Guide to Medical Malpractice in California

Medical Malpractice in California: The Essential Guide

In California, medical malpractice is a real problem. But what is medical malpractice, and what kind of compensation could you be eligible for? Here’s what you need to know.

Medical Malpractice in California

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or another healthcare professional doesn’t do the right thing, resulting in an injury to his or her patient. Under California law, medical malpractice is a negligent act or failure to act by a healthcare provider, while rendering professional services, and when that act causes a personal injury or wrongful death – as long as those services are within that professional’s scope of licensing.

Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in California?

Healthcare providers are liable for the care that they provide. Legally, you can sue:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Chiropractors
  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Laboratories
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical therapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists

This isn’t a complete list. Any healthcare provider or facility that’s licensed by the state of California is subject to being held accountable for their actions through a lawsuit.

Damages: What Can You Sue for in a Medical Malpractice Case?

If you’ve been injured because of a healthcare provider’s actions, failure to act, negligence or carelessness, you may be able to sue that provider. You can sue for damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Home health care costs
  • Physical therapy costs
  • Occupational therapy costs
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished (lowered) earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering, as well as other non-economic damages

How Much Money Can You Get for Suing a Healthcare Provider?

There is no limit to the amount of money you can get for compensatory damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of California. The term compensatory damages refers to an amount of money that a court awards to someone to make up for a loss. You can get compensatory damages to repay your medical bills, for example. If you’re suing for pain and suffering, things are a little different; these aren’t economic losses that you’ve suffered (although they are very real). California Civil Code 3333.2 limits your award for non-economic losses to $250,000. You can’t get more than that amount for non-economic damages.

Related: Compensatory damages vs. punitive damages

What About Punitive Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case in California?

It is possible to get punitive damages in a medical malpractice case in California. However, you’ll have to show – with clear and convincing evidence – that the defendant (the guilty party) committed oppression, malice or fraud. That means your attorney most likely has to show that the healthcare professional’s conduct was despicable and:

  • Done intentionally or
  • With a willful and conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Cases in California?

There is a statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases in California. A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time the law allows you to file a lawsuit. There are two different statutes of limitations on medical malpractice cases here: one for adults and one for minors.

California Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations for Adults

You must file a medical malpractice suit within three years after the date of your injury or within one year of discovering the injury.

California Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations for Minors

If the victim is under the age of 18, the suit must be filed within three years from the act. If the minor was under the age of 6 at the time of the injury, the suit must be filed by the child’s 8th birthday.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations does have some exceptions, such as when a healthcare provider commits fraud or intentionally hides wrongdoing. Additionally, if there’s a foreign body inside a person’s body (like a surgical instrument) that has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose, or when a minor’s parent colluded with the insurer or a healthcare provider to avoid bringing malpractice action, the statute of limitations is paused.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Medical Malpractice in California?

If you or someone you care about has been the victim of medical malpractice in California, we may be able to help. Call us at 818-230-8380 for a free consultation about your case.


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