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What Happens In A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

A Guide To Medical Malpractice Claims In California


Your doctor, nurses, and other medical professionals are responsible for giving you the best possible care. After all, a person's health and well-being aren't something to take chances at. One wrong prescription, misdiagnosis, and bout of carelessness can mean long-term or severe damages to an unknowing patient.

In this post, we'll talk about medical malpractice in California, its challenges, and how your Personal Injury Attorney might help you get the compensation and damages you deserve.


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Medical malpractice claims are lawsuits filed against health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and hospitals when they give subpar medical care that leads to avoidable harm. It's crucial to realize that not all adverse medical outcomes are caused by medical misconduct. Some difficulties and poor results are unavoidable, as no medical treatment can guarantee a faultless outcome, even if the procedure appears to be regular.

That said, a lot of preventable adverse medical injuries are caused by malpractice, which may be the result of inferior care or neglect on the part of health care personnel. When this happens, filing a medical malpractice claim may be appropriate.

A medical malpractice claim might arise from a variety of different situations. However, the following are some of the more common scenarios:

  • Error in Diagnosis. A diagnosis error or misdiagnosis can occur when a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider fails to notice a patient's symptoms, order appropriate tests, or diagnose a patient's condition or disease correctly. A patient's well-being may also be influenced by the speed with which an accurate diagnosis is made.

  • Errors in the Emergency Room. This can include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, mismanagement or inability to acquire necessary tests, or failure to consult with suitable specialists. Frequently, an emergency department blunder leads to an inappropriate discharge of a patient or a lack of prompt care, both of which can lead to increased problems and damage.

  • Surgical Mistakes. Surgical and medical malpractice hazards exist every time a person has a surgical procedure in a hospital or medical clinic under the supervision of a doctor or nurse. Surgical errors can occur during pre-operative care, surgery, or post-operative care. They may also include the management and treatment of post-operative infection. Some surgical problems are inherent risks and hence do not constitute medical negligence. However, the patient may have a claim for medical negligence if the operation or post-operative care was done improperly and resulting in a preventable injury.

  • Errors in Medication. Medicine errors occur when the incorrect medication or dosage of a drug is prescribed as a result of a wrong diagnosis, misreading of orders, or a doctor, pharmacist, or pharmacy error. Such errors may result in the patient suffering further injury or consequences or delay in treatment, resulting in further damage.

  • Proceeding with Treatment without Informed Consent. Before continuing with a medical procedure or treatment, a doctor or physician must explain to the patient the nature of the process or treatment and any specific, significant, or unique risks or consequences that may be involved. In some cases, a doctor must also offer any reasonable alternatives to the patient's current treatment.

  • When making a claim for lack of informed consent, you're required proof not only that you (the patient) would not have undergone the procedure or treatment in question if all of the necessary information had been provided but also that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would not have consented to the treatment or procedure if all of the necessary information had been provided.

  • Birth Injuries. Every year, unfortunately, children are born with significant permanent neurological or intellectual abnormalities. Often, these injuries could have been avoided if a doctor, nurse, or other health care practitioner had provided proper monitoring, intervention, diagnosis, or treatment. In addition, there are symptoms that the unborn baby is not developing typically or is in fetal distress in some circumstances. In some situations, the mother's history may contain characteristics that increase the chance of high-risk pregnancy or birth.

Medical malpractice is a complicated area of law to navigate. Any malpractice claim's success is determined by the case's underlying merits and the experience of California Personal Injury Lawyer assisting with the claim.

What Is The Difference Between Negligence And Malpractice?

To appreciate the distinctions between negligence and malpractice, you must first comprehend what negligence means in the context of personal injury law.


What does it mean to be negligent?

The idea of negligence is utilized in personal injury law to determine whether a person's or company's carelessness or recklessness caused you harm. The ultimate goal is to hold that individual or company liable for the losses you suffered as a result of their negligence.


To establish negligence, you and your California Personal Injury Attorney must show:

  • Someone or an institution has a duty to keep you safe and healthy.

  • That they have disobeyed that duty.

  • That your injury was directly caused by a breach of that duty.

  • As a result of the breach, you've been hurt.

These are also common elements factored into most Personal Injury Claims in California. Therefore, negligence is one of the best ways to identify who the defendants in your case are.


What is medical malpractice?

The four elements of medical negligence are the same as those listed above, with a few exceptions. First, the individual you're suing for medical negligence must be a medical professional or institution. Nurses, doctors, and hospitals with whom you have a provider-patient relationship are examples of medical professionals/institutions.

To prove a breach of care, your attorney must show how the professional's acts fell short of a recognized medical standard of care. For example, did the individual or institution act the same way that other trained experts would have acted in your situation?


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What is the definition of medical malpractice?

The degree to which their activities deviate from the accepted medical standard of care can assist evaluate whether the damage was caused by an avoidable but accidental mistake (medical negligence) or an intentionally negligent action (criminal negligence).


