Medical Malpractice in California - How to Claim Compensation

Medical malpractice lawsuits are often long, complex, and expensive. For victims or their families, this it can be overwhelming to even consider suing a health care provider.

However, by understanding exactly how Medical Malpractice is defined in California, you should be able to judge whether you ought to take that important decision.

Medical Malpractice California Law Personal Injury

Defining Medical Malpractice in California

The first thing to understand is that medical malpractice is defined as “professional negligence”. It defines it as:

  • A negligent act, or an omission to act, by a healthcare provider.

  • The act (or omission) must have taken place during their service

  • Services are within the scope of the providers’ licenses

  • The act led to personal injury or death

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Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice? 

Anyone in the medical profession, such as doctors, physical therapists, nurses or pediatricians, amongst others. But you can also sue institutions such as clinics, laboratories (for medical trials) and even hospitals.

Medical Malpractice

What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?

Common examples include pain, suffering and financial impact due to:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Surgical error
  • Medication error

How Long Can You Sue After The Incident?

The statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases is different in the state of California for minors and adults.


  • For adults: three years after the date of the injury, or one year after the discovery of the injury.
  • For minors: three years after the wrongful act, or before the child’s 8th birthday if they were less than 6 years old at the time of the injury.

Note that there are exceptions where you may claim compensation at a later date. For instance, if the healthcare provider is found to have committed fraud or intentionally concealed their wrongdoing.

Recovering foreign objects unintentionally left in a patient (during a surgical procedure) also removes the standard statute of limitation.

What Are Shared Liability Rules? 

In some cases, the defendant will claim that the plaintiff is partly responsible for the injuries. This is common, for instance, when patients fail to fully follow a doctor’s instructions.

If this is found to be the case at trial, the district attorney will rely on a pure comparative negligence rule, which will deduct a percentage of damages based on your part of the responsibility. If you were going to be awarded $100,000 but are found to be 40% at fault, you will only receive $60,000.

Should I Hire a Personal Lawyer for a Medical Malpractice Case?

As previously mentioned, medical malpractice is one of the toughest claims to make in a California court of law. Proving error or failure to act is complex, and requires a thorough investigation of the facts, along with multiple witness testimonies.

This is where a personal attorney can really help prepare, file, and help win the case - whether out of court or in front of a jury.

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