doctors in Las Vegas, but they do have a group of doctors, or doctors that have come from other states where they have had issues. What one must understand is that in medical malpractice, ten percent of doctors account for ninety percent of the malpractice. For example, one neurosurgeon is facing eight cases of malpractice work surgeries that resulted in paralysis. And other surgeons were the ones that referred to Gillock the cases. Part of the problem in Las Vegas is that doctors are seeing too many patients. Because of the number of patients, there is a lack of follow up.
Gillock believes the majority of our problems comes back to health-care. For example, United Health Care insures eighty percent of the patients in Las Vegas, and their reimbursements are alarmingly low.
In Nevada, there is a cap on non-economic damages. A lot of attorneys won’t take cases because there is a limit on how much they can recover for cases where someone is brain damaged or permanently paralyzed. It is a $350, 000 cap. You have an attempt to give doctors a free pass. Basically, they’ve given doctors a free pass by putting the cap in place. Someone who is hit by a private company truck can get $5 million, but if a doctor paralyzes you it is capped at $350,000. As a result of the cap, there isn’t as much accountability. The doctor doesn’t have as much skin in the game as they have a $1 million insurance policy. They don’t have as much to worry about and as a result, some doctors are not one would want in their community.
Hospitals also use contract nurses, for example. Because of this, they don’t have to pay health benefits, retirement, or vacation. They use a traveling nurse service, or contract nurse service, and as a result we have a lot of nurses who don’t have the dedication we used to see. When asked about false or smaller cases, Gillock discusses frivolous cases. He discusses how it’s already such a process to prove and move forward with a true case, frivolous cases aren’t as common as one may think.
The discussion points out that the cap on physician damages is unreasonable. It protects those that work in the medical field, but not at all those who trust them with their entire lives. With great power comes great responsibility, and when someone’s life and limb relies on your practice, talent, and diligence, everything is on the line. So the practitioner should be on the line as well.