MICRA Changes 2022
California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) may soon see significant changes affecting medical malpractice cases. Consumer advocacy groups and California lawmakers have agreed to update the MICRA statute. The Assembly Bill (AB 35) for the MICRA changes passed the Senate and Assembly as of May 12, 2022.
Crucial MICRA changes include increasing the non-economic damages cap and expanding the number of categories for these damages. If you believe you have a case under the MICRA Act, rely on Berberian Ain LLP’s extensive experience and knowledge to create a legal strategy to maximize the non-economic damages you receive.
The History of the AB 35
MICRA was signed into law in 1975, with the MICRA cap in California for non-economic damages at $250,000 for medical negligence. Economic damages such as medical expenses and wage loss do not have a limit.
In 2014, California Proposition 46 sought to change the non-economic damage cap. The proposal would have increased the cap to $1 million and mandated doctors test for drugs and alcohol. However, voters ultimately rejected the proposal.
The recent MICRA initiative has been on the path to becoming a law, with campaigns for signatures to move it into the next phase of becoming a bill. On April 27, 2022, changes to the AB 35 included increasing non-economic damages. In addition, the changes addressed medical malpractice lawsuit reforms.
The MICRA Act’s Most Important Changes
If the bill is signed into law, these changes from the MICRA initiative can affect cases starting on January 2, 2023. They cannot be applied retroactively.
Non-Economic Damages Will Increase
The bill introduces two increases for non-economic damages:
- Non-economic damages will be capped at $350,000, gradually adjusting to $750,000 for 10 years.
- Wrongful death cases will be limited to $500,000, with continuous increases to $1 million within the next 10 years.
- The non-economic damages cap will change by 2% based on inflation following the 10-year period.
Creation of Three Categories for Non-Economic Damages
No matter the cause or number of medical providers and institutions, the non-economic damage caps have distinct categories. These three categories include:
- One cap for medical providers
- One cap for medical institutions
- One cap for an unaffiliated healthcare institution or provider for a separate and negligent act
Regardless of how each category is combined or applied, one type of healthcare provider or institution must be held responsible for the damages.
Additional MICRA Changes
The law will implement changes to attorney contingency fees and periodic payments. It also aims to protect benevolent gestures and fault-related statements made by health care providers.
Periodic Payments of Economic Damages
A judgment must total at least $250,000 to qualify for periodic payments. This amount is an increase from $50,000 under the MICRA Act.
Changes to the Limits for Attorney Contingency Fees
The changes to the limits for attorney contingency fees:
- 25% limit for attorney fees before a civil complaint or an arbitration demand.
- 33% limit for attorney fees after an arbitration or a civil complaint.
- The plaintiff’s attorney may ask a court for more contingency fees after arbitration or trial.
Protections for Benevolent Gestures and Statements of Fault by Medical Providers
The bill provides more discovery and evidentiary safeguards for healthcare providers to express sympathy, regret, or benevolence to patients or their families before litigation. These expressions include fault-related statements based on pain, suffering, the death of a patient, or an adverse patient safety event.
How Would the MICRA Changes Affect Your Case?
In past nursing home and elder abuse cases, MICRA did not apply since the injuries caused by reckless neglect by an unlicensed healthcare professional did not fall under the act’s scope. In the case of Samantha B. et al. v. Aurora Vista Del Mar, LLC, the defendants tried to argue that the lawsuit should have been subject to MICRA. However, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Protection Act applied instead due to reckless conduct, not professional negligence.
With MICRA, an extra layer of legal issues arises for understanding who is liable and possible non-economic damages. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine the next steps in your claim and navigate the MICRA changes that will affect your case.
Getting Help With MICRA Changes from a Lawyer at Berberian Ain
If you suspect a loved one has been a victim of dependent adult abuse or elder abuse, contact an elder abuse attorney immediately. Filing a case on time could affect how non-economic damages are calculated under the MICRA Act. Berberian Ain LLP’s lawyers have the experience and resources to help you get the most from your lawsuit.
Contact us at (818) 450-5980 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.