An Overview of Current California Medical Malpractice Law

California Medical Malpractice LawMedical emergencies or serious health issues bring with them deep emotional trauma and stress that can make decision-making extra challenging.  In these circumstances, people often have conflicting feelings towards the medical personnel who care for their loved ones or themselves.  On one hand, they put their faith and trust into these people.  On the other, they then blame them for anything that goes wrong.  Before taking up the cry of ‘malpractice!’ and attacking the healthcare professionals providing care, it’s best to understand what malpractice is and isn’t and how California malpractice law works.

What is Malpractice?

Malpractice is defined under California law as violating the ‘governing standard of care’ and causing harm to the patient.  This can include a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis of disease, failure to provide appropriate treatment, or an unreasonable delay in treatment.

Malpractice is therefore often a subjective term.  What to outside observers might seem to be an unreasonable delay may have a perfectly reasonable cause from the point of view of the healthcare professional.

Damages from Malpractice

Malpractice complaint can be made by the patient against any healthcare provider.  Damages in California are limited to $250,000.  Damages may be adjusted if the patient has received collateral compensation – for example, an insurance settlement.

Limitations on Malpractice

For plaintiffs over the age of six, malpractice complaints must be made within three years of the injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers the injury or condition or reasonably should have discovered the injury.  For children six years old or younger, the complaint must be filed within three years of the date of injury or before their eighth birthday, whichever period is longer.

It’s important to know that attorney’s fees are limited by law in California in malpractice suits.  Fees are not allowed to exceed 40% of the first $50,000 recovered, 33 1/3% of the next $50,000, 25% of the next $50,000, and 15% of any damages in excess of $600,000.

As in most areas, malpractice suits in California are expensive and lengthy actions, often costing more than $100,000 to pursue.  Because of the specific knowledge and training involved in pursuing these claims, an attorney who specializes in malpractice actions is often an absolute requirement.

Malpractice is an emotionally fraught and difficult charge.  The law in California is very complex and comprehensive, setting clear guidelines and limits for almost every aspect of the complaint and the proceedings to resolve the matter.

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