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Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional or facility does not live up to the accepted standard of care and, in the process, causes harm to a patient. Sometimes a poor medical outcome is inevitable, and not the result of malpractice. However, you cannot rely on doctors and other medical professionals to come forward when they have made a mistake. Victims of medical malpractice have a very limited amount of time to take legal action.
Responsibility in California Medical Malpractice
Any type of healthcare professional can be held responsible for medical malpractice, not just doctors. Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, can also be held responsible. Responsible parties in medical malpractice claims can include:
- Surgical staff
- Cosmetic surgeons
- Physical therapists
- Nursing home
- Outpatient facilities
- Urgent care centers
- Mental hospitals
- Rehabilitation centers
- Jails and prisons
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Some common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delayed diagnosis of a serious medical condition or event such as cancer or stroke
- Surgical error
- Anesthesia error
- Medication error
- Emergency room malpractice, including patient dumping
- Birth injury
- Nosocomial infection
- Failure to recommend appropriate tests or treatment
- Inappropriate treatment for the condition or based on medical history
- Continuing an ineffective treatment
- Failure to obtain informed consent
- Patient abandonment
Damages and Caps
California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) capped noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $250,000. This cap was created in 1975 and has never been increased to compensate for inflation. MICRA is very controversial and consumer advocates are working hard to get the act repealed.
Medical malpractice damages can include:
- Medical expenses and future medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Lost earning capacity
- Special equipment and home modifications to accommodate disability
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
The statute of limitations for California medical malpractice lawsuits is three years after the date of injury or one year after the injury is discovered or should have reasonably been discovered, whichever comes first.
The statute of limitations can be tolled (put on hold) if the injury was not discovered because of fraud or intentional concealment, and when a foreign object was left in body.
Minor children who are injured before their sixth birthday have until their eighth birthday or three years after the date of injury to file, whichever is later. There are other exceptions for minors under certain circumstances.