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Medical Malpractice Injuries and Exceptions to MICRA’s Noneconomic Damage Cap


February 24, 2022

What is “MICRA”?

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (“MICRA”), which became California law in 1975, establishes damages limits for certain medical malpractice claims filed by injured medical patients. By way of brief background, prior to 1975, medical professionals’ insurance premiums were skyrocketing due to increasingly high-dollar verdicts in medical malpractice actions. (Johnson v. Superior Court) The legislature passed MICRA to reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums by placing limits on the extent of certain categories of damages for medical malpractice claims. (Chosak v. Alameda County Medical Center). Unfortunately, this was a huge win for insurance carriers at the expense of injury victims.

“Noneconomic Damages” within MICRA

Specifically, MICRA established a $250,000.00 cap on what are called “noneconomic damages.” Examples of noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, and physical impairment. This means that a patient injured by the professional negligence of a health care provider, as defined by California Civil Code section 3333.2, can generally obtain no more than $250,000.00 for these types of damages. Alternatively, MICRA did not cap economic damages, which include the cost of the injured patients’ medical bills to remediate the injuries caused by the medical professional’s negligence.

“Professional Negligence” within MICRA

However, although MICRA has limitations, it does not apply to every situation. For example, MICRA defines “Professional negligence” to include negligent acts or omissions by health care providers while rendering professional services. However, the definition does include services outside the scope of health care for which the health care provider is licensed. Further, the definition does not include services that are restricted by a licensing agency or licensed hospital. As a corollary, if the definition of “professional negligence” under Civil Code section 3333.2 does not apply, an injured patient may be able to obtain noneconomic damages exceeding the MICRA limitations.

“Health Care Provider” within MICRA

Similarly, MICRA defines “Health care provider” as “any person licensed or certified pursuant to Division 2 (commencing with Section 500) of the Business and Professions Code, or licensed pursuant to the Osteopathic Initiative Act, or the Chiropractic Initiative Act, or licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1440) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code; and any clinic, health dispensary, or health facility, licensed pursuant to Division 2 (commencing with Section 1200) of the Health and Safety Code. “Health care provider” includes the legal representatives of a health care provider.” To that end, to be covered by MICRA, a person must be a licensed healthcare provider as defined by this subsection. Sometimes, medical professionals who appear to be “health care providers” may not be licensed. This is particularly common in the areas of alternative medicine and holistic medicines.

MICRA Exceptions

Further, the noneconomic damages cap imposed by MICRA does not cover custodial neglect. (Winn v. Pioneer Med. Grp. Inc.) This means that a patient who suffers injuries while at a health care facility due to custodial neglect may pursue noneconomic damages more than the MICRA cap. Additionally, the noneconomic damages cap imposed by MICRA does not apply to custodial neglect under the Elder Abuse Statute. (Delaney v. Baker) Indeed, in Delany v. Baker, the California Supreme Court held that elders who are victims of reckless neglect by health care providers may pursue enhanced damages for their injuries.
Ultimately, if you or a loved one is injured by a healthcare provider’s negligence, you should consult with an attorney to understand your rights. Even if your health care provider is covered under MICRA, you can still pursue compensation in the form of the full extent of your economic damages and noneconomic damages up to the $250,000.00 cap. Though rare, it is also possible that your situation falls outside the scope of MICRA, entitling you to damages more than the MICRA cap.

Speak With An Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today If You Believe You Are A Victim

Medical malpractice cases ad complex and often very expensive to litigate, meaning victims need an experienced and skilled attorney. The attorneys at MKP Law Group, LLP have years of experience representing injured patients against health care providers. Contact MKP Law Group, LLP online or Call Us at 310-285-5353 for your free consultation today.

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Our attorneys are fully dedicated to every case we accept, and that is why we accept all of our cases on a contingency basis.  This means that there is never a fee unless or until we obtain a monetary recovery for you. Our clients do not pay us a dime until or unless we earn a positive result.  If you or a loved one has been injured, please contact us today at 310-285-5353 to schedule your free consultation.