Los Angeles is one of the busiest and most active cities in the United States, and it attracts more people every day who settle and live normal lives. However, when medical issues occur, they can derail someone’s entire life and livelihood unless handled correctly. If medical malpractice does occur, it can be devastating, leaving someone disabled or possibly even causing loved ones to be lost. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you deserve someone on your side who will hear your concerns and fight for them.
The Basics Are Fairly Straightforward …
California malpractice law requires a showing of specific criteria in order for a defendant to be held liable. The plaintiff must show that the medical professional breached the standard of care when providing treatment to the patient (themselves or a loved one), and that the patient incurred tangible harm as a direct result of that action. There is quite a lot to unpack there for the average person.
California law states that the standard of care for a medical professional to use is to act in the same manner as any other “reasonably careful” medical professional who is similarly situated would use. If they do not, and it can be shown that their lack of care directly caused harm to the patient, then the presumption is that the medical professional is negligent. However, it is important to keep the wording in mind. It is not enough to say that a doctor was negligent simply because they were unsuccessful in attempting to perform a medical procedure. You must show that the doctor not only was unsuccessful, but that their attempt was not conducted at the same level as that of a reasonably careful medical professional with similar age, experience, and talent. Also, it is important to keep in mind that California defines “treatment” fairly broadly. Not only doctors, but other medical professionals may be affected, and because the definition is so broad, misdiagnosis can easily count as malpractice because diagnosis is part of ‘treatment.’
This last is especially important, because every other step in treatment may be performed correctly, but the diagnosis was wrong. If a doctor has a patient that they diagnose erroneously, but then treats the patient’s ensuing problems correctly, they may still be liable for malpractice if it can be shown that the misdiagnosis directly harmed the patient.
… The Details Are Not
Whether or not a plaintiff will prevail in a medical malpractice case can be boiled down to the three criteria – did the medical professional breach the standard of care, did that breach cause harm, and was that harm directly due to the medical professional’s conduct. However, the small details surrounding those greater criteria can be extremely confusing. One prime example is the rules surrounding filing a medical malpractice in the first place – in many states it is necessary to request an affidavit of merit from a physician or other professional in good standing in the field, and file the action only after obtaining one. This is not the case in California, though many persist in the belief that it is still necessary. While medical malpractice cases almost always require expert witnesses, an affidavit from a similarly situated physician is unnecessary.
Another issue where many plaintiffs become confused is the issue of collective liability, when a case has more than one defendant (an example might be when a doctor and the hospital they work for are both sued). Some states maintain joint and several liability (meaning that all defendants can be pursued for the whole amount of any judgment), but California has what is called modified joint liability, and it only applies to non-economic damages. Unlike with joint and several liability, joint liability is when defendants are proportionally liable for damages based on how at fault they are deemed to be. If the plaintiff is ruled to be 20 percent at fault, Defendant #1 60 percent at fault, and Defendant #2 20 percent at fault, the plaintiff can reach Defendant #1 for 60 percent of the total amount of non-economic damages, and Defendant #2 for 20 percent. Several liability would mean that either defendant could be reached for 80 percent, but this is not the case in California. It is easy to confuse who may be liable for what.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with California medical malpractice cases is the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which was passed in 1975, ostensibly to lower and limit malpractice premiums for medical professionals. However, what has occurred over time is that premiums have continued to rise due to inflation (and other factors), but consumers have been grossly limited in their recovery in medical malpractice actions, because MICRA restricts non-economic damages (that is, intangible damages such as pain and suffering, loss of quality of life and the like) to $250,000. While some parts of MICRA have been challenged as unconstitutional, the bulk of the law survives, and as of this writing there is no mechanism put into place to raise the cap with inflation. This has caused significant stress to malpractice plaintiffs, even those who prevail, because very often they incur bills which do not count as actual damages which cannot be paid. Be advised that MICRA is still in force as you begin a medical malpractice claim.
Seek Help From Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys in LA
It can seem overwhelming to sue for medical malpractice, and it is very easy to feel alone. When you hire our firm, however, we make a point of keeping you informed, about making sure you feel a part of the process. We have experience in handling these types of claims, so we are able to handle most of the heavy lifting and allow you to focus on recovery.
Contact our Los Angeles medical malpractice attorneys today, either by phone at 213-285-0631, or by using our web form. When you work with our firm, you should know that we work on a contingency basis, meaning that if you do not prevail in your case, you owe no legal fees. We have 15 attorneys in our firm, who are ready, willing and able to help you receive what you are due. Get your free case review today.