Doctors Have a Right to Remain Mum, Judge Says

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

October 22, 2019

Will Malpractice Premiums Rise in This State?

When it comes to keeping medical malpractice payouts in check, California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), passed in 1975, has long been the gold standard in tort-reform legislation.

Now an initiative is once again being proposed that would raise MICRA's $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, as a September 26 story in the Insurance Journal, among other news outlets, reports.

Several families of injured patients, backed by Santa Monica–based Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group, have tried to round up enough signatures to have the proposed initiative included on the state's 2020 ballot. The Fairness for Injured Patients Act, as the proposal is known, would significantly raise the cap on noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering.

The rationale behind the increase, say proponents, is to combat the effects of nearly 45 years of inflation. Specifically, they argue that California's existing cap is now worth a mere $50,768 in today's dollars. Indexing the cap for inflation would raise it to approximately $1.2 million, which is the amount the proposed initiative calls for.

If successful, the initiative would also allow judges and juries "to decide that compensation above the cap is appropriate in certain cases of catastrophic injury or death."

In 2013, Consumer Watchdog undertook an unsuccessful effort to raise the MICRA cap to $1.1 million. Proponents say they're more optimistic this time around, though, in part because of shifting moods among the state's electorate.


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