MICRA Law Changes, 2022

California’s Medical Malpractice Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) was signed into law in 1975 by then governor, Jerry Brown, the intent being to reduce medical malpractice premiums. With the passage of the MICRA law, victims of medical negligence were only allowed to recover $250,000 in general damages. 

The $250,000 damage cap, written in 1975, has never been adjusted for inflation since it was first signed into law. The $250,000 cap in 1975 dollars would now be equal to or more than $1,100,000 in today’s dollars.

However, after 47 years, the California legislature has finally made changes in 2022 to MICRA. These changes are a major step in the right direction for the state’s consumers. On May 23, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 35, legislation intended to modernize the system for awarding damages in medical malpractice cases in California.

The previous limit on non-economic damages will no longer be capped at $250,000 but will be replaced by new higher damage limitations adjusted upward to reach a new maximum for both personal injury and wrongful death cases. 

In addition to changes in how damages are awarded in medical malpractice cases, additional changes to medical negligence laws will include:

  • Creation of three categories for non-economic damages
  • Changes to the limits for attorney contingency fees
  • Periodic payments of economic damages
  • Protections for benevolent gestures and statements of fault by medical providers

New maximum damages

One of the most significant MICRA law changes involves the $250,000 damage cap originally established in 1975. With the passage of AB 35 on May 23, 2022, the $250,000 damage cap for harms other than economic out-of-pocket losses has been replaced with new higher damage limitations, adjusted upward to reach a maximum of $2.25 million for personal injury cases and $3 million in wrongful death cases. 

Starting in January of 2023:

  • In personal injury cases, there will be a limit of $350,000 on non-economic damages with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $750,000
  • In the case of wrongful death, the limit for non-economic damages will be $500,000 with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $1 million.
  • In both scenarios, there will be a 2% annual adjustment for inflation going forward.

Finding representation

Almost 50 years after it was originally signed into law, physicians, hospitals, patients, trial lawyers, and others were able to finally come together and agree upon the modernization of California’s Medical Injury Compensation Act that, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, “…protects patients and the stability of our health care system.”

While these changes to MICRA are a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting and strengthening the rights of victims of medical negligence, if you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of improper or negligent medical treatment, it’s important to contact an attorney experienced and reputable in handling medical malpractice cases and is knowledgeable as to how the changes to MICRA could affect your case.

Scott S. Harris, medical negligence attorney in San Diego, successfully advocates and fights for victims of health care providers negligence.