[Updated May 31, 2022] It allows for certain treble or triple the damages in some med mal cases since Jerry Brown capped pain and suffering damages about five decades ago. But it doesn’t really do help much for plaintiffs against negligent physicians compared to the injustices.
“Had the MICRA rules limiting pain and suffering awards been adjusted annually for inflation, the cap would now be $1.3 million. Instead, it has remained at $250,000.” (Source, LA Times.)
On May 23, 3022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed new legislation, known as the AB 35 which will prove a historic agreement. The legislation signed by Gavin Newsom will purportedly ensure the injured patients are fairly compensated even when there are wrongful death cases.
Gavin Newsom, who is currently acting as the Governor of California has signed the new bill and has recognized the true suffering of patients and families. Gavin Newsom’s signing will allegedly do a lot for every family and injured patients by putting legislation in place for the modernization of the health care system.
The legislation also purportedly protects patients against wrongful death and non-death cases, focusing on public health, and also providing coverage for non-economic damages. The legislators will ensure that the bill gives access to patients for non-economic damages and protect them from the same suffering over and over.
One of the main characters responsible for presenting the new law was Tom Umberg, the Senator at the State of California. Then it is Eloise Gomez Reyes, the Assembly Majority Leader, who alongside Umberg, submitted the new legislation for reviewing and approval to increase pain and suffering damages and help keep up with inflation, etc.
Apart from the above, other supporters who backed the ruling were injured patients, families, hospitals, medical professionals, consumer groups, consumer attorneys, trial attorneys, and health care insurers. Even one of the major sports personalities, Scott Olsen backed the move and fought for giving access to people to a more fair treatments against medical malpractice cases.
Decades ago, the matter of wrongful death cases and non-death cases was raised, also including the non-economic damages. However, the patient groups never found a solution due to the political interferences from both sides.
Because of the ridiculous MICRA law signed by former Governor Jerry Brown, few lawyers would even touch a medical malpractice case. This new law will likely do little to encourage lawyers. The costs of hiring medical experts have risen far beyond even these new damages caps that only operate to punish consumers, especially with record high inflation.
Finally, a rare opportunity was available to get the issue of medical malpractice fixed for good. However, to deal with medical malpractice cases, it is important that the health care delivery system be changed/improved.
The political spin is that this was a completely rare scenario, witnessing the government and the opposition not working for their benefit. The propaganda is that Governor Newsom did it for the people of California to protect their interests, making their visits much easier at the hospitals, etc.
With both sides of the ballot measure campaign on the same page, people will have access to fair medical treatments in California according to pundits and lobbyists.
If the law wasn’t able to provide help to Scott Olsen or other major sports personalities, apparently, others will be able to benefit from it in California.
Up until now, the particular legislation has lower limits and even the cap is lower. Despite the injustice, the legislature had to make sure the limits were being adhered in order to please the medical industrial complex.
“Gov. Jerry Brown signed MICRA into law in 1975 amid concerns that doctors were retiring or leaving California due to rising insurance premiums, blamed on sizable malpractice awards. Under the law, the state caps pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases at $250,000, regardless of how many healthcare providers are found to be negligent.” (Source – Los Angeles Times.)
With the induction of the new changes, our single-party legislature argues it will be able to provide more cushion and support to the patients through separate caps.
With the new legislation in place, the tier system has been changed from stage-based compensation plans. At present, the state argues lawyers get to collect a very high percentage from the patients per successful recovery. (Mind you, few lawyers will even take a med mal case.)
So the answer to make things fair was to make sure lawyers would want med mal cases even less by placing more caps on what the plaintiff’s lawyers could receive with respect to the collection fees.
Attorney’s fees will have a cap based on each stage of the recovery process. Out of the two caps, the first one represents wrongful death cases and the second one includes non-death cases.
“Under AB 35, the amount patients can be awarded for pain and suffering will increase to $350,000 beginning Jan. 1. That amount will gradually rise over a 10-year period to $750,000. In cases involving a patient’s death, the cap on pain and suffering awards will increase to $500,000 on Jan. 1 and then grows to $1 million over the next decade.
After a decade of increases, the cap would be adjusted annually by 2%.” (Los Angeles Times.)
Wrong-full Death Cases
The starting cap for this category has been set to $500,000. Then on yearly basis, the cap will be increased by $50,000 until it hits the $1,000,000 final cap. The $50,000 increment will be made to the particular compensation on January 1, every year.
Non Death Cases
The cap for this category has been upgraded to $350,000. This cap will also undergo annual increments of $40,000 until the $750,000 peak cap is hit.
According to Eloise Gomez Reyes, this is a huge step that Governor Newsom has taken. He has strengthened his presence and popularity in the state of California. She thinks it is going to be a huge leap for the medical sector in the state and is going to help people on a very large scale.
She thinks that for the first time in decades, the government, as well as the opposition, have made a decision in favor of the people of California. The changes, according to her, will remain for several decades, providing a huge advantage to the residents.
Robert E. Wailes added that it is a remarkable step for the well-being of people. The passing of the AB 35 ruling means that the government is making the right decisions during very harsh times. This is going to be a huge help for the people living in California and would work as an inspiration for other state governors as well.
Ehline Law Firm will not be handling med mal cases. From our perspective, this law will do little to encourage personal injury lawyers to take these cases. Doctors still get a pass with this one, lawyers have less incentive to help, and damages are still capped. Why? Why can lawyers be charged civilly to pay their fair share in a legal malpractice case, but doctors can escape by paying a small portion of the damages they caused?
Use our free online contact us form, or call us today to sound off at (213) 596-9642. Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are always willing to consider promoting ideas and help draft legislation to keep California patients and families safe.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer on the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. He compassionately helps clients recover after serious injuries.