Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional makes a preventable mistake that leads to harm. In some cases, the harm is minimal and the injured party decides not to pursue a legal case. In other cases, the person does not even realize that he is the victim of negligence. However, there are many people who believe that they were injured and that it was the result of a preventable error who are unable to pursue a legal action because they wait too long. This is because the statute of limitations restricts the time in which a medical malpractice case can be filed. In California, this is a very restrictive statute, so it is critical for a person who was harmed or believes that he might have been injured as the result of a doctor or other medical professional’s medical mistake to get the right legal help as soon as possible.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in California
Under California law, a person has three years to bring a cause of action against a health care provider who was negligent in providing care or services. However, that person only has one year to bring an action from the date that the person discovers or should have discovered the injury and the likely cause of that harm. The time limit is whichever is shorter, which means that most people have one year to commence a legal action and the extended time only applies if there is a delay in the discovery of the medical malpractice or some extenuating circumstances that prevent the filing of the action, such as the intentional concealment of information necessary to establish causation, without limited exceptions.
Exceptions to the Strict Time Limits on Filing a Medical Malpractice Action
The California statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is extremely short, even more so than other types of personal injury cases in the state, in which a person has two years to bring a legal action. This means that many people wait too long and are unable to prepare and file a case before the time limit has expired. However, there are circumstances that act to extend the filing period. One situation that will lead to a longer filing period is if there was a foreign object left in the patient during a surgical or other invasive procedure. Many times, these foreign objects, such as sponges, gauze, or even surgical implements, often remain in the body for a long period of time before being discovered. These foreign objects can result in serious health conditions, including dangerous and life-threatening infections. A person who has discovered an object left within him after a medical procedure has one year from the time of discovery, or the time when the object reasonable should have been discovered based on available information, rather than one year from the act or omission that caused the harm, i.e., the time at which the object was left in the person.
In addition to an extension for the discovery of a foreign object, there also is an exception for circumstances involving minor victims of medical malpractice. When a child under the age of six is injured through the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional, the action must be commenced within three years from the time of the injury, or by the time the minor turns eight years of age. The minor gets to take advantage of the longer time period. If the minor is six years of age or older, then the same rules apply to him as apply to adults injured by a preventable medical mistake.
Other Important Statute of Limitations Considerations
When a state has a very limited statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice case, like California, it is crucial to speak with an attorney right away in order to begin the process of putting together a complex legal action. This preparation includes obtaining records, getting testimony from witnesses, and finding a medical expert who has the knowledge to provide testimony about the nature of the injury and how the doctor or other medical professional caused or contributed to that injury. It is not as simple as walking into an attorney’s office 51 weeks after the harm occurred, so speak with a skilled medical malpractice attorney about your case as soon as possible.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates on Behalf of Medical Malpractice Victims
There are many reasons why state legislators justify a short time period in which to bring a medical malpractice case, but the fact is that these limitations severely restrict a person’s rights to get the compensation that they need and to hold the negligent parties responsible for the harm that they caused. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has spent more than 30 years working hard to get his clients the results that they deserve. We also strive to provide answers for everyone who has suffered, or may have suffered, from medical malpractice. We have knowledgeable representatives available to respond to questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.