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Medical malpractice is an action against a health care provider for professional negligence. In California, professional negligence is defined as a negligent act or omission by a health care provider in the rendering of professional services, which act or omission is the proximate cause of a personal injury or wrongful death. To sue for medical malpractice, the services must be within the scope of services for which the provider is licensed and not under any restriction imposed by the licensing agency or licensed hospital.
Medical malpractice laws in California apply to all healthcare providers and facilities licensed by the state. This includes doctors, chiropractors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, pharmacists, hospitals, clinics, and laboratories.
Health care providers have a duty to act within the standard of care. The standard of care is often defined as the degree of learning and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners of the medical profession in the same or a similar locality, under similar circumstances. The standard of care against which the acts of a health care provider are to be measured is a matter peculiarly within the knowledge of experts and can typically only be proved by their testimony. As a result, it is critical that the correct experts are retained and utilized in a medical malpractice case.Available Damages
If you have suffered an injury as the result of medical malpractice you are entitled to full and fair compensation, typically in the form of economic damages, non-economic damages, or both. There is no cap on the amount of compensatory damages a victim may sue for in a medical malpractice case. Economic damages include such things as:
- Lost wages;
- Medical bills;
- Future care needs;
- Home health care;
- Physical and occupational therapy; and
- Lost earning capacity.
A victim of medical malpractice may also seek an award of non-economic damages for pain, suffering, loss of consortium, disfigurement, and emotional distress. California has capped the award of non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.00.
In certain circumstances, your San Diego medical malpractice lawyer may seek to include a claim for punitive damages against a health care provider whose acts rise to the level of oppression, fraud, or malice. This could result in an additional award exceeding the limit set for non-economic damages. In the context of medical malpractice claims, punitive damages are usually awarded when the victim can show the defendant’s conduct was despicable and done intentionally, or with a willful, conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.Statute of Limitations
If you believe you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, please call immediately for a free and confidential consultation with a medical malpractice attorney at Walton Law, APC. California law has codified a statute of limitations that specifically limits the time permitted to commence a lawsuit against a health care provider. Currently, an adult must file a medical malpractice lawsuit no later than three years after an injury occurs or one year after the injured party discovers or should reasonably have discovered their injury. Of note, if a government entity is involved, the statute of limitations can be as little as 6 months from the date of injury or when the injured party should have known of the injury. Once the first of these occur, an injured party will be subsequently barred from bringing a claim by the statute of limitations.
When the victim of medical malpractice is a minor under the age of 18 in California, the statute of limitations runs under the later of either three years from the date of the wrongful act or, if the minor child was under six years old when the injury occurred, the minor’s eighth birthday.
These strict time limits and harsh consequences means it is critical to begin your investigation as soon as you suspect wrongdoing in order to preserve your claim. However, there are situations that will toll the statute of limitations and provide a victim more time to file their lawsuit. The statute will be tolled when:
- A healthcare provider engages in fraud;
- A healthcare provider intentionally conceals wrongdoing;
- A minor’s parent colluded with a healthcare provider or the defendant’s insurer to not file a medical malpractice claim on behalf of their injured minor child; or
- The injured person has a foreign body inside them that serves no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect.
Because of the strict statute of limitations and the critical nature of retaining and utilizing the proper experts to prove deviation from the standard of care, it is important to speak with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice attorney to understand your options, learn about your rights, and get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice attorney, please call us directly at (866) 338-7079, or click here to submit your inquiry online.