Patients should be able to trust that the professionals who are treating their medical conditions are appropriately trained and careful enough to carry out their treatment without causing them undue harm. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Mistakes can happen and sometimes these mistakes can cause serious and long-lasting harm to the patient. If you were harmed by a doctor's careless or negligent actions, you may consider seeking compensation for your injuries. For many patients, this can be an uphill battle—not only are medical malpractice cases notoriously difficult to prove, but California law also limits the amount of time that patients have to bring their claim before the court. Read on to learn more about the statute of limitations, as well as what you can do if you feel you've been a victim of medical malpractice.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Most doctors and other medical professionals will do everything in their power to secure a good outcome for their patients. However, positive outcomes are not possible in all instances and a bad outcome, on its own, isn't enough to show that medical malpractice occurred. In California, for a case to be considered medical malpractice, the plaintiff must prove that the medical professional failed to provide the appropriate standard of care—meaning that they provided less competent care than an equally trained doctor in a similar situation—and that the patient was seriously harmed as a result.
California Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations strictly limits the time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. These laws benefit potential defendants by ensuring that they don't have the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads for an unreasonable amount of time. Statute of limitation laws are very closely followed; plaintiffs who wait too long to file their claim forfeit their right to have their case heard before the court.
In California, the law states that medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within one year of the patient discovering the injury or within three years of the date that injury occurred—whichever comes first. Unfortunately, patients who do not discover their injury within three years of the malpractice will not be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in most cases.
Exceptions to California's Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
For example, if a medical instrument was left in a patient's body during a surgical procedure, the patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the relevant medical professional even if the surgery was 10 years prior—as long as the patient files the lawsuit within one year of discovering the forgotten instrument.
California's medical malpractice statute of limitations for children under the age of 18 is a bit different. In these cases, the parents or legal guardians of the minor must file the medical malpractice lawsuit within three years. However, if the victim is under the age of six, the lawsuit should be filed within three years or before the minor turns eight. California law also provides a special exemption for minor children who were the victims of fraud; in these causes, the clock on the statute of limitations is temporarily stopped during the period that the fraud was taking place.
Additionally, children who were injured prior—or during—their births have six years for their parents or legal guardians to file a medical malpractice lawsuit on their behalf.
Do You Need Help Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you are a victim of medical malpractice who is considering taking action against the medical professional that injured you, you simply can't afford to sit around and let the clock on the statute of limitations count down to zero. When every second counts, reach out to the experienced injury recovery professionals with the Inland Empire Law Group. The skilled attorneys in our Victorville and Rancho Cucamonga law offices are standing by to answer your questions, and we proudly serve Fontana and the entire Inland Empire region. Call us today for a no-cost, no-obligation, and confidential case evaluation.