California is one of several states that places upper limits on the amounts that victims of medical malpractice can receive for damages. The California law that does this is called the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). Unfortunately, this law limits victims so that they sometimes cannot receive as much as they deserve for their California medical malpractice claim.
Nonetheless, victims can still assert their lawsuit up to the damages cap, and a California medical malpractice attorney can help.
The Damages Cap Under MICRA
In 1975, the California legislature enacted MICRA. Under this law, victims’ damages for non-economic losses are limited to $250,000. There is no cap for economic damages.
Unfortunately, this number has not been adjusted for inflation over the years—it remains the same amount since the 70s, even though $250,000 that year is likely more like $1.3 million today.
What Are Non-Economic Damages?
There are several types of damages available in medical malpractice claims. Some are considered “economic” while others are not. Economic damages include losses like:
- Loss of past and future earnings
- Medical expenses, both past, and future
- Loss of use of property
- Repair and replacement of property
- Loss of business opportunities
- Loss of the economic value of domestic services
The most common economic damages in medical malpractice cases are loss of wages and medical expenses.
Non-economic damages, then, are not connected to a quantifiable loss like economic damages. They include injuries such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (companionship)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- General discomfort
All of these losses must be associated with a physical injury under California law, not just emotional or mental trauma.
Adjusting to MICRA Restrictions
Because of how California law limits non-economic damages, it is especially important for victims to present concrete evidence regarding their economic losses. Of course, talking about non-economic damages is important too, but estimating your future economic losses correctly is going to be vital. Your California medical malpractice lawyer will be able to help you gather the information you need to present this information.
- Medical Care: Victims of medical malpractice often need extensive medical care. This need could last for the rest of your life. Part of presenting your case will be to estimate the cost of this future medical care. That also means that you will have to guess whether certain surgeries or other serious medical procedures will be necessary down the road. A medical expert will be very helpful in determining what kind of care you will need for years to come.
- Future Wages: In many situations, medical malpractice victims will not be able to return to work while they recover. They may also have long-term effects on their employees as well. Changing careers, working fewer hours, or not being able to work as long are all economic losses that you will need to estimate. Experts can be helpful in determining just how much your career and working life will be affected down the road because of your medical malpractice injuries.
- Value of Services: Even when a medical malpractice victim did not work outside the home, the services that they provide to the household still have value. An expert will be able to estimate the value of those services to add to the economic damages you can claim.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical malpractice lawsuit, you need legal help. A California medical malpractice attorney will be able to help you gather information and data to present a realistic picture of all of your damages so that a jury or insurance company can appreciate the real value of your claim, regardless of the MICRA damage cap. Call Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation for more information or to schedule an appointment.