Active-duty military personnel living in California possess a right to the same medical care enjoyed by everyone else. These service members cannot file lawsuits directly against the United States government when a doctor’s error causes them injury. However, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act provides service members with a path to compensation when they experience malpractice.
A provision of the NDAA allows service members to file claims with the Department of Defense. Military malpractice claims compensate personnel for injuries caused by a military doctor. One relevant restriction is that a service member cannot be in a combat zone when the malpractice occurs.
The Department of Defense will disburse compensation directly to military families when the claim amount is $100,000 or less. The Department of Treasury completes the payment process when dollar amounts exceed $100,000.
The new process represents a significant upgrade for service members whose fate regarding malpractice compensation was governed previously by the Feres doctrine. The doctrine resulted from a 1950 Supreme Court decision for Feres v. the United States and disallowed service member attempts to hold the government liable for malpractice.
Supporters of the NDAA provision celebrate the victory for military families but express the belief that more is necessary. One California representative says that she will be happier when service members or their families also possess the option to file a lawsuit with a federal court.
Patients put a lot of trust in doctors when they submit themselves to a physician’s care. It is only natural to expect compensation when a mistake by a doctor causes harm to a patient. Individuals injured by a physician’s negligence may become better able to obtain the compensation available to them by speaking with an attorney.