How to Prove Medical Malpractice in California

How to Prove Medical Malpractice in California

Medical malpractice can result in extremely serious consequences – including death. Caused by a healthcare provider’s negligence, carelessness or malice, medical malpractice occurs when someone fails to do everything in his or her power to care for a patient.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse or anesthesiologist, causes a patient an injury. The injury can occur when a medical provider is negligent or fails to act while he or she is rendering professional services and causes a personal injury or wrongful death.

Related: Guide to medical malpractice in California

Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice?

You can absolutely sue when you’re injured by a healthcare provider. In order to do so, your attorney will evaluate the situation and ensure that you have enough proof to win in court. Then, your attorney will most likely try to negotiate a settlement with the healthcare provider’s insurance company. If that fails – for example, if the insurance company doesn’t want to pay you what you deserve – you may choose to file a lawsuit in court.

If you want to file a lawsuit in court, you must do so before the personal injury statute of limitations expires.

It’s important to know that you can’t sue your doctor or another healthcare professional just because something went wrong during your treatment. You can only sue if your provider gave you treatment that was worse than what another doctor would have provided in similar conditions and that you have suffered some type of damages as a result.

How Much Money Can You Get After You Prove Medical Malpractice?

California law doesn’t limit the amount of money a court can award you for compensatory damages, but it does limit the amount you can get for non-economic losses (such as pain and suffering). You can only recover up to $250,000 for non-economic losses. In some cases, judges award punitive damages, as well.

Related: Compensatory vs. punitive damages

How to Prove Medical Malpractice in California

In California, your attorney will have to prove four things in order for you to win an award in a lawsuit. Your lawyer has to show the court that:

  1. You had a valid doctor-patient relationship
  2. The medical provider violated the standard of care
  3. The violation of the standard of care caused you harm
  4. You suffered real, compensable damages

But medical malpractice can be difficult to prove. Your attorney will rely on several pieces of evidence to make your case, including:

  • Medical records
  • Depositions (sworn statements)
  • Witness testimony
  • Expert testimony

Here’s a closer look at the four things your attorney will have to show the court.

Related: Guide to medical malpractice in California

#1. You Had a Valid Doctor-Patient Relationship

You can’t simply sue any doctor – you must have an established and agreed-upon relationship. That professional then gains a duty to treat you with the best standard of medical care. This is essential when you want to know how to prove medical malpractice.

#2. The Medical Provider Violated the Standard of Care

Every health care professional must meet a certain standard of care. That means care that an average healthcare provider would be expected to provide under similar circumstances. Doctors don’t have to be perfect, but they must make reasonable decisions that other physicians would also consider reasonable when they’re caring for you.

Related: The most common medical malpractice claims in California

#3. The Violation of the Standard of Care Caused You Harm

You can’t sue because you’re unhappy with your results. You can only sue if you’ve suffered harm, such as:

  • Disfigurement or deformity
  • Loss or impairment of physical function
  • Loss or impairment of mental function
  • Reduced chances of recovery from your injury, illness or disease
  • Death

#4. You Suffered Real, Compensable Damages

The court must be able to put a dollar figure on your compensation, such as for medical bills or the cost of rehabilitative therapy. You can sue for non-economic damages, but the state of California puts a $250,000 cap on those types of awards.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About How to Prove Medical Malpractice?

If you’re considering a lawsuit against a medical professional, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a Los Angeles and Glendale personal injury lawyer who can help. Call us at 818-230-8380 to schedule a free consultation now. We’ll be happy to visit you at home or in the hospital to talk about your situation, so call us today.


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