The act of suing for medical malpractice in California involves a number of nuanced laws and procedures designed to determine if a medical provider is liable. Anyone who believes they have grounds to sue for malpractice but is not sure where to begin should connect with a California medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you launch an investigation and better understand your grounds to sue.
Steps to Sue for Medical Malpractice in California
If a medical provider deviated from their responsibility to maintain an established standard of care that left you unnecessarily injured, you could have the grounds to file a claim. A medical malpractice claim will generally follow these steps:
- Determine if you have a case: Working with an attorney to help determine if you have a valid case is a critical first step. Knowing that you’ve had a negative experience with a healthcare provider is not enough; you’ll need to determine if the law will see it as malpractice rather than an unfortunate scenario. This will require an attorney to conduct a detailed analysis of the healthcare provider’s action or inaction and compare it to the established “standard of care” in the medical community. If they feel there is compelling evidence that links the provider’s behaviors to the damage you have suffered, an attorney will likely agree to begin advancing a malpractice claim.
- Understand the statute of limitations: Like any civil claim, time is of the essence. California strictly states that no one is able to sue for medical malpractice after three years from the date of the alleged injury. The statute of limitations is intended to prevent wasting a court’s time assessing an event that happened in the past and will likely have questionable evidence, which could lead to a dismissal of the case. Each party’s memory of the event in question won’t be as clear after years have passed. Starting as early as possible is the most effective way to seek justice and receive compensation for what took place.
- Gather and preserve evidence: Evidence will always be the foundation of any claim. This is because holding someone accountable in court requires more than just proving what happened. You must paint a clear and undeniable picture of the negligence that occurred and its relationship to the damages you have suffered. The provider in question must have breached their standard of care, and this breach must have directly caused your damages. Proving this occurred will require your malpractice attorney to collect evidence, calculate the full extent of the damages you wish to be compensated for, and find any other information possible to make the link between the provider’s negligence and your condition evident in court.
- Obtain a medical professional’s opinion: Having a third party’s medical opinion on your side can lend credibility to your case. If your side lacks the opinion of a medical professional, the defendant’s medical knowledge and your lack thereof could negatively impact your case. Bringing in someone of similar stature to the medical professional being sued can help establish more credibility. For example, if the malpractice in your case occurred during a heart surgery, having another heart surgeon testify could benefit your case. If they assert that a reasonable surgeon in your provider’s position would have acted differently, this could establish that they breached their standard of care.
Q: What Should I Do Immediately After Suspecting Medical Malpractice?
A: As soon as you suspect you may have experienced medical malpractice, seek a second medical opinion to address the injuries that resulted from your original point of care. Afterward, connect with an attorney to start securing medical records and other documents to help validate your malpractice claim.
During this process, it’s also helpful to keep your own personal journal detailing the nature of your injuries, ongoing symptoms, and any other conversations you have had with other healthcare professionals specific to your care and condition.
Q: Can I Sue for Emotional Distress Caused by Medical Malpractice?
A: Yes, California law does provide a path to hold a medical provider accountable for any emotional distress that has been caused by their negligence as part of a total non-economic compensation package. You could receive compensation for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
There is also merit in seeking compensation for “loss of enjoyment of life,” which is especially relevant in cases when the injuries from the alleged malpractice have prevented the individual from engaging in something important to their life.
Q: What if Multiple Parties Were Responsible for My Malpractice Injury?
A: In cases when there was more than a single person responsible for your injury, California allows you to pursue a claim against each individual. You could sue an entire team of doctors, nurses, and even hospital administrators who may all have had an influence on the act of malpractice you suffered from.
This is known as “joint and several liabilities,” which means that each party can be held accountable for their part in the negligence and will split the burden of punishment if found liable in court.
Q: Can I Still Sue if the Medical Malpractice Resulted in a Loved One’s Death?
A: Yes, wrongful death can be a part of a medical malpractice claim when the deceased individual’s family members or estate representatives want to hold medical professionals liable. California allows these individuals to seek damages for loss of financial support, funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship, and even for the pain and suffering caused by this loss.
There are more nuanced rules about who is able to sue whom, so everyone in this scenario is advised to connect with a medical malpractice attorney.
Contact McLachlan Law, APC, for Help With Your Medical Malpractice Claim
If you would like to sue for an alleged medical malpractice event, contact our attorneys today. We have seen a diverse array of malpractice cases and are prepared to represent you. By investigating your experience, we can determine what options exist to seek compensation.