What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in California?

You believe your doctor will provide you with the best healthcare available when you visit them, right? For example, you expect the doctor to treat you promptly, provide the proper diagnosis, recommend the safest treatment, prescribe the correct medications, etc.

Jan 23, 2023 | Personal Injury

You believe your doctor will provide you with the best healthcare available when you visit them, right?

For example, you expect the doctor to treat you promptly, provide the proper diagnosis, recommend the safest treatment, prescribe the correct medications, etc.

What if they don’t do this? If a doctor, nurse, dentist, chiropractor, lab technician, or other qualified healthcare professional provides a patient with subpar care that results in harm, injury, or death, they may have committed medical malpractice.

What Are Examples of Medical Malpractice?

Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that found that, after heart disease and cancer, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the US, accounting for over 250,000 fatalities annually.

It can take many different forms, including:

  • Failing to diagnose, such as a physician ignoring the symptoms of a stroke or heart condition
  • Misdiagnosis, for example, diagnosing someone with ovarian cancer when they have irritable bowel syndrome
  • Failure to order or carry out necessary medical testing
  • Not keeping a patient under adequate observation after a medical procedure
  • Premature discharge
  • Anesthesia dosage errors that can cause asphyxia, brain damage, coma, and death
  • Incorrect medicine administration
  • Prescribing the wrong drugs
  • Recommending an unnecessary medical procedur
  • Not getting informed consent from a patient
  • Leaving a medical tool inside a patient’s body during surgery

Generally speaking, medical malpractice may result if a healthcare provider’s actions fail to uphold the standard of care, which refers to the best practices employed by medical professionals to treat different health conditions.

Can You File a Lawsuit for Medical Malpractice against a Healthcare Provider in California?

Yes, you can sue your doctor, pharmacist, nurse, hospital, etc., for damages if you sought medical attention and they caused you harm or injury through their actions or inactions.

Despite the fact that millions of individuals in the U.S. suffer injuries as a result of medical negligence annually, fewer than 20,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed annually.

Assuming that you have a just cause and evidence on hand (see ‘Damages’ sections below) that will hold up in a court of law, don’t let a medical professional get away with it if if they caused harm to you or a loved one or caused their death. When the medical malpractice occurs, contact a California medical malpractice attorney immediately.

The attorney can assist you in obtaining compensation, including:

Economic Damages

This compensates you for the costs and losses brought on by your medical malpractice injury — including medical expenses for your injuries from the past, present, and future costs.

You can also claim lost wages, which repay you any income you lost if you had to take time away from work to recover. Your California medical malpractice attorney may seek compensation for future lost wages if your injuries render you permanently incapacitated and unable to work again.

Calculating and determining economic damages is simple. You can estimate how much to seek as compensation, for example, by using your medical receipts or hourly wage, and the amount of economic damages you may ask for in medical malpractice litigation is not limited by California state law.

Non-Economic Damages

Your injury from medical misconduct may cause mental trauma, pain, discomfort, etc. This anguish you feel physically and emotionally is referred to as pain and suffering in the legal community, and it’s compensated through non-economic damages.

Non-economic damages are challenging to quantify, since you cannot put a monetary figure on ongoing physical discomfort, headaches, sadness, etc., brought on by an injury.

You may successfully convince a judge or jury to empathize with you and grant you substantial pain and suffering compensation if you hire an experienced California medical malpractice attorney. However, you should be aware that California has a limit on the amount of non-economic damages you can seek in a medical malpractice case.

The non-economic damages limit in cases involving non-fatalities is $350,000 as of January 1, 2023. This cap will rise by $40,000 every new year until it hits $750,000.

In wrongful death cases, the cap on non-economic damages is $500,000 as of January 1, 2023. This cap will rise by $50,000 per year until it reaches $1 million.

Before January 1, 2023, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) controversially capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. This cap still stands for medical malpractice lawsuits filed before January 2023.

Punitive Damages

This type of compensation is given to punish a defendant and dissuade them from acting similarly in the future. 

In California, punitive damages are typically awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits where egregious carelessness happened. A healthcare provider’s actions in such a case go beyond simple negligence and are perceived as deliberate action, malice, or fraud.

Your attorney must demonstrate several things for you to be awarded economic, non-economic, or punitive damages, including:

  • A duty of care was owed to you by the healthcare practitioner you are suing. An attorney can show that you went to a doctor, dentist, plastic surgeon, etc., for treatment, making them responsible for ensuring you receive the proper care.
  • The medical professional failed to uphold their duties. Some of the ways an attorney can prove a healthcare provider breached their duty include showing they misdiagnosed you, prescribed the wrong drug, administered the incorrect anesthetic dosage, and performed an unnecessary medical procedure. A medical expert may be required to testify on the doctor’s error and how other physicians would act in a similar circumstance.
  • You were hurt as a result of the medical professional’s actions or inactions. Your attorney must prove medical negligence caused your handicap, suffering, loss of income, severe pain, etc., for your lawsuit to be successful. 

A medical malpractice lawsuit is not worth your time if you did not experience any harm or if the injuries you incurred as a result of a doctor’s negligence were minor. This is because the cost of a lawsuit could far exceed the amount of money you ultimately recover.

What Is the California Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a state legislation that specifies how long a victim of negligence has to file a lawsuit. 

California’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice gives you or your family three years to file a claim against a medical provider who injured you. The three-year deadline begins to tick away the moment an injury or death occurs due to medical malpractice.

It could take some time for you to realize that a medical professional’s carelessness caused you harm. If this is the case in your situation, the California statute of limitations stipulates that you have one year from the moment you become aware of your injury to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.

California courts take statutes of limitations seriously, so if you don’t file your medical malpractice lawsuit in time, they won’t hear it.

If you initiate a claim after the deadline has passed, the at-fault party will probably also ask the court to dismiss your case on the grounds that it is time-barred. The court will grant their motion.

That would imply that even if you presented a compelling argument of medical misconduct, you would have already forfeited your right to compensation. So, if you suspect medical malpractice, you should speak with a California medical malpractice attorney right away to avoid this.

Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced San Diego, CA, Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Your medical condition should improve with the help of healthcare professionals, not get worse. Fill out our online contact form or call us at (858) 926-5797 if you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

When you get in touch with us, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have concerning medical malpractice and if your case is strong, we’ll share our plan for getting you a settlement.

With over 30 years of combined legal expertise and a wide range of medical malpractice cases under our belts, the attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC, are well-suited to effectively represent you and secure the highest possible settlement in your medical malpractice case.

Contact us now, and you can be sure that if you decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you’ll have experienced attorneys by your side.

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