Have you been harmed because of negligent medical care? You may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. Contact Injury Trial Lawyers, APC today to learn more about filing a medical malpractice claim. Our skilled San Diego medical malpractice attorneys have more than 20 years of combined legal experience. During this time, we have helped thousands of clients just like you recover millions in much-needed compensation for their accident-related injuries. We will fight to hold medical professionals accountable for their actions and get you the money you desperately need. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case, determine potential liability, and explain the process of filing a claim.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical professionals are experts in their field. We visit doctors when we are sick or injured because they have the knowledge and skills necessary to help us. When we put our lives and health in the hands of these medical professionals we expect that we will not be put in harm’s way. There are certain laws in place in California that help to protect patients if something goes wrong at the doctor’s office. These medical malpractice laws hold medical professionals to an extremely high standard and allow injured patients to seek compensation when this standard is not met.
Elements of Medical Malpractice
When you decide to pursue a medical malpractice claim for damages in San Diego you will be required to prove:
- A healthcare professional had a duty to use such skill, prudence, and diligence as other members of the profession commonly possess and exercise;
- The professional breached this duty;
- This breach caused you to suffer an injury; and
- You suffered a loss.
This really just means that medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional breaches their duty of care and a patient suffers an injury as a result.
Standard of Care
Medical professionals – including doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists – have a heightened duty of care when they are acting in a professional capacity. Patients visit these professionals for help because they are specially trained in a trade that is complex and potentially dangerous. In California, the standard of care for a health care professional is defined to mean using the “level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful medical professionals would use in the same or similar circumstance.”
In medical malpractice cases, you must establish what this “level of skill, knowledge, and care” is. Your attorney will compile evidence and expert testimony to establish the standard of care that a reasonable health care professional would demonstrate. At the very least, a medical professional must have “medical education, training, and skill” before engaging in a diagnostic or treatment capacity.
Causal Link Between the Breach and Injury
A medical malpractice claim will only be successful if it can be proven that a medical professional’s breach of duty caused a patient’s injury. When you pursue a medical malpractice claim in San Diego this will probably be the most difficult part of your case. Your attorney will need the testimony of expert witnesses who can help to explain how the medical professional’s conduct (a) breached the professional standard of care and (b) caused your specific injury.
When Can I File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
You will have a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice claim after you suffer an injury. California imposes a statute of limitations that begins to run the moment your injury happens. You will be required to file a claim:
- Within one year of discovering your injury; or
- Within three years of the date you suffered the injury, whichever expires first.
In most cases, this means that you have three years from the date of your medical malpractice injury to file a claim for damages.
The statute of limitations can be extended if the injury you suffer involves a harm that cannot be easily identified. The best example of this is if a surgeon leaves a sponge or towel in your body after a surgery. You may not become aware of the foreign object until years after the statute of limitations has expired. You will not be barred from recovering compensation in situations like this because you could not have reasonably discovered the harm within the statute of limitations.
What Damages Can I Recover From a Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you have suffered an injury because of medical malpractice in San Diego you may be entitled to recover damages from the at-fault medical professional. The damages you can receive will depend on the specific types of injuries you suffer and the medical professional’s conduct.
Economic damages, which are often referred to as compensatory damages, can be awarded to compensate you for financial losses you have suffered (or are expected to suffer) because of your injury. In order to recover economic damages, you must be able to identify the exact amount(s) you have lost or expect to lose. In most cases, this requires providing receipts, medical bills, and paystubs. Commonly requested economic damages in medical malpractice cases include:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages; and
- Reduced earning capacity.
Non-economic damages can be awarded to compensate you for the intangible harms your injury has caused. Things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and embarrassment are all very real injuries, but they are difficult to value in terms of money. The amount of non-economic damages you receive is a question that is decided by the jury when they look at all of the relevant factors in your case. Since there is no standard value for these types of injuries the amount that is awarded in each individual case can vary significantly.
You may be entitled to recover punitive damages if your medical malpractice injury is the result of reckless or malicious behavior. Punitive damages can be difficult to recover in San Diego medical malpractice claims, simply because you must be able to prove that the medical professional acted with malice or fraudulent intent.
Limits to Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
California imposes certain limitations on the damages you can recover in a medical malpractice claim. The limitations that apply to your case will depend on the type of damages you are requesting.
Economic Damages: Compensation will be limited to your actual (and reasonably projected) financial losses.
Non-Economic Damages: California passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act which imposed a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims.
Punitive Damages: There is no cap on punitive damages in California medical malpractice claims.
Liability for Medical Malpractice
Liability for medical malpractice injuries is not limited to the healthcare professional whose diagnosis and/or treatment caused your injury. In San Diego, any party whose actions, behaviors, or conduct contributed to the cause of your injury can be held financially responsible. California will allow a victim to recover compensation from any of these parties. Each liable party will be liable to the degree that they are at-fault for the injury.
Potentially liable parties in San Diego medical malpractice claims may include:
- Doctors and physicians
- Nurses and physician assistants
- Medical staff
- Medical practices and hospitals, including administrators, and
- Pharmaceutical companies.
What Should I Do After a Medical Malpractice Injury?
The steps you take immediately after discovering a medical malpractice injury will significantly affect your future. In order to ensure your health and support a future medical malpractice claim, be sure to take the following steps after you discover an injury.
See a Doctor. Some medical malpractice injuries will be obvious at the time of the accident and be treated by the negligent professional on the spot. However, if there is a delay in the discovery of your injury do not hesitate to seek medical attention. This will ensure that you receive prompt medical care and help to document the situation. The medical evaluation and report generated by your visit will be essential to any future claims you file.
Document the Injury. Take photographs. Write down the details of your experience. Obtain copies of medical reports. The more details you have about your injury, and the conduct that caused it, the stronger your medical malpractice claim will be.
Stay Quiet. The doctor, hospital, or medical professional who is responsible for your injury may want you to agree to a quick settlement. While this may be appetizing, this offer will likely be insufficient to cover all of your injury-related costs. Refuse any attempts the at-fault professional and/or their insurance provider make to negotiate after an accident.
Call a Lawyer. Hiring a lawyer will significantly increase the chances of maximizing any compensation you receive.
Speak With An Experienced San Diego Medical Malpractice Attorney
At Injury Trial Lawyers, APC, our San Diego medical malpractice attorneys know that the money you recover from a medical malpractice claim can be essential to your recovery. We know how insurance companies operate and will make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. We have more than 35 years of combined legal experience and have successfully handled thousands of complex personal injury claims, including those for medical malpractice. Call our San Diego office today to set up a free consultation. We will review your case, explain your rights, and answer any questions you have.