What you Should Know About the New Medical Malpractice Law

Introduction

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) was a statute enacted by the California Legislature in September 1975. It was enacted in order to lower medical malpractice insurance premiums for health care providers in the state of California. At that time, the idea behind the legislation was to keep healthcare provers, as a whole, financially solvent, which would in turn lower the overall cost of healthcare services. However, this is not what ended up happening. Instead, for over 40 years, this Act essentially robbed Californians of fair consideration in medical malpractice cases. The result being that even is a jury awarded millions to a claimant for non-economic damages, the judge would be required to reduce the quantum of the award to $250,000. Non -economic damages are those damages that deal with irreplaceable losses. This includes but is not limited to; a reductio in quality of life because of permanent injuries, emotional distress / pain & suffering, and the loss of a loved on after a wrongful death.

The New Legislation

Recently, state legislatures agreed to pass Bill AB 35, which updated the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Many believe that this is a large benefit for people who suffer catastrophic injuries, for healthcare providers, and for medical malpractice insurers.

The Monetary Changes

The following changes to the Act are set out to take place starting January 2023. First of all, California will raise the limit on non-economic damages for wrongful death medical malpractice claims. This limit is currently capped at $250,000. After the changes, the cap will be increased to $500,000; and it will continue to increase annually for the next 10 years until it reaches $1 Million. Secondly, if the claim does not involve wrongful death, the changes will result in the cap being increased to $350,000.

The Other Changes

The Bill will restructure how and when a medical malpractice lawyer can recover contingency fees. These are essentially fees that a lawyer receives as a percentage from their client’s settlement. One of the most significant parts of the Bill drastically changes what type of evidence is admissible in all medical malpractice hearings. Currently, any statements, writings, or other gestures related to the patient’s pain / suffering are inadmissible. The Bill takes this inadmissibility one step further. Specifically, it states that all such forms of communication are confidential and can’t be used as evidence in any type of hearing.

Conclusion

The MICRA was originally enacted to lower medical malpractice premiums for health care professionals. However, this piece of legislation ended up sidelining Californians who were looking to be compensated for negligence at the hands of these healthcare professionals. Specifically, there were caps on the amount of damages the plaintiff could receive. Bill AB 35 changed this by increasing the caps and providing a mechanism for their continued increase over a specified number of years. In conclusion, legislators have made these changes for the purpose of helping plaintiffs in California to receive appropriate compensation for the non-economic damages caused to them.