In other words, the most significant distinction between medical negligence and malpractice litigation is that a medical malpractice complaint seeks to establish that the practitioner acted recklessly on purpose. Medical malpractice, to put it another way, is a more severe offense than medical negligence.

What Is A Medical Provider's Duty Of Care?

All doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers have a legal obligation to provide competent medical care to patients—as well as anybody who needs emergency medical attention. Doctors, on the other hand, are not required to accept everyone as a patient. They have the right to deny a patient for reasonable grounds.

A doctor, for example, may be lacking in medical knowledge and experience in a specific area. Alternatively, a doctor and a patient may differ about the best medical care for the patient. On the other hand, doctors cannot refuse to treat someone because of their age, gender, marital status, medical condition, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental handicap, political affiliation, race, religion, or socioeconomic status.

A person can sue a health care practitioner for damages if they fail to give proper medical care. This is known as medical malpractice. When a health care practitioner is negligent and when a doctor does not obtain informed permission from a patient, these are the two basic categories of medical malpractice.

If your doctor or other healthcare professional is negligent, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in California to help you gather and organize evidence, as well as go to the appropriate agencies to file your claims.

If a doctor or health care provider fails to deliver the standard of care that a reasonable doctor or health care provider in the same area would provide in comparable circumstances, they are considered negligent. In addition, if a person is injured or becomes ill due to the doctor's or health care provider's negligence, the doctor or health care provider may be responsible for paying damages (money to compensate for the harm done).


It's no justification for a doctor to claim that they tried their best or simply forgot how to make a proper diagnosis. The doctor may be held accountable if they should have known better.


Let's say you go to the doctor because you're not feeling well. The doctor recommends a medication to help you with the symptoms you've described. You take the prescribed medicine, and it does you harm. In light of your medical history and the other medications you were taking, it turned out that the drug was inappropriate. The doctor may be negligent if other doctors with similar medical practices would not have prescribed the medicine.

Caveat: Not Every Injury Is A Case Of Negligence

Doctors and other healthcare providers are not responsible for all errors. However, the regulation recognizes that doctors are frequently forced to make snap decisions based on incomplete information. The crucial question is whether the doctor made a reasonable decision that other reasonable doctors would have made in the same situation, even if it turned out to be the erroneous option that resulted in a negative outcome later on.


For Example:


Suppose you go to your doctor with terrible headaches. They evaluate you, collect your medical history, listen to your symptoms, and prescribe the appropriate tests. They conclude that you have a common tension headache that will go away based on the findings of this evaluation. Later, it was discovered that your doctor was incorrect. The discomfort was caused by something other than a stress headache.


The doctor made a mistake in his diagnosis. However, your doctor offered the appropriate level of care, the same level of care that other doctors would have provided in your situation. Therefore, you are unlikely to succeed if you sue the doctor for malpractice because the doctor was not negligent.

If you are unsure about whether or not your case qualifies for a medical malpractice claim, consult with a California Personal Injury Lawyer to go over the details with you.


How Can You Identify The "Appropriate" Duty Of Care?

The standard of treatment differs depending on the doctor's level of specialization. For specialists, the bar may be set higher. And it changes over time. The benchmark set today may not be enough next year. Even at the most advanced research facility, you can't always anticipate the best care. In addition, the quality or certifications of the hospital where you are treated may impact the quality of care you receive.

To summarize, not every blunder or poor outcome inevitably entails neglect. Even if a doctor follows all the correct procedures, they may make a mistake or obtain a negative outcome.


In The Case Of Failure To Diagnose


A doctor would be negligent if they failed to diagnose a medical issue that a reasonable doctor in the same situation would have diagnosed. The question then becomes whether the patient was injured or lost as a result of the failure to diagnose. A delay in diagnosis can sometimes make the difference between treating or not treating a problem. On the other hand, a delay in diagnosis may not have made a difference in some cases. In that scenario, the patient was unable to obtain anything from the physician.

You May Be Awarded Damages For Suffering From Medical Malpractice

If you can show that the doctor, hospital, or health care provider was negligent and caused your accident or illness, a court may compel them to pay you damages for the harm they caused. Loss of earnings, medical and other expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life are all possible damages. The court's endeavor to compensate you for the impact of the negligence on your life in general falls under this category.

Only the injury caused by the doctor's negligence is their responsibility. Let's imagine you agreed to surgery that, if done well, would need you to take two months off work to recover. However, the surgeon was neglectful, and you had to take six months off as a result. In this situation, you would be compensated for the additional four months of missed wages as a result of the mistake. You would not be rewarded for the first two months of vacation because you had already agreed to take that time off. Even if the surgery had gone well, you would have had to take the two months off.

That said, evidence is one of the key elements of a medical malpractice claim. To help you gather all the evidence you need for your claim—including medical records, expert testimonies, and other documents—consult with a prescreened California Personal Injury Attorney. Having an attorney makes sure that you meet your deadlines, file the proper documents, and hold the right people responsible.


