Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in California

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Sustaining an injury caused by the negligent actions of a medical provider, whether that be a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or some other type of medical professional, can be devastating. The devastation is often compounded by a failure to understand the time limits involved with filing these claims. In California, the typical personal injury statute of limitations doesn’t apply to a medical malpractice claim. There is a separate medical malpractice statute of limitations you must be aware of.

What the Law Says About the Time Limit and the Exceptions

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is almost always three years from the date the harm occurred or one year from the date the injury was discovered, whichever deadline comes first. This rule is intended to encourage timely filing while also allowing some flexibility for injuries that may not be immediately apparent​​​​.

However, there are several important exceptions to this general rule:

  • Fraud or intentional concealment. If a healthcare provider intentionally conceals the malpractice, the statute of limitations can be extended. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the concealment was intended to delay discovery of the malpractice.
  • Minor patients. For patients under the age of 18, the statute of limitations is different. A minor has three years from the date of the alleged medical negligence to file a claim, or, if they are under six years old, until their eighth birthday to do so​​.
  • Continued treatment. If the patient continues to receive treatment from the same healthcare professional for the same condition that the lawsuit is arising from, the statute of limitations may not start until the treatment has ended.

What Happens if You Do Not File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Time?

Failing to file a California medical negligence claim within the required timeframe can result in the case being dismissed, regardless of the severity of the injury or the clear evidence of malpractice. This makes it critical for potential plaintiffs to be aware of and adhere to these deadlines. Missing the filing deadline typically means losing the right to pursue compensation through legal action for the damages suffered due to medical negligence​​​​.

In some instances, a case may proceed if a compelling argument is made that the statute of limitations should be tolled (delayed) due to extraordinary circumstances. However, these instances are rare and often require strong legal arguments to convince a court to make an exception.

Should You Consider an Attorney for Your Claim?

Given the complexity of medical malpractice laws in California and the strict deadlines involved, it is highly advisable to consult with an lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases. An experienced  Long Beach medical malpractice attorney can provide several key benefits:

  • Case evaluation. An attorney can assess the details of your specific situation to determine if you have a valid medical malpractice case and advise on the best course of action.
  • Navigating legal processes. Medical malpractice cases involve intricate legal processes and substantial documentation. An attorney can help navigate these processes, ensuring all necessary paperwork is correctly properly and filed within proper time restraints.
  • Gathering evidence. Proving medical malpractice requires substantial evidence, including medical records, expert testimonies, and documentation of damages. An attorney has the resources and knowledge to gather and present this evidence effectively.
  • Negotiation and representation. Medical malpractice claims in California often involve negotiations with insurance companies and legal representatives of healthcare providers. An attorney can handle every negotiation for you, striving to secure a fair settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the attorney can represent you in court​​​​.

Consulting with a medical negligence lawyer early in the process can help better protect your rights and help you pursue the maximum compensation available under the law. For expert guidance on your medical malpractice claim, consider reaching out to Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP for a consultation.