In 1975, California enacted a law known as The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (“MICRA”) that limits noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.) for death due to medical malpractice to $250,000. MICRA also requires notification to possible medical malpractice defendants before a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed and limits the amount of attorney’s fees.
The proponents of MICRA argued that the law would provide relief to medical providers from increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums, that it would contain health care costs, and that it would increase the accessibility to health care in California. Opponents of the law note that the limit on noneconomic damages most affects the most severely injured due to medical malpractice and is unjust, unfair, and arbitrary.
Even though the amount of economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages are not subject to the $250,000 limit provided in MICRA, the limit on noneconomic damages has a greater impact on the poor, children who have little or no income, and on the elderly who are retired.
In a recent challenge to MICRA, an appeal was filed one week ago that questions the constitutionality of MICRA. In this recent appeal, the recipients of a California medical malpractice jury verdict in the amount of $2.9 million in economic damages and an additional $1 million for noneconomic damages saw the noneconomic damages award reduced to $50,000 under MICRA because the jury found the medical malpractice defendant 20% liable, and 20% of $250,000 is $50,000. That resulted in the wife and the three sons of the man who died as a result of medical malpractice receiving only $12,500 each for their emotional loss of a husband and father, respectively.
In the California medical malpractice case, the jury found an anesthesiologist partially at fault for contributing to the death of a 63-year-old man. The medical malpractice lawsuit claimed that the anesthesiologist negligently failed to provide required medical care post-operatively to the man that caused him to stop breathing before he woke up from the anesthesia. The medical malpractice case also involved claims against a cosmetic surgeon who performed the eight-hour surgery in the surgical facility located in his office and claims against a nurse who failed to properly respond to the man’s respiratory condition; however, they were not parties to the medical malpractice case decided by the jury because the claims against them were subject to mandatory arbitration.
The attorney for the appealing medical malpractice plaintiffs hopes that their challenge to MICRA will be successful because the original basis for the law, i.e., to keep down medical malpractice insurance premiums for medical providers in California, is no longer a valid justification for the law because a law passed in 1988 gave the California Department of Insurance the authority to regulate medical malpractice insurance in California and six decisions by the California Insurance Commissioner in 2012 alone reduced medical malpractice insurance rates by as much as 19%.
If you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in California or in another state in the United States, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. The prompt consultation with a local medical malpractice attorney may help you decide how you should proceed with your medical malpractice claim.
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