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The Basics of California Medical Malpractice Law

The Basics of California Medical Malpractice Law

If you are a patient and sustain an injury during the course of medical care, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Each state establishes its own laws regarding medical malpractice, so if you live in California, it is important for you to understand California malpractice before filing a lawsuit.

It will also help you to consult with at least one medical malpractice attorney. California malpractice attorneys are versed in the law and can help you better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

What Is California Malpractice?

In general, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional breaches the standard of care when providing treatment to a patient. This breach must then cause injury to the patient in order for the patient to have a medical malpractice case.

A standard of care is a technical term that refers to the generally accepted procedures and practices that all healthcare practitioners in the area would use when treating a patient suffering from a specific disease or ailment. This standard of care can vary depending on a number of factors, including the patient's age and overall health.

It is not enough, though, to establish that the doctor breached, or did not follow, the standard of care. You must also prove that this breach directly resulted in the injury. This can be a difficult step to prove and often requires the assistance of expert witnesses.

In addition, the scope of what the law considers treatment in California malpractice cases is fairly broad. Treatment includes not just medical care or issuing prescription medication. Treatment occurs throughout the entire medical process. For example, a misdiagnosis can, in some cases, be considered medical malpractice.

Statute of Limitations for California Medical Malpractice Claims

Each state also sets its own statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. A statute of limitations is the timeframe in which an injured patient can file a lawsuit suit against the medical provider. Once this amount of time has passed, the patient is usually barred from filing a claim.

According to California malpractice law, a patient can file a medical malpractice claim up to one year after the discovery of the act that caused the injury or up to three years from the date that injury occurred. Whichever occurs first applies.

These strict time limits mean it is important for victims of medical malpractice to act fast when reaching out to medical malpractice lawyers. California attorneys will be able to look over your case and begin the lawsuit process to ensure that you file your claim on time.

Damage Caps in California Malpractice Cases

The money a patient seeks when filing a lawsuit against a medical provider for medical malpractice is known as damages. In medical malpractice cases, there are several types of damages available to an injured party. California malpractice law does place limits on some of these damages.

The first type of compensation is known as compensatory damages, which are also sometimes referred to as actual or economic damages. These compensate the victim for costs such as medical bills and lost wages due to missed days at work. California places no cap on this type of damages.

The next type of compensation is known as non-economic damages. These damages compensate the victim for things like pain, suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, and physical impairment. In California, such damages are limited to $250,000. This means that the maximum a court can award an injured patient in a medical malpractice case for pain and suffering is $250,000.

Finally, patients may also seek punitive damages in certain situations. Punitive damages are awarded as a way to punish a medical provider for reckless behavior. Oftentimes, patients and their attorneys must prove that the healthcare professional actions involved malice or fraud in order to receive punitive damages. California does not place caps on punitive damages for most medical malpractice claims.