Now, Californians Can Sue Their Doctors for More Money

Doctors say the caps protect them from heavy insurance payments while patients and their lawyers feel the limits are a safety net for the worst docs

For the first time in generations, California lawmakers have bumped up the maximum amount of money people in the Golden State can win if they sue their doctors, hospitals, or any other potentially responsible party in a medical malpractice suit.

California is one of 33 states which limit the amount of money a person can collect in medical malpractice suits, and since 1975 the top figure has remained at $250,000. That all changed Thursday, the Associated Press reports.

Starting January 1, that cap will increase to $350,000 for people who were injured and $500,000 for the relatives of people who died.

Additionally, these amounts will increase over the next decade until they hit a peak of $750,000 for the injured and $1 million for families of the dead. After that, the malpractice caps will increase two percent yearly to keep up with inflation.

The constraints apply only to things such as pain and suffering and other unquantifiable concepts, AP notes, and not for damages that can be calculated, like medical costs and lost wages.

The state Assembly voted 60-0 on Thursday to send the bill to Governor Gavin Newsom, who has said he will sign it into law.

While caps are intended to prevent doctors from being buried under soaring medical malpractice insurance premiums, trial lawyers and consumer advocates have argued that the limits protect bad doctors by discouraging many patients from filing pricey and complicated lawsuits.

One part of the new law that no honest person or lawyer should find too disagreeable is a provision that states if a doctor says or writes something expressing sympathy or regret about the pain and suffering of patients, it cannot be used against them in trials or disciplinary hearings.

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