In May of 2022, Assembly Bill 35 (AB 35) passed in California, updating the compensation limit for injured medical patients from an amount set in 1975. The adjustments may open up vital resources for the injured, their families, and those who have lost a loved one to wrongful death.
The attorneys at Vaage Law welcome these changes, as they vastly improve the potential outcomes for our medical malpractice clients, and have the ability to improve the quality of health care throughout the entire state.
If you’re in need of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in California, contact Vaage Law at our San Diego offices by calling (619) 338-0505 for representation. To view the full text of AB 35, click here. To see a breakdown of the changes to the law, and what they mean for injured patients and their families, read on.
What Is AB 35?
The piece of legislation known as AB 35 makes crucial changes to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). Specifically, AB 35 restructures the limits on attorney fees in these cases, and more importantly, raises the compensation cap on non-economic damages for injured patients.
For over four decades, MICRA limitations have robbed Californians of fair consideration in medical malpractice cases. MICRA capped the compensation for pain and suffering damages at $250,000. That meant that even if a jury awarded millions to a traumatic brain injury child for his pain and suffering (non-economic damages) from medical negligence, the judge was required to reduce that portion of the verdict to $250,000. Often juries were not informed of this cap before they began their deliberations, meaning they carefully weighed the harm done and decided on a fair number for nothing, because any non-economic number above $250,000 was disregarded.
AB 35 addresses these concerns. The bill greatly improves the ability of patients to secure the resources they need to live a dignified life after a medical malpractice injury.
– California Governor Gavin Newsom
How Will AB 35 Change Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?
Here is what the passage of AB 35 accomplishes for injured patients in California:
- For injured patients: AB 35 increases the previous cap for non-economic damages from $250,000 to $350,000 right away, with incremental increases over 10 years, until the amount reaches $750,000. There is a potential for a separate cap for “unaffiliated health care providers.”
- For surviving family members: The cap for wrongful death cases goes from $250,000 to $500,000 right away, with incremental increases over 10 years until the amount reaches $1 million.
- For attorneys’ fees: The structured tiers that amount to compensation for your lawyer’s work will change to a cap of 25% of the amounts recovered before filing a complaint or arbitration demand, and 33% of the amounts recovered after filing. If the case is tried or arbitrated, the attorney may petition the court for a higher percentage contingency.
In addition to the initial increases made over 10 years to modernize these award amounts, AB 35 guarantees that the non-economic damages caps increase by 2% each year, to account for inflation. This helps to ensure that the cap never again becomes stagnant and harmful to patients, as it did after the 1975 law was passed.
Non-economic damages are meant to account for truly irreplaceable losses like:
- Quality of life reduction for those with permanent injuries
- Emotional distress, pain, and suffering
- The loss of someone’s love and companionship after a wrongful death
Expanding the cap goes a long way to respect the real anguish and grief experienced by individuals and families. It helps heal past trauma and improve future comfort.
When Will AB 35 Go Into Effect?
The provisions described by AB 35 go into effect on January 1, 2023. That means all medical negligence cases filed or arbitrations demanded on or after that date fall under the new guidelines.
This is a vital development for the rights and safety of all patients in California. By holding physicians, medical staff, and hospitals fully accountable for their errors and the damages those mistakes cause, each case creates an incentive for critical reform. The old MICRA caps were set the same year the Vietnam War ended, with no adjustments for inflation or the rising cost of medical care in the United States. Many Californians injured by medical negligence never received full compensation for their pain and suffering.
At long last, patients and their families have access to fair legal treatment, free of outdated hinderances.
Contact Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Vaage Law
In California, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases have been limited for decades, making it almost impossible for injured patients and their families to be fairly compensated for the devastation in their lives. The passage of AB 35 helps to correct that injustice.
The legal medical malpractice definition includes any negligent act or failure to act (omission) by a doctor, hospital, or other health care professional which causes an injury to a patient. Other interrelated areas of law include medical fraud conspiracy and medical product/medical device liability. Vaage Law can help you pursue justice to the full extent of the law.
You can reach Vaage Law directly by calling (619) 338-0505 or by filling out our online form for a free consultation. We are ready to help you access the benefits of this new law and secure a brighter future.