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California’s Non-Economic Damages Cap and What that Means for You

San Jose Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Patient and LaptopIn California, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) imposes a $250,000 cap on compensation for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Under this law, individuals who suffer at the hands of negligent medical professionals can recover as much compensation as they need to cover their medical bills and other tangible expenses, but cannot recover more than $250,000 for their non-economic damages.

Keep in mind that this cap only applies to medical malpractice cases. If you were injured in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, a workplace accident, or any other instance of negligence on another party’s part, MICRA’s limits do not apply to your case.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

At first, defining non-economic damages seems simple. They are the damages a negligence victim suffers other than those that are financial in nature, like his or her medical bills or lost wages. But this is not really an accurate way to define the term, because in a personal injury claim, all damages have a monetary value.

Perhaps a better term than “non-economic damages” is “intangible damages,” because these are the damages a victim suffers that do not come with a bill. Rather, they are the expenses the victim incurs because of the dramatic life changes he or she suffers as the result of their injury.

Examples of non-economic damages a personal injury victim can suffer include:

  • Chronic pain;
  • Limited mobility;
  • Psychological trauma;
  • The cost of hiring transportation and domestic help;
  • Lost or inhibited fertility;
  • Significant or total disability;
  • Loss of enjoyment of the activities he or she once enjoyed; and
  • Diminished quality of life.

Frequently, these damages are referred to as “pain and suffering damages” in discussions about personal injury claims.

How Are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?

When it comes to calculating damages, non-economic damages are known as general damages. In most cases, they are calculated according to the value of the claim’s economic damages. Economic damages are also known as special damages.

In many cases, general damages are calculated by taking the dollar figure for the victim’s special damages and applying a multiplier to them. This multiplier, often a number between 1.5 and 5, is determined according to the extent of the injury’s impact on the victim’s life. The more evidence a victim can provide to show how his or her life changed because of the injury, the higher the multiplier.

How California’s Damage Caps Limit Victims’ Ability to Work With Personal Injury Lawyers

MICRA has been criticized for disproportionately hurting low-income individuals. This is because these individuals typically have less to recover in terms of lost wages and missed career advancement opportunities than higher earners. Additionally, this cap hurts retired victims, stay-at-home parents, and others without jobs, because for these victims, non-economic damages are often the primary component of their claims.

This cap also makes working with experienced legal counsel unattainable for many low-earners. Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means they are paid a percentage of their clients’ compensation packages. When an individual is only eligible to recover a relatively low compensation amount, working with a lawyer becomes proportionately more expensive than it would be if he or she were able to net a higher package – that is, if he or she can find a lawyer to take the case in the first place. When a medical malpractice claim is valued low because of MICRA’s cap, many lawyers are hesitant to take the case, because it means less compensation for the same amount of work they put into other types of case.

What to Do When You Are Facing Damages from an Act of Medical Malpractice

Although MICRA limits the amount of compensation you can recover for your pain and suffering damages, you can, and should, still seek compensation for them. Just like you support your claim for economic damages with evidence, your lawyer can use relevant evidence to support your claim for non-economic damages. This evidence can include:

  • Commentary from your mental health professional;
  • Eyewitness testimonies from your loved ones about your lifestyle change;
  • Your journal entries; and
  • Documentation of the physical limits you face due to the injury and how they impede your lifestyle.
Work With an Experienced San Jose Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you were injured or suffered a worsened condition because of an act of medical negligence, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages, including pain and suffering damages, through a medical malpractice claim. Contact the team of experienced San Jose personal injury lawyers at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today by calling (408) 289-1417 to set up your initial consultation with a member of our team.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.