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How Gavin Newsom’s New Law Affects Medical Malpractice Cases in California

BIKLaw Medical Malpractice Lawyer > Medical Malpractice > How Gavin Newsom’s New Law Affects Medical Malpractice Cases in California

The law can be slow to change; however, when changes in the law do occur, they are usually worth noting. Such is the case with Assembly Bill (AB) 35, signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom in May 2022. This new law makes two significant changes to California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). 

It is the culmination of years of negotiations between various stakeholders, including legislators, professionals in the medical community, and others. 

Changes to Non-Economic Damages Caps

The first change brought about by AB 35 involves the state’s cap for non-economic damages. If you were injured because of medical malpractice, you may recover non-economic damages to compensate you for intangible injuries such as mental pain and trauma and the loss of enjoyment of life. 

Before AB 35, medical malpractice plaintiffs could only recover up to $250,000 in non-economic damages, no matter how severe their injuries or trauma.

Assembly Bill 35 increases the non-economic damages cap from $250,000 to $350,000 in most medical malpractice cases. If a loved one dies because of medical malpractice, then the non-economic damages the surviving family can recover increases to $500,000. 

In addition, AB 35 provides for annual increases to each of these caps for the next ten years and an adjustment for inflation every year after that. Beginning January 1, 2023, the cap for non-economic damages in cases involving the death of a patient will increase by $50,000 each year until the cap equals $1 million. 

Similarly, the cap for non-economic damages in other medical malpractice cases will increase by $40,000 annually until that cap reaches $750,000.

Modifications to Contingency Fee Agreements

Medical malpractice lawyers and other personal injury attorneys often use contingency fee agreements with their clients. These agreements generally tie any attorney fees owed by the client to the amount of damages the attorney is able to recover. The new AB 35 changes how these contingency fee agreements will be structured going forward.

In the past, the fees a lawyer could charge for a successful medical malpractice case were tied to the amount of damages. 

The lawyer could recover up to 40 percent of the first $50,000 awarded. For the next $50,000 awarded, the attorney could recover 33 percent. The lawyer could then recover 25 percent of the next $500,000 in damages awarded and 15 percent of any damages awarded that exceeded $600,000.

The new law now ties the number of fees that can be charged to the point in the proceedings where the damages are received. 

If the parties settle before a medical malpractice case is filed, the attorney can recover 25 percent of the damages awarded. If the parties settle after a case is filed, then the attorney may recover up to 33 percent of the damages awarded. 

For cases that proceed to trial or arbitration, attorneys can seek more than 33 percent of damages by petitioning the court and establishing good cause.

Don’t Wait to Speak with a California Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered injury or worse at the hands of a medical professional, you could be entitled to receive financial compensation. Reach out to The Trial Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. and request your free initial case consultation with us today.

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