According to the Los Angeles Times, victims of medical malpractice may be entitled to considerably more compensation in the coming decades. For nearly 50 years, the Golden State has enforced a $250,000 cap on funds for non-economic damages like emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and pain and suffering for affected patients. This cap was originally imposed under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, or MICRA.
For decades, critics have argued the cap inhibits victims from recovering what is rightfully theirs. It has also deterred medical malpractice attorneys from taking on exceptionally complex cases because when the payout is capped, so is their contingency fee.
Overhauling MICRA has been a contentious topic among attorneys and doctors groups for some time. Intense negotiations between the two have finally led to a compromise, which will raise the cap on non-economic damages to $350,000. This amount, which will be enforced as of January 1, 2023, will gradually increase to $750,000 over the next 10 years.
The cap for non-monetary losses following a patient’s wrongful death is also set to increase. In the event that the victim dies, eligible beneficiaries will be able to seek up to $500,000. This amount will gradually increase to $1 million over the next decade.
It’s also worth noting that the proposed caps will be adjusted annually after reaching their stated maximum in 10 years. They will increase by 2 percent each year to account for the higher cost of living.
While the new caps can be considered a victory for those whose lives were forever changed by medical malpractice, patients have argued that if the original had been adjusted annually to account for inflation since 1975, it would be $1.3 million today.
Regardless, there is hope that with the new caps, more victims will be able to secure the compensation they deserve. Filing a medical malpractice claim cannot erase what happened, but it can at least yield the funds needed to pick up the pieces after your doctor has made a mistake.
The new caps will be included in amendments to Assembly Bill 35 in an attempt to avoid a ballot battle in November. As long as Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the agreement into law before June 28, they will go into effect as of January 1, and there won’t be a related measure on the statewide ballot on November 8.
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