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California's Proposition 46 and medical malpractice claims

In 1975, California enacted a piece of legislation that would eventually make waves across the country. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act provided a cap on the non-economic damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice claim. Over the years that followed, many states across the country modeled legislation after MICRA.

MICRA limits the amount of non-economic damages to $250,000 in any medical malpractice lawsuit. The act has come under recent fire from trial lawyers and others who are seeking to raise the cap to $1.1 million.

Detractors of MICRA have collected over 500,000 signatures supporting a ballot measure called Proposition 46. Those signatures mean the proposition will be included on the November ballot for a vote.

According to Consumer Attorneys of California, one reason to raise the cap substantially is to account for inflation. It has been over 38 years since the original cap was enacted, said the CAOC communications director, and there is a lot of inflation to account for.

Historically, say experts, the MICRA cap worked to combat a culture of frivolous lawsuits that put the California medical industry in crisis in the early 1970s. According to reports, the purpose of MICRA was to keep physicians in California and reduce medical liability premiums. Proponents of Proposition 46 say the new cap will continue to have this effect while providing injured patients with proper options.

Even with the MICRA cap, suits are still being filed against physicians. In 2011, the lawsuit to doctor ratio was approximately one suit for every 37 physicians in California. Those that support the cap increase say a higher cap will hold physicians more responsible and help ensure injured patients have options.

Whether or not Proposition 46 passes, individuals who are injured through doctor action or error have a right to seek certain compensation. In addition to the capped non-economic compensation, individuals may seek economic damages for lost wages and other expenses.

Source: The Washington Examiner, "Med-mal caps in the crosshairs as trial lawyers attack California’s landmark act" Jul. 23, 2014

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