Medical Injury Compensation Caps to Increase

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) was established in 1975 by California’s state legislature. At the time, the goal was to protect health care providers by lowering premiums for medical malpractice insurance and decreasing providers’ tort liability. 

Supporters believed that this act would keep the industry financially solvent and therefore reduce health care costs for all residents of the state. However, opponents of MICRA have argued that the act is detrimental to the public because it reduces the amount a jury can award in a medical malpractice case. 

Because of this argument, many parties, including the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), have pushed against MICRA since its inception. In 2014, Proposition 46, a ballot measure designed to increase MICRA caps from $250,000 to $1.1 million, was defeated. This was a heavy blow for advocates at the time, but we now have a positive update to this saga!

After nearly 50 years of valiant fighting, changes are being made. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the MICRA cap raises, how this change affects your case and what you can expect from the medical malpractice field moving forward. 

Surgery in Progress

How MICRA Caps Affect a Malpractice Case

Although California is not alone in having regulatory caps on medical malpractice claims, there are several states that have ruled the idea unconstitutional. Considering this fact and the low rate at which California’s caps have been set, MICRA has long been an area of concern for advocates. 

But how, exactly, do these caps affect a medical malpractice case?

Under the old standard, an injured patient could only receive a maximum of $250,000 in “non-economic damages,” even when a jury found the patient’s doctor guilty of malpractice. Non-economic damages include:

  • Psychological impact of scarring or disfigurement
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Discomfort
  • Pain and suffering

Considering that the average out-of-court medical malpractice settlement in the United States is $425,000 and the average jury award more than $1 million, California is well behind the curve in this regard. 

Previously, the most controversial issue regarding the MICRA caps was that the amount of $250,000 had never been adjusted for inflation. In a state that is considered to be the third most expensive in the nation, this fact has long been deemed unacceptable. 

How MICRA Caps Changed

On April 27, 2022, a deal was finally reached that will amount to a historic overhaul of MICRA. This deal was announced following talks between CAOC President Craig M. Peters and leaders of the California Medical Association. The changes are expected to have an extremely positive effect on the victims of medical malpractice and their families. 

Of course, this change did not happen overnight. Instead, months of talks and negotiations led to the agreement. Additionally, the pressure put on the industry by 2014’s Proposition 46 had rippling effects that led to this eventual success. 

Special thanks are owed to the following people: 

  • CAOC CEO Nancy Drabble and Political Director Lea-Ann Tratten 
  • The team at Consumer Watchdog
  • The MICRA Working Group (Greg Bentley, Bruce Brusavich, Chris Dolan, Niall McCarthy, Doug Saeltzer and Christine Spagnoli)
  • CAOC’s political team, including Samantha Helton, Nancy Peverini and Jacquie Serna 
  • Saveena Takhar, who helped with drafting

Although these collective efforts took decades, victims in our great state will soon begin to reap the benefits. Over time, we will see more just rewards for injured stay-at-home parents, children, veterans and others. 

What to Expect Moving Forward

Unfortunately, change does take time. But we can expect the new framework to take effect on January 1, 2023. At that time, the following changes will take place:

  • Non-fatal cases cap increase from $250,000 to $350,000 (with an eventual increase to $750,000 over the next 10 years)
  • Wrongful death cases cap increase from $250,000 to $500,000 (with an eventual increase to $1 million over the next 10 years)

Additionally, after the caps reach their maximum limit in 2033, there will be an annual cost-of-living adjustment of two percent. 

It’s also important to understand that the law will change with regards to the number of defendants named in a claim. Previously, the number of defendants did not affect the $250,000 cap. Now, there are three separate categories that will impact the amount of money a legal team can pursue. 

  1. One cap for health care providers, with no regard to the cause of action or number of providers named
  2. One cap for health care institutions, with no regard to the cause of action or number of institutions named
  3. One cap for unaffiliated providers and institutions that are accused of committing a separate negligent act 

The final settlement can now be broken down into economic payments at the request of either party. There are additional caps on the percentage of contingency a law firm can take. To learn more about the details of these upcoming changes, reach out to Cutter Law P.C.

Trust Cutter Law P.C. to Get the Settlement You Deserve

Of the millions of hospital patients each year, one percent become victims of medical malpractice. So if you are suffering because a medical provider was negligent or made a mistake, you are not alone. Turn to a medical malpractice attorney for help in achieving the following:

Establishing the Standard of Care

A big part of building your case is establishing what the standard of care should be in situations like yours. To do this, an attorney will speak to other medical professionals to learn what should have been done to avoid malpractice. The right attorney will anticipate questions about special circumstances that may impact the standard of care. 

Proving that the Standard of Care Was Not Met

Once an acceptable standard of care has been established, your legal team will need to prove that the standard was not met. This will include evaluating and presenting medical records, interviewing witnesses and following other evidentiary processes. 

Cutter Law P.C. can do all of the above and more. If you are ready to learn more about your legal options, give us a call

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