Medical Malpractice Limits Set To Be Increased

April 29, 2022

Updates to MICRA Are a Long Time Coming

 By Alese Lesser, Litigation Attorney
Since 1975, victims in California of medical malpractice [medical mistakes] have been limited to the amount of money they can recover due to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).

Under the current version of MICRA, the amount of non-economic damages is capped at $250,000 (see side panel for difference between economic and non-economic damages.) In practice, this means that if a patient is treated by a medical provider, and a hospital, clinic, doctor, nurse or other medical staff made a mistake that resulted in a serious injury, the compensation recoverable would be a maximum of $250,000 for the injury (plus the economic damages presented) regardless of whether the injury is something minor, or something major and life-changing like losing a limb or even wrongful death.

Currently there is a proposed ballot measure on the November ballot to raise these limits.  To avoid a costly proposition battle, California’s health care community and the legal community have reached an agreement to increase the MICRA cap on non-economic damages.

To be finalized, this agreement must be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and approved by the California Legislature before June 30, 2022.  The MICRA proposition will then be taken off the November ballot and then will go into effect January 1, 2023.

Should it be approved, victims of medical malpractice would be able to recover:

$350,000 starting Jan. 1, 2023, with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $750,000 for cases not involving a patient death.

$500,000 starting Jan. 1, 2023, with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $1 million for cases involving a patient death.

After 10 years, an annual 2% adjustment would apply to the limits.

These new limits would not apply retroactively. This agreement is a huge step toward justly compensating victims of medical malpractice. After all – who can put a price on the health of your newborn child, or your physical capabilities? It is difficult to quantify, but in most cases, it is well beyond $250,000.

Please Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice on what to do in a particular situation.


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Economic v. Non-economic Damages

Any actionable claim can be broken into economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are things like past and future medical bills, or lost earnings and usually require solid evidentiary support to be calculated and considered. 

Non-economic damages are compensation for the less quantifiable harm a person might suffer as a result of an injury, such as emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, diminished quality of life or a spouse’s loss of love and companionship of the injured person.