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Oakland Personal Injury Lawyer / Blog / Medical Malpractice / Limitations On Pain and Suffering Damages In California Med Mal Cases

Limitations On Pain and Suffering Damages In California Med Mal Cases


If you are successful in a medical malpractice case and the jury returns a verdict in your favor, there is still the matter of monetary damages to cover your losses. You might be familiar with how compensation works in personal injury cases, in which a victim is entitled to damages after an auto collision, slip and fall, or other accident. However, there are strict limitations on medical malpractice cases, despite the fact that they are also personal injury claims. The California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) establishes restrictions for certain types of losses in medical malpractice cases.

In the practice of law, putting a limit on compensation is called a statutory cap. For California med mal claims, it only applies to noneconomic damages. The underlying concepts are extremely complicated, so it is wise to rely on an Oakland medical malpractice lawyer for assistance with all aspects of your case. It is also helpful to review some background information regarding the statutory cap on noneconomic damages in California.

 Basics on Noneconomic Damages: One type of compensation in a med mal case aims to cover your actual, tangible losses, such as the medical care you need to treat the injuries caused by a negligent physician; these are termed economic damages. The second form of compensation is noneconomic damages, and it is this category that MICRA affects.

Noneconomic damages are the personal, subjective harms that you sustain because of medical malpractice injuries. They may not have an exact dollar value attached, but you do endure hardship and consequences for your quality of life. Examples include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Scarring and disfigurement;
  • Emotional anguish; and,
  • Losses that impact your personal relationships. 

When MICRA was enacted in 1975, the statutory cap on noneconomic damages was $250,000. This ceiling does not affect economic damages, which works to your advantage since medical bills alone can exceed this value.

 California’s Cap Under MICRA: The statutory cap in medical malpractice cases has been in the news recently, after the law was amended to address a problematic oversight: The original law did not include provisions that allow for inflation meaning that the actual value of noneconomic damages continued to be eaten away by inflation. Almost 50 years later, med mal victims finally see some fairness in how noneconomic damages are assessed. In sum:

  • Effective January 2, 2023, all medical malpractice cases are capped at $350,000 for noneconomic damages.
  • When a med mal case involves wrongful death, the statutory cap is $500,000.
  • Starting in 2024 and on an annual basis, the cap increases by $40,000 for med mal injuries and $50,000 for wrongful death.
  • In 2034, the caps will reach $750,000 and $1 million, respectively. Beginning this year, the limitation on noneconomic damages will be adjusted 2 percent for inflation. 

Talk to an Oakland Medical Malpractice Attorney for More Information on Damages

At Venardi Zurada, LLP, it is our goal to recover the full amount of compensation allowed by law. To learn more about damages, please contact us to schedule a no-cost case review. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can meet with you at our offices in Oakland or Walnut Creek, CA.



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