When Is it Too Late To Sue for Medical Malpractice?

As patients, we trust the doctors we go to with our lives. We trust that their decisions are the right ones and that they possess the skill level they say they do. We expect this level of professionalism from everyone in the healthcare field, and when we are injured by someone who we have entrusted our health too, the harm is tenfold. While doctors, nurses and therapists do make mistakes, it is when those mistakes are negligent and causes harm to the patient when a malpractice suit may be necessary. Medical malpractice lawsuits, however, must be made in a timely manner or a judge will not see the case. This is called a statute of limitation.

Statute of Limitations

All medical malpractice lawsuits are subject to a statute of limitations, which is a specified amount of time during which a patient has to file a lawsuit. This time limit depends upon the state in which the injury occurred and the type of case. It can span from one or two years to as many as ten. California has a short statute of limitations on medical malpractice and could be as little as six to twelve months depending on the case. Filing a medical malpractice case in California within a one year time frame from the injury ensures that a judge will likely hear the case. filing later could result in the case being dismissed.

Discovery Rule

In cases of auto negligence, the statute of limitations begins at the moment of the accident. However, with medical malpractice, it isn’t always so easy to determine when the negligence occurs. In an accident, the injury happens immediately. Your car gets hit and you feel the pain as you are tossed around the vehicle. You know you are hurt. In a medical malpractice case, the negligence is often not realized until months after a surgery or treatment. Symptoms and signs of the malpractice are not instantly evident. This is why most states have adopted the discovery rule. This ruling suspends the statute of limitations until the moment the injury is suspected as malpractice.

Damage Caps

In legal terminology, the money a victim seeks out of the suit is known as damages. California allows for a variety of damages in medical malpractice suits. They also place a limit on the amount of damages that can be claimed and that is called the damage cap.

One type of malpractice damages are called compensatory damages. These types of damages are also referred to as economic damages or actual damages. These are meant to compensate the victim for expenses such as medical costs and income lost due to missed days a place of employment. There is no cap in California for this type of damages.

Another type of compensation is referred to as non-economic damages. These types of damages reimburse victims for issues like pain, and discomfort, suffering, defacement and disfigurement, and physical impairment. California limits such damages to $250,000 which means the maximum a court can award a victim in a medical malpractice case for pain and suffering is $250,000.

California also offers alternative dispute moderations of medical malpractice cases. This allows for both parties to discuss any available options to resolve the case. Health care providers and medical treatment centers and victims of malpractice are allowed to voluntarily enter into a contract bond for the adjudication of disputes. Once correctly entered into, an agreement for arbitration is legally binding and eliminates the option for a trial.

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