Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. Survivors of medical negligence often suffer from lifelong afflictions such as brain damage, paralysis, vision or hearing impairment, disfigurement, and permanent disability. Some conditions even require medical care for life, costing victims anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
In California, however, the controversial Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) puts a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Non-economic damages can include (but are not limited to) physical and mental impairment, pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment or quality of life, and other emotional injuries.
Why is there a cap on medical malpractice damages in California?
MICRA, enacted in 1975 by the California Legislature and Governor Brown, capped non-economic damages to $250,000 in response to concern over the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums. Nearly 50 years later, the cap has not been adjusted for inflation and, according to a press release from Consumer Watchdog, the cap “is worth 80 percent less today, only $50,768 in 1975 dollars, and disproportionately impacts Black and brown Californians.”
How does this affect the medical malpractice clients at Bostwick & Peterson?
Partner James S. Bostwick explains how the current cap on medical malpractice damages can affect any Californian who suffers a catastrophic injury (or death) to due medical negligence:
“For forty-five years I have tried to explain to the most vulnerable why we can’t afford to take their case against a negligent medical provider. The cap on non-economic damages disproportionately affects children, non-working women, the disabled and elderly people because they are the ones in our society who cannot demonstrate an economic loss. If they suffer a devastating injury in a car driven by a medical provider, they can recover whatever a jury determines is a fair measure of damages. However, they are denied that right if they are injured by a medical professional in whom they have placed their trust. If you call me and say you lost your only child in an entirely preventable accident at a bible camp, I can obtain (and have obtained) as much as $5,000,000 for your loss — the most devastating a parent can experience. If you tell me the death was caused by an overdose of medication given by a healthcare provider, I must explain I cannot afford to undertake your case. A limit of $250,000 for death, paralysis, brain injury, amputation or other catastrophic injury was completely inadequate when it was enacted forty-five years ago in 1975. Today, it is a ridiculous and indefensible limit on a reasonable jury’s ability to evaluate a non-economic loss.”
How can you change the current medical malpractice damages cap?
On November 8, 2022, the California Changes to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap Initiative (2022) will be on the ballot in California. By voting “yes” to this initiative, you can bring change to the current medical malpractice damages cap. If passed, the cap will be increased based on inflation since 1975 and allow judges and juries to award damages above the cap for catastrophic injuries.
Learn more about the initiative here.
The San Francisco Bay Area medical malpractice attorneys of Bostwick & Peterson know how important it is for victims of medical negligence to recover the full amount of compensation so they can worry less about money and focus on their recovery.