In 1975, then governor Jerry Brown enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which limited the payout on “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. While several justifications were advanced for this limit (to reduce excessive verdicts, to keep doctors from leaving the state), the perhaps unintentional impact of the limitation was to deny classes of individuals the opportunity for a meaningful financial recovery. Further, no evidence has emerged that this arbitrary limit has impacted doctors’ insurance rates and kept them from leaving the state. As new legislation has emerged seeking to either lift the cap altogether or increase the amount allowed, it is crucial to support such change in order to restore victims’ rights.
When filing a medical malpractice action, victims seek damages for significant harm caused as the result of negligent medical care. This may include the loss of a limb, brain injuries, delays in treatment leading to a significantly diminished quality of life, and in the worst case, death. While damages for future medical care and lost wages (economic damages) may be recovered, damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering are limited to $250,000. For children who are harmed by reckless or negligent care, and whose lives are permanently altered due to a physician’s preventable mistakes, this sum barely covers the cost of litigation. California is one of only a handful of states with such severe restriction.
The initiative seeks to link the non-economic damages cap to inflation, raising it to $1.2 million in today’s dollars and adjusting it annually thereafter. Additional provisions would allow judges and juries to award damages above the cap in cases involving “catastrophic” injuries and death.
Whether by ballot initiative or legislative change, it is critical that this law be adjusted in order to restore fairness to the judicial process.
For more information or if you or a loved one has suffered harm due to medical malpractice, please contact the dedicated Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.