How does the MICRA damage cap affect a California medical malpractice case?
Like many states, California has a law on the books that limits the amount of money that an injured patient can receive even after a jury has found that the patient s doctor (or other health care provider) committed medical malpractice.
You can find California s take on medical malpractice damage caps in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which was passed in 1975. Among other things, MICRA places a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. So, what are non-economic damages? They are awarded to a plaintiff to compensate for things like pain and suffering, discomfort, loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, and even the psychological impact of scarring or disfigurement. They are called non-economic damages because they represent the kinds of losses that cannot be easily measured by a dollar amount.
Keep in mind that California has no cap on the amount of money that an injured patient can receive as compensation for medical care (past and future) made necessary by the malpractice, nor is there a cap on lost income or impairment of the patient s ability to earn a living because of the malpractice. These kinds of losses would be categorized as economic damages, and MICRA s cap doesn t affect them.
It s important to note one of the more controversial aspects of MICRA: the $250,000 cap has no provision that accounts for inflation; it is the same dollar amount this year as it was when the law was passed in 1975.
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