Facing a ballot initiative this November that if approved by the voters would increase California’s noneconomic damages cap in medical malpractice cases in the current amount of $250,000 that has remained at that level for almost fifty years, it was announced earlier this week that a new consensus has been reached among health care, legal, and consumer advocates to modernize California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
The legislation will adjust MICRA’s $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, which has remained the same since MICRA was signed into law in 1975, to $350,000 for non-death cases and $500,000 for wrongful death cases on the effective date January 1, 2023, followed by incremental increases over 10 years to $750,000 for non-death cases and $1,000,000 for wrongful death cases, after which a 2.0% annual inflationary adjustment will apply.
The new legislation will also create three separate categories of caps, which could apply depending on the facts of each case. Additionally, a health care provider or health care institution can only be held liable for damages under one category regardless of how the categories are applied or combined. The new categories include:
- One cap for health care providers (regardless of the number of providers or causes of action)
- One cap for health care institutions (regardless of the number of providers or causes of action)
- One cap for unaffiliated health care institutions or providers at that institution that commit a separate and independent negligent act.
The author of the November ballot proposal called the “Fairness for Injured Patients Act” stated with regard to the new legislation, “After nearly 50 years of inaction on a law that capped the value of human life and losing my own son to medical negligence, I wrote and funded the Fairness for Injured Patients Act to effectuate much-needed change. I never envisioned a legislative compromise, but I’m very proud that our work has led us to this point. When this becomes law, we will have changed history for the better.”
Consumer Watchdog’s “Patients For Fairness” Campaign stated with regard to the proposed Fairness for Injured Patients Act: “In 1975, the California legislature limited the legal rights of patients and their families who are harmed or killed by medical negligence. A $250,000 cap was placed on the amount that an injured patient or their families could recoup for pain, suffering, and lost quality of life, no matter how devastating their injury, even in cases resulting in death. Nearly 50 years later, the cap has never been adjusted for inflation. It is worth less than $50,000 today. Juries aren’t informed about the existence of the cap on compensation, even when they have determined that the harm done far exceeds that limit. California’s cap is the most regressive in America and prevents many patients from ever getting justice … The initiative will:
- Adjust for inflation the $250,000 cap set in 1975, bringing it up to $1.2 million.
- Give the power back to judges and jurors who will be able to decide if compensation above the cap is fair in cases of catastrophic injury or death.
- Inform juries about the existence of the cap.
- Require attorneys who file medical negligence lawsuits to file a certificate of merit, and make attorneys who file meritless lawsuits pay the doctors’ attorney’s fees.
- Deter preventable medical injuries that add billions annually to our health care costs.
- Reduce health care costs and burdens on our health care system by ensuring that wrongdoers pay for their mistakes, not victims and their families.”
If you or a family member were injured as a result of medical negligence in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your family member in medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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