California Medical Malpractice Lawyers


Patients injured by healthcare professionals can sue for damages for medical malpractice in California (technically known as “professional negligence").

You may have heard that no lawyer will take your case because of California's medical malpractice damages caps.

That isn't necessarily the case. Don't give up until you've had a free consultation with one of our caring California medical malpractice lawyers.

As former cops, investigators and prosecutors, we know how to interview witnesses and how to uncover the evidence others might miss.

We will fight to get you or your loved one the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.

To help you better understand medical malpractice in California, our California personal injury lawyers discuss, below:

man in scrubs looking at a scan of patient's head with hand over face as doctor in lab coat looks on
Medical malpractice in California is when a health care provider's negligence leads to a patient's injury.

1. What is medical malpractice?

California law defines “professional negligence” (medical malpractice) as:

  • A negligent act or (omission to act) by a health care provider,
  • In the rendering of professional services,
  • Which act or omission is the proximate cause of a personal injury or wrongful death,
  • Provided that such services are within the scope of services for which the provider is licensed and which are not within any restriction imposed by the licensing agency or licensed hospital.1

2. Who can be sued for medical malpractice in California?

California medical malpractice laws apply to all healthcare providers and facilities licensed by the state including (without limitation): 

  • Doctors,
  • Chiropractors,
  • Podiatrists,
  • Nurses,
  • Anesthesiologists,
  • Psychologists,
  • Physical therapists,
  • Pharmacists.
  • Hospitals,
  • Clinics, and
  • Laboratories. 

3. What damages can a patient sue for?

People injured by medical malpractice in California can recover compensatory damages that include, but are not limited to: 

4. Are there damage caps?

 California Civil Code 3333.2 puts a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

California Civil Code 3333.2 is the result of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which California voters passed in 1975.

The $250,000 medical malpractice damages cap applies to losses that are difficult to place a value on. Such "non-economic" damages include (but are not limited to):

  • Pain,
  • Suffering,
  • Inconvenience,
  • Scarring,
  • Disfigurement,
  • Loss the use of an organ or limb, and
  • Loss of life enjoyment. 

Other than as set forth above, there is no cap on the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff may sue for in a professional negligence case.

5. Is it possible to get punitive damages?

A plaintiff may recover for punitive damages in a California medical malpractice case if he or she can show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed oppression, malice or fraud.

In the context of a professional negligence claim, this usually means showing that the defendant's conduct was: 

  • Despicable, and
  • Done either intentionally or with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others (meaning recklessly or, possibly, with gross negligence). 

6. What is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in California?

The amount of time a plaintiff has to sue is known as the California “statute of limitations” or “limitations period.”

The limitations period in a California professional negligence case depends on whether the injured party is an adult or a minor.

6.1. California's medical malpractice statute of limitations for adults

Adults must commence a lawsuit for medical malpractice in California by the earlier of:

  • Three years after the date of injury, or
  • One year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury.

6.2. Limitations period for minors

When the person injured by medical malpractice in California is a minor under 18, the statute of limitations runs until the later of:

  • Three years from the date of the alleged wrongful act, or
  • If the minor is was less than six years old at the time of the injury, the minor's eighth birthday.

6.3. Exceptions to the statute of limitations

The limitations period for a professional negligence action against a healthcare provider may be “tolled” (paused) during periods in which: 

  • A healthcare provider commits fraud,
  • A healthcare provider intentionally conceals wrongdoing,
  • There is a foreign body that has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect inside the injured person, or
  • A minor's parent has colluded with the defendant's insurer or a health care provider not to bring a malpractice action on behalf of the injured minor.2 

7. How does a patient prove professional negligence?

A healthcare provider is negligent if he or she fails to use the level of skill, knowledge, and care that other reasonably careful practitioners would use in the same or similar circumstances.

This level of skill, knowledge, and care is sometimes referred to as “the standard of care” or “duty of care” in California.3

Establishing the standard of care generally requires the testimony of one or more expert witnesses.

In addition, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's breach of the standard of care actually caused the plaintiff's injuries.

In other words, it is not enough that the outcome of a particular treatment or diagnosis was wrong. There must have been something that the doctor should or should not have done and which resulted in injury to a patient.

Often a plaintiff in California can rely on the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. This doctrine presumes negligence when the instruments were exclusively within the defendant's control and the injury is one that normally does not occur without there being negligence. 

Injured by medical malpractice in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you love was harmed by a doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider's negligence, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Call us at (855) LAWFIRM or fill out the form on this page to discuss your case with a lawyer.

We may also be able to help if you were the victim of medical malpractice in Nevada or medical malpractice in Colorado.

Legal references:

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The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

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