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California Modernizes Medical Malpractice Law

Starting January 1, 2023, Californians who believe they have been harmed by medical malpractice will be able to sue for up to $350,000 for “pain and suffering” (aka non-economic damages), an increase from $250,000, which had been the law since 1975. The cap will increase gradually to $750,000 over the next 10 years, with a 2% annual adjustment for inflation after that. Meanwhile, cases involving a death will have an increased limit of $500,000 that will grow over the next 10 years to $1 million, with a 2% annual increase thereafter.

The new law, signed by Gov. Newsom on May 23, is actually good for patients and medical providers. For medical professionals who have to carry malpractice insurance, this gives them and their malpractice insurance carriers long-term visibility into their potential liability.

For patients, it’s good because a) it does increase the caps, though not as fast as some would like, and b) perhaps more importantly, it gives the healthcare industry some cost certainty on their malpractice policies, which are actually a big component of the cost of being a healthcare provider – a cost that is ultimately passed along to health insurance policyholders (aka, almost all of us) in the form of higher premiums to pay for healthcare price increases.

You can dive deeper into this here at CalMatters.