California has had a $250,000 limit on “pain and suffering” since 1975. Pain and suffering awards are also known as general damages in malpractice cases. There has never even been an increase due to inflation. Several attempts have been made to change this artificially low limit and finally one succeeded – Assembly Bill 35. As of January 1, 2023, the limit is increased to $350,000 for malpractice injury cases, and $500,000 for malpractice death cases. There will be annual $40,000 and $50,000 increases after that, until the limits reach $750,000 for injury, and $1,000,000 for loss of life. After that, there will be 2% annual increases.
Many believe there has never been limits on “economic damages” which includes loss of earnings, medical and other care expenses. It’s very hard for a victim to hear they can only get $250,000 for the loss of a limb, or even a life of a loved one. The same harm caused by another means could result in an award or settlement into millions of dollars. Possibly even more important than the increased cap starting in 2023 is the new law’s provisions that the caps can be combined in certain cases, potentially doubling or even tripling what a victim can recover.
The cases eligible for the multiple caps are those with multiple defendants – such as a doctor and a hospital. Many aspects of how the new law will be applied are still unclear. It seems that, in order to make a compromise all sides could live with, certain provisions are intentionally vague. Moving forward there will likely be a number of appeals taken, the results of which will give guidance for the application of the law to future cases.
Assembly Bill 35 also loosens up limits on lawyers’ fees. At first this may not sound beneficial for victims, but it actually is. The doctors’ insurance companies were the ones who wanted the limits on fees. The old rules limited what the victims could pay their lawyers, not the doctors, hospitals, and their insurance companies. The very restrictive limits on both fees and recoveries discouraged many lawyers from engaging in malpractice litigation for victims, and discouraged those who did from taking cases that did not have large economic damages. As a result, when malpractice caused the death of a retired or other non-earning person, their family members frequently had great difficulty finding a lawyer.
These changes in the law are likely to bring many more lawyers into medical malpractice work for victims. Finally, there has been a major step towards greater justice in this very challenging practice area.
We represent people who are injured because of the careless and reckless acts of others. At the end of the day your case can only be settled one time and you need to know all of the facts beforehand. The reason that insurance companies have paid our clients in excess of $130,000,000.00 is that we get the facts and are not intimidated at the prospect of going to trial when insurance companies fail to offer full compensation. We help with serious injuries that require serious representation. We are the Law Offices of Guenard & Bozarth, LLP. Our attorneys have more than 60 years of experience specializing in only representing injured people. Call GB Legal 24/7/365 at 888-809-1075 or visit www.gblegal.com We would be honored to represent you!