Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in California
Medical malpractice is a type of professional negligence that’s caused by a health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner, while they’re providing professional health care to a patient. When a patient discovers they received injuries from a medical provider who didn’t follow accepted procedures or failed to provide care in accordance with their training, they have the option to bring suit against the medical provider. However, the state of California has a set of laws known as the statute of limitations, also known as a time limit, that someone has to bring suit against a medical professional who failed their duty of care.
How long do I have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in California?
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5, you have one year from the date that you knew or should have reasonably known about the injury and up to three years when there are extenuating circumstances that prevented you from discovering the injury sooner. The one-year limit on filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice in California holds firm regardless of injury or death. In the event you go past the one-year or three-year time period, you can no longer bring suit against a medical provider for malpractice. Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, and you can’t wait to make up your mind if you want to take action for injuries you sustained by a negligent healthcare provider.
Are there any exceptions to California’s medical malpractice statute of limitations?
Yes, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice. They include intentional concealment, fraud, and the presence of a foreign body that’s not put into place on purpose and has no medical purpose. The three-year limit begins on the date you discovered that you were injured and the injury falls under one of the exceptions listed below. These exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice are in response to the fact that it’s not always possible to know that you’ve suffered an injury from a negligent health care provider. If you can meet one or more of these exceptions, you can pause the statute of limitations for up to three years. They include:
Proof of fraud
Proof of fraud involves an intentional act by the healthcare provider that resulted in a medical mistake and caused harm to the patient. The health care provider then made an attempt to hide their mistake and prevent the truth from being known.
Intentional concealment involves the false representation of facts. In other words, a medical provider or a medical device manufacturer makes a statement they know to be incorrect, but insists that they’re telling the truth to the patient. The patient relied on the healthcare professional to tell the truth, but had their trust betrayed instead in the form of an injury.
Presence of a foreign body
A foreign body is something that was left behind after surgery that has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect. This includes surgical sponges, gauze, needles, and any object or tool that was used during the surgery.
How does the statute of limitations work for minors?
Minors who are six years old and above are covered by the medical malpractice statute of limitations. Those under the age of six have three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit or before the minor turns eight years old. The clock on the statute of limitations is stopped when it’s found that a parent or guardian and the insurance company and/or health care provider failed to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the minor either through collusion or fraud.
Do I have to notify my health care provider about my medical injuries?
Yes. You are required by law to notify your health care provider with at least 90 days prior notice of your intent to file a lawsuit. No lawsuit can commence unless the health care provider has received a notice. There is no specific form required for notification, but it has to include the reason for the lawsuit and specify the nature of the injuries that the patient received.
Do I need a lawyer to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?
Strictly speaking, you don’t need a lawyer to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, but you have a much better chance of getting compensation for your injuries when you have a lawyer working on your case. A lawyer can guide you through the claim and compensation process, and take care of the negotiations that typically take place before a lawsuit is filed. source
California Medical Malpractice Law – All You Need to Know
Healthcare facilities and the professionals who work in them are subject to strict regulations. These rules are designed to protect the health, safety, and privacy of everyone who seeks medical care from a qualified, reputable source. When you’re injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of another party, you have the right to seek damages from whoever injured you — including those you had trusted to heal you.
While carrying medical malpractice insurance is not a requirement for healthcare professionals in the state of California, anyone wrongly injured while receiving medical care is entitled to seek compensation. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can review your case and determine the correct legal strategy for moving forward with your malpractice suit. If you were injured in a hospital or another facility through no fault of your own, you may be able to sue for medical bills, in addition to lost earnings and pain and suffering.
Around 20,000 medical malpractice claims get filed in the United States every year, and about 10 percent of all deaths nationally are now linked to medical error. The attorneys Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates are ready to help you navigate the complexities of your case and seek the maximum possible compensation.
Medical Malpractice Cases Take Many Forms
Most people never expect to be harmed during medical treatment. When you seek professional care to assist with a medical concern and are instead injured in the process, it is naturally disorienting and confusing. You may not be sure whether your situation even qualifies as medical malpractice, but legally actionable malpractice can take many forms, including:
- – Surgical injuries
- – Improper medication
- – Failure to provide proper treatment
- – Diagnostic errors
- – Anesthetic errors
- – Birthing injuries (to the mother or child)
- – Injuries suffered while seeing a specialist (dental injuries, chiropractic injuries, etc.)
Regardless of the specific injury, a medical malpractice case is a special type of personal injury case that can quickly become complex due to all of the different parties involved, such as patients, families, doctors, staff, insurance companies, and medication or equipment vendors. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can sort through all of the information and deal with everyone involved in the case in the aftermath of your medical injury.
Succeeding in a medical malpractice suit can also involve different types of evidence or witnesses, depending on your unique circumstances. However, it always comes down to proving that the defendant (i.e., the doctor or hospital) failed to uphold the appropriate standard of care as established by the medical community at large.
For this reason, a medical board review of the case is another unique aspect of medical malpractice law. Do not be intimidated by the fact that doctors and medical professionals will be deciding whether your motion to sue one of their colleagues will be allowed to go forward. These doctors work with the court system to uphold the high standards of their profession — not to protect bad doctors. Even if bias exists on the review board, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can prove the validity of your claim beyond any doubt.
Another variation from case to case will be in the length of time required to resolve it. A medical malpractice suit typically moves through court a bit slower than the average personal injury case due to all of its complex elements, such as soliciting analysis and testimony from medical experts. You must also consider the involvement of insurers and corporate healthcare entities, which are not always interested in moving a case forward as rapidly as possible.
In other cases, however, the defendant may be very eager to reach a discreet settlement and avoid harm to their reputation. This can be used to your advantage; a qualified medical malpractice attorney will be able to maximize the dollar value of this advantage in negotiations.
Medical malpractice suits will usually end in a settlement, with the injured party receiving a sizable payout from the defendant or their malpractice insurance plan for damages suffered. In cases of serious negligence or wrongdoing, a defendant may face additional repercussions such as the loss or suspension of medical licenses. Truly egregious cases (e.g., outright assault committed against a patient) may end up with additional charges in criminal court.
Q: Can you sue for medical negligence after three years in California?
A: As with any other type of legal claim, a medical malpractice suit in the State of California is subject to a statute of limitations, meaning legal action must be taken within a certain period of time. Per the California Code of Civil Procedure, you have up to three years after being injured by medical malpractice to file your claim. If more than three years have passed from the date of your injury, the court will refuse to hear your case barring exceptional circumstances, such as if the case involves fraud, additional crimes, or minor victims of a certain age.
Q: What is the time limit for a medical malpractice suit in California?
A: The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit in California is typically three years (although it can extend longer for certain special circumstances involving medical fraud or minor children of a certain age). This means that you must file your initial claim within three years of the injury occurring.
Q: What constitutes medical malpractice in California?
A: Broadly defined, medical malpractice means that a medical caregiver failed to uphold the standards of care as defined by the medical field at large. This is why medical malpractice claims are subject to review by a board of medical professionals. There are many specific circumstances that can constitute medical malpractice, including surgical injuries, medication errors, improper diagnosis, and inappropriately early discharge.
Q: Does California have a cap on non-economic damages?
A: In California, medical malpractice suits are the only type of personal injury case for which non-economic damages are capped. This cap is set at $250,000. Non-economic damages are damages resulting from a personal injury that cannot be readily quantified as lost income or bills incurred. This includes things like emotional distress, suffering, and disruption to the victim’s enjoyment of daily life. source