California Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in California.
Do you feel certain that you have a valid claim of malpractice? Perhaps you or a loved one suffered injury or loss because you did not get the appropriate standard of care? Perhaps it was negligence? If so, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself with the state malpractice laws for California. However, even as you do, you may realize that they are far too complex for the layperson to understand fully.
California Medical Malpractice Laws
In the event that a claimant or prospective claimant in a California medical malpractice case has not had direct experience with filing medical malpractice lawsuits in the state, the following are typically state-specific elements of a lawsuit that any potential claimant must consider, including:
- Statutes of Limitations, which are statutory laws restricting the potential claimant to a period following an incident of medical malpractice in which a lawsuit in California must be filed.
- Comparative negligence laws, which in California and other state jurisdictions, may prevent a claimant from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in the event of proportional liability, negligence on behalf of the claimant, or other instances of shared responsibility for fault in a medical malpractice incident, which may bar claimants in certain instances from filing lawsuits
- Tortfeasor liability, which is also known as the joint and several liabilities and falls broadly under comparative negligence laws in California medical malpractice law, Includes instances whereby defendants are held jointly responsible for the injury and damages. There is a rather extensive set of exemptions, exceptions, and other case-specific elements to consider including non-economic damages and several liabilities under California medical malpractice law.
- Expert testimony requirements, which include medical expert affidavit filings in certain states as a prerequisite to filing a viable medical malpractice lawsuit, are required in California, and in short, serve as proof or grounds for filing a viable malpractice claim against a specific medical healthcare provider with an expert’s opinion that this given provider was, in fact, negligent in conduct
- Statutory Caps, which include restrictions or limits on the amount of money recoverable in a medical malpractice lawsuit in many states, can greatly influence the economic calculus influencing any proposed medical malpractice lawsuit’s value
2016 California Medical Malpractice Statutes and Laws
Should an individual feel that he or she has encountered an incident resulting in viable grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of California, the following laws and statutes will prove applicable to any prospective claims case under California’s jurisdiction.
Statutes of Limitations in California Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
With any medical malpractice case in California, an injured party must file his or her lawsuit within three years of the date of the injury or one year from the date of which the injury was discovered. From a practical perspective, in most straightforward medical malpractice cases in California, a claimant has only twelve months from the date of the medical treatment to bring an action on the case. The law includes an exception for children under six years of age, whose guardians may file a malpractice lawsuit on their behalf within the longer of three years after the date of the injury or before the child’s eighth birthday.
Also, to this statute of limitations, California requires a medical malpractice plaintiff to notify the defendant 90 days before the malpractice lawsuit is filed. If this notice is issued correctly, it will stop the statute of limitations, and the plaintiff will avoid filing deadline problems as long as he does file his lawsuit ninety days after issuing a notice of his intention to sue. The theory of this notice is to give the parties an opportunity to resolve the case before any lawsuit is filed.
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Comparative Negligence Laws, Allocation of Fault, and Comparative Liability in California Medical Malpractice Cases
California is a pure comparative negligence state, which proportionally allocates fault amongst all parties, and in turn, damage awards are reduced proportionally, with no bars to filing in the event of medical negligence about comparative liability concerns vis a vis claimant liability for damages.
Expert Testimony Requirements in the State of California under Medical Malpractice Law
Unlike many other states, California does not require an injured party to file a certificate or affidavit of merit to verify the validity of a medical malpractice case. Nonetheless, expert testimony is almost always required in California medical malpractice cases to establish the standards of care to which medical professionals are held in the specific area of the medical healing arts that is in question, and to determine if the defendant who is alleged to have acted negligently failed to live up to those standards. Medical experts must be experienced in the medical field that is under review for their expert testimony to be valid.
Statutory Caps on Damages in California Medical Malpractice Lawsuits and the Applicability of the Collateral Source Rule in 2016
California also caps non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) at $250,000. The state also limits the amount of money that an attorney can charge based on a sliding scale that is a function of the total damages award that an injured party might receive. Recent changes to the California collateral source rules have fostered one of the most significant limitations in recovering damages for medical malpractice law injuries.
In 2011, in its case decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats and Provisions, Inc., the California Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff can recover damages for past medical expenses that are no greater than her medical providers had accepted as payment in full from insurance payments. A California Appellate Court restricted an injured plaintiff’s opportunity to recover damages even further in its decision in Corenbaum v. Lampkin, which barred a plaintiff’s attorney from introducing certain types of evidence that might justify a higher damages award. The California plaintiff’s bar has voiced multiple objections to both of these decisions, but as of the date of this writing, the state’s legislature has not adopted any laws or rules to change these decisions.
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Consider Filing a California Medical Malpractice Lawsuit with No Cost Upfront, Skilled Legal Guidance
If you have suffered an injury as a result of a physician’s or medical care provider’s medical and professional negligence, you need to act fast to secure that opportunity. The state of California has some of the most restrictive laws for both filing medical malpractice claims and recovering damages for injuries suffered as a result of professional medical negligence. If you have suffered a medical malpractice injury, you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced plaintiff’s attorney who is familiar with the details and procedures of the California laws. Any delay on your part, however minor, can jeopardize your right to recover any damages.