If people other than your doctor is to blame:


Even if a doctor delegated work to another person, the doctor might still be held legally liable for the work. Both doctors may be held responsible if a doctor leaves a patient in the care of another doctor. If an unskilled intern takes on the role of a doctor, the intern must provide the same level of medical treatment as a doctor.


On the other hand, a doctor can rely on the personnel of a medical facility to provide the level of care expected in their duties. As a result, if a doctor leaves clear instructions with a nurse who disregards them, the nurse, not the doctor, may be held accountable. It's possible that both are to blame.


A person can sue another health care provider if they have been hurt by that expert's negligence. They can also register a complaint with the profession's regulatory authority.

If the hospital is also to blame:

Hospitals have a responsibility to provide a high level of care. A hospital's responsibility is to administer the facility with appropriate care in order to avoid injuring patients. This includes appointing enough competent staff, ensuring that the staff acts within their level of competence, guaranteeing timely treatment, and taking the necessary precautions to protect patients from infections spread by other patients. In addition, hospitals usually have someone in charge of dealing with concerns about the care they give.

If you are unsure whether the hospital's decisions have caused your injuries, contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer, whose expertise can help them quickly assess your situation.

If you weren't given a chance to make an informed consent:

Doctors must thoroughly educate their patients about the risks associated with any medical operation or therapy they are considering. This is referred to as informed consent in both medical and legal terms. If a patient is hurt after a doctor fails to obtain informed permission, the patient may be able to sue the doctor for medical malpractice.

A doctor is required to inform you about your condition, the nature of the recommended therapy, the treatment's dangers, and any other options available to you. If the doctor does not provide you with all of this information, you will not be able to give informed consent to treatment. A doctor is only required to discuss the dangers that a reasonable patient would want to be aware of before deciding on treatment. This includes describing what might happen and how likely it is to happen.


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It could be malpractice if you experience an injury or disease as a result of medical treatment, and it was a known danger that your doctor failed to inform you about before you agreed to the treatment. If the risks were disclosed to the patient, the court will evaluate whether a reasonable person would have consented to the treatment.

Failure to obtain any kind of consent may be considered an assault or violence in specific instances. For example, if you have been assaulted while receiving medical treatment, you should report it to the police.


To help you identify the defendants in your case, contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer.


What Are Your Responsibilities As A Patient?

You have control over your health treatment as a patient. You must provide the doctor with all pertinent information regarding your condition, medical history, and any other relevant information. If you don't, and an error in diagnosis or treatment occurs. As a result, it will be your fault, not the doctor's.

Furthermore, if you do not follow the doctor's instructions and your failure creates the problem, the doctor is not accountable. For example, become ill after surgery and do not follow the surgeon's recuperation instructions. It will be challenging to prove that the surgeon was negligent in operating on you.

Caveats: There Are Damage Caps In California

A damage cap is a legal limit on how much money a sufferer can recover in a personal injury case. When a damage cap is in place, it usually only applies to non-economic damages designed to compensate a victim for their non-financial injuries.


Economic damages are meant to reimburse the victim (and their insurance company) for the actual expenditures and payments incurred due to the accident and injuries. Medical bills, operations, recovery costs, missed wages, and other similar expenses are included. There is no damage cap for solely economic damages because they are meant to reimburse the sufferer for costs already incurred.

If a person is wounded as a result of medical negligence, their non-economic damages will be limited to $250,000 in their claims. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975 established this rule. When the law was implemented, the goal was to keep premiums and healthcare operating costs from soaring, which would have a negative impact on those who paid into the insurance company for a policy.

California has damage caps for some types of car accidents in addition to medical malpractice damage caps. When a driver is hurt but is caught for DUI (Driving Under the Influence), driving without insurance, or committing a felony, the driver is barred from seeking any compensation for their injuries. This is a very different kind of "limit," as it is more of a restriction than a cap on how much they can collect.

To know more about how much you can get for a malpractice claim, contact a Personal Injury Attorney in California to help you.

How Much Time Do You Have To File A Claim In California?

In most cases, you must file a medical malpractice action within two years after the date of the negligence.


It's within two years of when a reasonable person would have discovered they'd been harmed by the health care provider's acts and that the court system is the best venue to seek redress. So even if you're feeling fine at the time, you should take action as soon as possible. At the same time, witnesses are still available, and their recollections are still fresh.

This is the standard rule, although there are exceptions when the two-year restriction period begins at a different time. Seek legal assistance to learn more about how the statute of limitations may affect your ability to file a lawsuit.

Find An Experienced California Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near Me

Unfortunately, hundreds of California lawyers are disciplined every year for unethical acts ranging from fraud and gross incompetence to serious felony crimes. The California State Bar has certified and approved lawyer referral services to help the public find reputable and honest California medical malpractice lawyers.

  1. You can submit a request online 24 hours a day. Your case will be reviewed within 15 minutes, for free. You'll then be connected to a prescreened and reputable medical malpractice lawyer near you.

  2. By chat, you'll be connected with a lawyer within 5 minutes.

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