California Med Mal Improvements | Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act

Assembly Bill 35 passed its final hurdle in the legislature on May 12, when it passed unanimously out of the California State Assembly.

The bill, jointly authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes and Senator Tom Umberg, will implement the historic agreement between Californians Allied for Patient Protection (CAPP) and the Consumer Attorneys of California to modernize the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).

This is a huge win for Californians injured due to medical malpractice, healthcare providers, and medical malpractice insurers.

Beginning in January 2023, the following changes to MICRA will take effect: 

  • California will raise the limit on non-economic damages (previously $250,000) for medical malpractice claims. 
  • If the case involves wrongful death, the non-economic damage cap is $500,000. The cap will increase by $50,000 annually for the next ten years until it reaches $1 million. 
  • If the medical malpractice claim doesn’t involve death, the cap will increase to $350,000, eventually reaching $750,000 in the next decade. 

MICRA establishes several Consumer medical rights, including shorter time limits for bringing a lawsuit, compensation for noneconomic damages (such as pain and suffering), and a $250,000 limitation on general economic damages, among others.

Why Was MICRA Modernized?

AB 35 specifically targets long-term reforms to medical liability insurance and protecting patients and physicians. In theory, it should decrease healthcare costs for everyone.

How Will MICRA Modernization Effect Wrongful Death Claims?

Current medical malpractice laws for wrongful death in California stipulate that non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment, etc.) are capped at $250,000. 

However, the new law will immediately increase this cap to $500,000 (starting January 1, 2023) and expand it to $1 million within ten years.

AB 35 also restructures how and when a medical malpractice lawyer can recover contingency fees. 

One of the most significant parts of the bill drastically changes what type of evidence is admissible in all medical malpractice hearings.

The statements, writing, and actions implying a healthcare provider’s regret, responsibility, or guilt for the patient’s pain, suffering, or death are currently inadmissible.

AB 35 takes it a step further by ensuring that all such forms of communication are confidential and impervious to subpoena, disclosure, discovery, etc.

These recordings cannot be used as evidence in any type of legal hearing, including but not limited to civil cases, disciplinary board hearings, administrative hearings, and regulatory hearings.