Need to Know: Medical Malpractice
According to a 2016 study, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, ranking just behind heart disease and cancer. Researchers from John Hopkins School of Medicine, which led the study, cited errors such as bad doctors to systemic issues such as lack of communication when handing off patients between departments and medical providers as types of medical negligence.
The reality is that medical negligence costs billions of dollars, not to mention the mental and physical toll it takes on individuals and families. While most doctors strive to provide great care, there are some bad actors and mistakes are made. Knowing your rights and whether you have a medical malpractice case are areas with which I can assist.
First, there are some things you need to know about medical malpractice law in California:
- California caps the amount recoverable for pain and suffering due to medical malpractice to $250,000 – regardless of the severity of your injury;
- Many cases require forced arbitration rather than jury trials;
- You must prove that a breach by a healthcare professional in providing care to you directly resulted in injury, which usually requires expert witnesses.
Statute of Limitations
In California, patients can file a medical malpractice claim up to one year after the discovery of the act that caused the injury or up to three years from the date the injury occurred, whichever comes first.
Damages are the funds that a patient seeks as reimbursement for injury caused by medical malpractice. In California, damages include the following limitations:
- Compensatory damages: Sometimes referred to as “actual” damages, they are intended to compensate the victim for costs such as medical bills and lost wages due to missed days at work. California does not place a cap on compensatory damages.
- Non-economic damages: Intended to compensate a victim for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement or physical impairment. California places a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages.
Remember that healthcare providers must provide a standard of care that is the generally accepted policies and procedures that guide the provision of medical services. Medical malpractice claims must not only prove that the standard of care of was not met but that an injury resulted due to the lack of standard of care.
How Can I Lessen the Chance That I Will Be the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
First and foremost, patients must take an active role in their heath. In addition, patients should:
- Be proactive in researching and understanding their health conditions;
- Document symptoms and various treatments received;
- Write down questions and be sure that all questions are answered to the patient’s satisfaction;
- Speak up and advocate for their own well-being;
- Trust their healthcare providers, but also listen to their body for indications treatments may not be working;
- Have a trusted friend or confidant accompany them to medical appointments.
We are fortunate to have a caring and competent medical community in Kern County, and every day there are amazing success stories of people whose lives have improved due to the quality of medical care they receive.
Unfortunately, however, there are also too many cases where negligence and carelessness have resulted in severe injury and even death. Please contact my office if you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice so that we may determine the best course of action moving forward.
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