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Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in California (2024 Update)

As of January 2022, the statute of limitations, or “SOL,” for medical malpractice cases in California is typically 3 years. If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should act promptly, as missing the applicable statute of limitations could result in the loss of your right to pursue legal action.
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What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is defined as the professional negligence of healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, or other medical professionals, which causes harm or injury to a patient. This negligence occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from accepted standards of care, resulting in harm to the patient.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a legal time that specifies the maximum period during which legal proceedings can be filed. These statutes vary depending on the nature of the legal action and the jurisdiction where it is entered. The main purpose of a statute of limitations is to ensure that a legal action is initiated within a reasonable timeframe while evidence and witnesses are still available, preventing delayed or stale claims.

What Does Medical Malpractice Involve in California?

An overview of the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in California includes:

  • Standard Statute of Limitations - In California, injured parties usually have 3 years from the date of the alleged medical malpractice or the discovery of the injury to enter a claim.
  • Discovery Rule - California implements a "discovery rule," which means that the statute of limitations may be extended if the victims did not discover, or reasonably could not have discovered, the injury within the usual 3-year SOL.
  • Statute of Repose - Under no circumstances can a medical malpractice lawsuit be entered over 3 years after the date of the alleged malpractice, even if the injury was not discovered within that timeframe.

Can the Statute of Limitations for a Medical Malpractice Claim in California be Extended?

Yes, the medical malpractice statute of limitations in California can be extended in certain cases. As noted above, one common exception is known as the "discovery rule." The discovery rule allows for the tolling (or pausing) of the SOL when the patient did not discover, and reasonably could not have discovered, the injury within the standard time period.

Damages Available in a California Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Someone suing for medical malpractice in California can potentially recover compensation for economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages (both past and future), and the cost of medication. These claims may also include damages for emotional distress the victim experiences.

Lastly, there are punitive damages, which are intended to punish defendants who acted especially negligently or recklessly. According to the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act limits the amount of money a victim can recover for emotional losses to $250,000.

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The Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one was involved with these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.