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California Medical Malpractice: Laws, Claims and Damages

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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In California, a claim for medical malpractice can arise when a medical care provider acting below the industry standard of care injures an individual. Harming a patient while acting below the industry standard of care is called medical negligence, and is actionable by the injured patient. Medical negligence in California can stem from an act or a failure to act, such as: Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose; unreasonable delay in treatment; or, failure to provide appropriate treatment.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of medical negligence, it’s important to contact a California medical malpractice attorney to determine whether you have a malpractice claim.

Who Can Be Sued in a California Medical Malpractice Case?

In California, any health care provider can be held liable for medical malpractice. This includes doctors, nurses, hospitals, dentists, physicians, chiropractors, or any other entity or individual that is licensed to provide or perform medical services on patients. If you are unsure as to whether a medical care provider caused your injury, a California medical malpractice attorney can assist you in the investigation.

California Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

A victim of medical negligence in California must bring an action for medical malpractice within one year of discovering the injury. However, if the injury was not discovered within a year, the action may instead be brought within three years of the negligent act of the health care provider. If the victim of medical negligence is a child, or has discovered a foreign object in their body following a surgery, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations, provided by California law. Failing to meet these deadlines will prevent the victim from being able to recover monetary damages, as their claim will be barred no matter how strong. An attorney can assist you in filing a claim in a timely manner and tailor your claim to the particular facts of your case.

Caps on Medical Malpractice Claims in California

In a California medical malpractice action, damages are available for both economic and noneconomic expenses. However, noneconomic damages are limited to $250,000 per plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit. Noneconomic damages are provided to compensate the plaintiff for all damages unrelated to financial losses, such as physical impairment or disfigurement, pain and suffering, and inconvenience.

Filing a California Medical Malpractice Claim

Filing a claim in California for medical malpractice entails hiring expert witnesses, taking depositions, and communicating and dealing with the insurance attorneys working for the defense. Because the process of filing a medical malpractice claim requires an expert knowledge of the law, individuals should strongly consider hiring a California attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. Filing and litigating a claim in this realm requires unique expertise and experience, and failure to enlist legal help could mean losing the rights and damages that a victim would otherwise clearly be entitled to.

California Medical Malpractice Laws

California Code of Civil Procedure

  1. California Code of Civil Procedure § 340.5: Who can be sued/Statute of Limitations
  2. California Civil Code § 3333.2: Caps on Medical Malpractice Claims

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