2023Medical MalpracticePaige C. Sirey

Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Understanding California’s Updated Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases: A Move Towards Fair Compensation

In a recent change aimed at aligning with the principles of justice and fair compensation in medical malpractice actions, Governor Gavin Newsom has implemented new rules regarding the cap on non-economic damages in California.  This modification pertains to the cap on pain and suffering damages, among other non-economic damages, under Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.2.  As a law firm that engages in medical malpractice work, we believe it’s crucial to understand these changes, which may significantly impact the rights and remedies available to those injured as a result of medical negligence.

The Previous Cap on Non-Economic Damages

Previously, the state of California had a cap of $250,000.00 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.  This cap was established over four decades ago, in 1975, and has been the subject of criticism, as many believed it to be outdated and insufficient to cover the true impact of a medical malpractice event on a victim’s life.

Non-economic damages are intended to compensate for the non-monetary aspects of the harm suffered.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium.
  • Disfigurement; and
  • Physical impairment.

The New Rules on Non-Economic Damages Cap

Governor Newsom’s recent legislative action revises the previous non-economic damages cap, recognizing the necessity for a fairer compensation system for victims of medical malpractice.  Pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 3333.2(b)(1), any action for injury that does not involve wrongful death provides for a noneconomic losses cap of $350,000.00.  Pursuant to subdivision (c)(1), the noneconomic losses cap increases to $500,000.00 for an action involving wrongful death.  Pursuant to subdivision (g), the new cap went into effect on January 1, 2023.  The new cap is not retroactive, meaning it does not apply to any actions filed prior to January 1, 2023.  Thereafter, the dollar amounts set forth in subdivision (b), which pertain to medical malpractice actions not involving wrongful death, the cap shall increase by $40,000.00 each January 1st for 10 years up to a total of $750,000.00.  The dollar amounts set forth in subdivision (c), which pertain to actions involving wrongful death, the cap increases each January 1st by $50,000.00 for 10 years up to $1,000,000.00.  Further, subdivision (h) provides that the cap amounts will be adjusted for inflation on January 1 of each year by 2% beginning on January 1, 2034, after the present amounts have increased to their maximums as set forth in subdivision (g).  Ultimately, the adjustment in the cap on non-economic damages reflects a more modern understanding of the consequences of medical malpractice and the financial burdens it can impose over a lifetime.

Implications for Medical Malpractice Victims

This change in legislation may have significant implications for victims of medical malpractice. With a higher cap on non-economic damages:

  1. Fair Compensation: Victims have a better chance of receiving compensation that truly reflects the pain and suffering they have endured;
  2. Better Legal Recourse: A higher cap can also encourage victims to seek legal recourse, knowing that the potential compensation might be more aligned with the severity of their experience; and
  3. Increased Accountability: On the flip side, medical professionals might be held to a higher standard of accountability, fostering a culture of excellence and due diligence within the healthcare community.

At Madison Law, we remain committed to navigating these legal changes on behalf of our clients, ensuring they receive the justice and compensation they deserve.  Our seasoned medical malpractice attorneys are here to provide guidance, support, and aggressive representation in light of California’s evolving legal landscape.

For more information on how the new laws may affect your medical malpractice claim, or to schedule a free consultation, contact Madison Law.

Medical Malpractice Attorney
Paige Sirey, Esq.


Disclaimer: This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with a qualified attorney to discuss your individual circumstances.

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