When a doctor or other medical professional loses a patient's trust by providing sub-par or negligent care that results in serious injury, it can be difficult for the patient to determine what to do next. Patients may wonder if filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is worth the effort, considering that these types of cases are notoriously difficult to prove. Patients may also wonder if any potential financial recovery would be enough to cover their mounting medical expenses and help them get their lives back on track. Learning about the limitations that California law places on medical malpractice payouts, as well as consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, can help patients decide what's right for them and their particular case.
“Special Damages” and “General Damages”
Due to the complexities of medical malpractice law, it can be difficult for even the most experienced personal injury attorneys to provide an accurate estimate of the financial award the victim is likely to receive in the event that their lawsuit is successful. However, generally speaking, the value of a medical malpractice case depends on the extent and severity of the injuries that occurred as a result of the misconduct. The court usually takes two types of damages into account: special damages and general damages.
Special damages refer to medical expenses the victim has faced—or likely will face—as a result of the medical error, such as:
- Past and future medical visits and consultations
- Prescription medications
- Purchase of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, prosthetic devices, and hospital beds for the home
- Lost wages if the medical negligence caused you to miss work
- Loss of earning future earnings if the malpractice made it impossible for you to hold a job or your injuries forced you into a lower-paying position
General damages—sometimes known as pain and suffering damages—refer to non-economic damages. These types of damages compensate the victims of medical malpractice for things such as:
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders related to the medical negligence
- Lifestyle changes
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Inability to perform normal activities
How Does the MICRA Affect Medical Malpractice Claims?
California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, also known as the MICRA, greatly affects the value of a medical malpractice case by severely limiting the financial award a victim can receive for non-economic, general pain and suffering damages. Enacted in 1975 due to concerns that litigation would prevent doctors and other medical professionals from being able to afford malpractice insurance, the MICRA caps the amount a malpractice victim can receive for general damages at $250,000. This $250,000 limit on financial recovery applies to all medical malpractice cases, regardless of how seriously the patients was injured by the provider's negligence.
Additionally, the MICRA has no provision accounting for inflation, so the maximum amount a medical malpractice victim can receive for pain and suffering-related damages has remained capped at $250,000 from 1975 to now.
However, it's important to keep in mind that, while the MICRA limits the amount a victim can receive for non-economic damages, the cap does not apply to special damages related to medical expenses.
Do You Need Help Pursing a Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you were injured by a medical professional's negligence, California law allows you to pursue financial compensation for damages, including past and future medical bills related to the error, lost wages, loss of earning potential, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. However, the financial recovery received can vary dramatically depending on the details of your particular case – consulting a knowledgeable, experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide how to proceed.
Contact the skilled injury recovery professionals with the Inland Empire Law Group today for a no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your medical malpractice case. The seasoned attorneys in our Victorville and Rancho Cucamonga law offices are standing by to answer any questions you may have.