Cap on Pain and Suffering
When you sue a doctor, hospital, or other medical care provider there are two types or categories of monetary compensation, or “damages,” available to you: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refers to specific and identifiable sums of money that you have lost such as medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and other economically quantifiable damages. Noneconomic damages refers to other damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of love or companionship.
Cap on Pain and Suffering and Other Noneconomic Damage Awards
From 1975 to 2022, California had a longstanding law placing a $250,000.00 cap on the amount of the pain and suffering damages or other noneconomic damages award that you can obtain against a medical provider in a medical malpractice case. The cap was created in 1975 with the enactment of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which has been codified into the California Civil Code at Section 3333.2. The MICRA came about as the result of the efforts of insurance companies and benefits doctors and insurance companies by limiting their liability for malpractice. This law went unchecked for 48 years, until an initiative of California personal injury lawyers spearheaded by a lawyer who lost his son as a result of medical malpractice was brought forth and changed the law in 2022.
AB 35 Significantly Increases the Cap
In 2022, AB 35 was signed into law amending California Civil Code at Section 3333.2 to significantly increase the pain and suffering cap in medical malpractice cases. Beginning in 2023, the cap increased to $350,000.00 for medical negligence and $500,000.00 for cases resulting in death. Both of these caps are set to be increased yearly over a 10 year period until they increase to $750,000.00 for medical negligence and $1,000,000.00 for cases resulting in death.
Limits on Noneconomic Damages Only
So how does the cap on noneconomic damages affect your personal injury claim? It doesn’t limit the amount of your medical bills that your personal injury attorney can recover for you. It doesn’t limit the amount of your lost wages or loss of future earning capacity that your personal injury lawyer can recover for you. What it limits is the amount of monetary compensation that you can obtain for pain and suffering as well as other noneconomic damages, such as compensation for loss of love, loss of companionship, or loss of services of a spouse.