Archives for : September2013

Just How Dangerous Are Tasers?

Police throughout California use Tasers to shock people into submission. A Taser weapon sends 50,000 volts of electric shock into its target, with the goal of temporarily shutting down the target’s central nervous system. In many cases, this has resulted in serious injuries and even death. In fact, Amnesty International has reported that California is home to the highest Taser-related death rate.

From 2001 to 2012, 92 people were killed in California as a result of being tased. Despite the risks, law enforcement officers in California continue to carry the dangerous weapon. Law enforcement agencies in Texas, however, have recently banned the use of Tasers, in the wake of suggestions that they may be more dangerous than users realize.

While many Taser deaths are linked to police using excessive force, it has also been argued that the Taser product is linked to adverse, or unintended, consequences.

The company that makes Tasers, Taser International, has faced a number of wrongful death lawsuits, claiming that it is liable for adverse effects. There is evidence that indicates that the company may not properly test Tasers.

In 2009, in the aftermath of reports that Tasers are far more dangerous than Taser International and law enforcement departments claimed, the company updated its safety warnings to state that the weapon should not be aimed at a subject’s chest. This year, it updated its warnings again, noting that the use of a Taser can cause serious injuries and death. These changes have been interpreted by some as indications that Taser International is concerned about product liability.

In California, product liability law requires makers and sellers of products to protect the well-being of those affected by their products. When a product is dangerous or defective, companies can be held liable for injuries that result. Of course, weapons, like Tasers, are designed to inflict harm, but only to a certain extent. Tasers are supposed to be non-lethal weapons.

It remains to be seen whether police departments here in California will ban Tasers, and whether Taser International will be held accountable for deaths and injuries caused by its products.

Source: MintPress News, “Five Texas Police Departments Ban Tasers,” Katie Rucke, Sept. 26, 2013

Californians Contemplate Reforming Medical Malpractice Caps

Under the law, patients may seek rightful compensation from physicians, healthcare facilities and other licensed providers who cause them harm due to failure to uphold a certain standard of care. This breach of professional duty is commonly referred to asmedical malpractice. When physicians and others held to certain standards of care under the law harm patients as a result of their failures, patients can suffer devastating injuries, illnesses and even death. Medical malpractice awards are meant to help right the harm done to patients in a financial sense.

For better and worse, California has instituted caps on the medical malpractice awards that patients may receive after being harmed by medical professionals. One cap that California lawmakers have embraced is a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering awards. Many believe that this cap is far too low. When a family member dies or a patient becomes paralyzed or otherwise is forced to suffer through lifelong, chronic pain as a result of a physician’s negligence, $250,000 seems like a paltry amount of compensation.

As a result of this understandable opposition to the pain and suffering cap that is currently California law, a consumer watchdog group is pursing a measure to be included on the next election day ballot. The measure would increase this particular cap from $250,000 to $1.1 million. Opponents of the measure are concerned that such an increase would cause medical costs to skyrocket.

Studies indicate that major medical malpractice awards represent a tiny fraction of medical costs and that eliminating or reducing award caps will have little practical impact on patient costs and on the healthcare system as a whole. Hopefully the measure will make it onto the ballot and California voters will do their research on this issue before going to the polls.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Groups Attack Watchdog Effort to Raise Medical Malpractice Bar in California,” Don Jergler, July 26, 2013