It is not the intent of this article to give an exhaustive treatise on MICRA, but rather to familiarize the reader with some of the highlights of the legislation that govern the prosecution of medical negligence cases from my perspective.
Although not strictly a personal injury case, most California personal injury attorneys consider medical malpractice to fall under the general banner of personal injury law.
Many personal injury lawyers also practice medical malpractice law.
Specifically, medical malpractice is a case against a health care provider for substandard treatment of care recognized for medical practitioners in their community and causes further injury or death to a patient.
The practice of medical malpractice law in California is governed by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or "MICRA" as it is commonly called.
This Act, passed in 1975, regulates medical malpractice cases.
The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act is also in effect in a number of states around the country.
As the victim of a medical malpractice claim, one is able to collect, compensatory damages that may include the costs incurred around medical expenses, lost wages.
A victim of medical malpractice may also be entitled to collect other special damages.
Under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act restricts "general damages" or pain and suffering and emotional distress awards to a maximum of $250,000.
The limit on the award for general damages holds true no matter how serious the injury caused to the victim.
The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act also regulates attorney fees on a sliding scale that diminishes the amount paid to the attorney of the recovery.
It must also be kept in mind that the costs of prosecution including costs of retention of expert witness and depositions are deducted from the settlement or court award prior to the calculation of attorney fees.
In the typical personal injury case the usual custom and practice in the legal community is for attorney fees to be calculated as a percentage of the gross recovery.
The average person may think that regulating attorney fees and costs is advantageous to the consumer.
This notion, in fact, is untrue; these types of regulations actually work against the consumer.
Restricting the amount of fees an attorney can charge, changing the manner in which fees are calculated, and, most importantly, limiting the amount of general damages, makes it far more difficult for the victim of medical malpractice to find an attorney willing to represent their case.
When injured victims cannot find counsel, the final result is often medical malpractice cases cannot be prosecuted in a cost effective and profitable manner.
It is not uncommon for medical malpractice lawyers to speak to a prospective client who has already spoken to numerous attorneys trying to find representation, many times with no luck at all.
Of course, discouraging medical malpractice cases was one of the primary objectives of MICRA as well as limiting just and deserved compensation to injured victims.
It is also worth noting that the primary provision, including the limit on damages, has not changed since MICRA was enacted more than 30 years ago! Most personal injury attorneys can answer your specific questions as to how MICRA would apply in the individual case.
If you have a question about MICRA, or personal injury law in general please consult your local personal injury lawyer who can give you the specifics as to how your situation is impacted by the law.