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California’s Medical Malpractice Compensation Caps

San Francisco medical malpractice attorney Boone Callaway discusses California's caps.

In California, There’s a Limit to “Pain and Suffering” Damages

Many Californians who seek advice about pursuing a medical malpractice case are very surprised to learn that there is a limit on the amount of “pain and suffering” or “general” damages that they can receive, that has not been increased since it was put in place over 35 years ago. The MICRA law was amended effective January 1, 2023, when the cap increased to $350,000. The cap continues to increase after that, at $40,000 per year.  The cap for general damages due to a death also increased, to $500,000.

MICRA Law Places Limits on Fees, Allows Doctors to Pay in Installments

The MICRA law, which also limits attorneys fees, and permits doctors and their insurance companies to pay large awards in installments, has had a big impact on patients’ ability to find attorneys. There is no cap, though, on recoveries for “economic” losses, such as loss of earnings. This results in an inherent bias against cases brought on behalf of children, or retired persons, who cannot prove any lost earnings. There is likewise no limit on recovery for future medical expenses, but many cases involving severe damages, including death cases, have no such expenses.

The recent increases in limits were much needed, but they still have a heavy effect on the available compensation for many cases.

Now the “caps” can be combined

A major feature of the recent changes is the ability to recover two or three times the cap amount, if there are multiple responsible entities or persons, who are “unaffiliated.”  There will likely be cases headed to appellate courts to clarify what the legislature meant by “unaffiliated.”  This and other aspects of the new rules, some of which seem to have been deliberately vague, pose additional challenges for lawyers practicing in this area.  The uncertain and changing landscape we have now makes it even more important to have a lawyer who is well experienced in malpractice work.  As in other areas, the reputation of the lawyer handling the case frequently has a significant effect on the amount of money an insurance company is willing to pay to settle.

Contact Injury Attorneys in San Francisco for a Free Consultation

Callaway & Wolf have handled many medical malpractice cases around the Bay Area, including multiple trials, arbitrations, mediations, and out of court settlements.

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