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What Medical Malpractice Is Not

Not every situation in which something goes wrong or the patient’s condition worsens is medical malpractice. Medical science makes no guarantees, and not every patient will respond to treatment in every situation. It is not malpractice if the patient’s condition is untreatable or becomes worse. Provided the doctor acted with reasonable care and skill in selecting and carrying out a course of treatment, no medical malpractice has occurred.

What is Medical Malpractice?

  • Negligence occurs when a doctor or healthcare provider delivers substandard care to a patient, or fails to provide the level and type of care that a prudent, similarly-skilled and educated, local practitioner would provide in similar circumstances. Medical malpractice laws do not require doctors to be perfect. However, if a provider’s errors fall below the medical standard of care applicable under the circumstances, the mistake may be considered malpractice.
  • Recklessness is rare in the medical world, but not entirely unheard of. In some malpractice cases, a doctor’s actions or inaction may be considered reckless. An example is a surgeon who performs a delicate, risky procedure on a patient under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Recklessness may be considered an extreme form of negligence.

Patients should be able to trust their doctors and healthcare providers. Sadly, medical error is a leading cause of injury and death in the U.S. If you or your loved one has been injured by a medical professional, contact the Riverside medical malpractice attorneys of Hanson & Mouri in Southern California today. We are tough advocates for medical negligence and malpractice victims.

Why Choose Our Law Firm?

  • To ensure our services are available to everyone, we handle our cases on a contingency fee basis. This means there are no upfront costs and you pay us no legal fees until we secure a recovery for you.
  • Our firm has never lost a litigated case. We know personal injury law – it is our sole area of practice. We are dedicated to helping injured people.
  • We have more than two decades of experience representing clients in all matters of personal injury law. Our founding partner is a former insurance defense attorney who knows how insurance companies think, act, and evaluate claims. This inside knowledge gives us an edge for our clients.

Riverside Medical Malpractice Resources & FAQs

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Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice is a broad term that encompasses almost any situation where a medical provider’s violation of the standard of care harms a patient. However, we commonly represent clients due to: 

Misdiagnosis

If a doctor fails to diagnose a serious condition early on, it can prove fatal for the patient. Similarly, if a physician diagnoses a patient with the wrong condition, that patient may receive unnecessary treatments and medications that can lead to injury or death. 

Surgical errors

Many patients are injured by medical malpractice during surgery. Surgical errors can include operating on the wrong body part, patient, or leaving behind a surgical instrument.

Failure to obtain informed consent

California law mandates that patients be given the information necessary to make an educated and informed choice about what happens to their bodies. If a doctor does not fully inform a patient of all of the risks, benefits, likely outcomes, and alternative treatments relating to a particular course of treatment, and they are injured as a result of that failure, the healthcare provider can be liable.

Prescription drug errors

A patient may be able to take legal action against a hospital, doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if they are injured or suffer an illness due to being given the wrong medication, an improper dose, or a defective or dangerous drug. 

Anesthesia errors

Prescribing too much, too little, or the wrong type of anesthesia can cause extreme pain and, in some cases, be fatal. 

Doctor or nurse fatigue

A medical professional’s work performance can be dramatically impacted due to a lack of sleep. Completing basic health care services or performing medical procedures while tired causes a great risk of harm for patients. 

Birth Injuries

Any mistake by medical staff or a malfunction of defective equipment can cause a child or their mother devastating injuries during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or the post-delivery period. 

What Is the Meaning of the Standard of Care?

“Standard of care” is a legal term. It means the degree of care and skill of the average healthcare provider who practices in the same specialty, considering the medical knowledge available to the physician in question. It is based on what the average physician would typically do in similar circumstances.

Medical Malpractice Statistics

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to a 2016 study by John Hopkins. Nearly four billion dollars were paid out for medical malpractice claims in the U.S. in 2018, as reported in the most recent Diederich Healthcare Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis.

By severity of outcome, these payments were made for injuries resulting in:

  • Death (30%)
  • Major permanent injury (20%)
  • Significant permanent injury (18%)
  • Quadriplegic, brain damage, lifelong care injuries (12%)
  • Minor permanent injury (8%)
  • Major temporary injury (7%)
  • Other (5%)

By malpractice allegations, the insurance payouts were for:

  • Diagnosis errors (34%)
  • Surgical errors (22%)
  • Treatment errors (19%)
  • Obstetrics errors (9%)
  • Medication errors (5%)
  • Monitoring errors (5%)
  • Other (6%)

The average settlement for medical malpractice claims was approximately $309,908 between 2009 and 2018, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Here are other noteworthy medical malpractice statistics from the NPDB: 

  • The NPDB received over 12,400 reports of medical malpractice each year between 2009 and 2018. 
  • By the age of 65, a shocking 99% of physicians have faced at least one medical malpractice lawsuit. 
  • One of the largest medical malpractice claim payouts was $216.7 million awarded in 2006 for a patient’s misdiagnosis of stroke symptoms.  
  • The highest number of medical malpractice reports between 2009 to 2018 were against medical doctors, with more than 85,000 cases. In contrast, dentists ranked second, with over 14,500 cases reported.

A 2017 Medscape survey of physicians indicated that the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits take between one and two years to resolve. Surgeons and OB/GYNs led the way (85% of both groups) in being the most commonly sued out of other specialties. Survey data also shows that nearly 60 percent of physicians are surprised by medical malpractice lawsuits. The top reason for legal action (31%) was the failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis.

The attorney had my greatest interests in mind; that is the kind of attorney you want on your side. -Daniel W.

california medical malpractice laws

California Medical Malpractice Laws

When bringing a medical malpractice claim against a healthcare provider, there are state laws that can impact your case and the amount of compensation you recover. 

Proving Medical Malpractice 

Under California law, a patient or their family may pursue a civil claim for damages from a physician or other health care provider that causes them injury or death. However, for a claim to be successful, the patient or their family has the burden to prove the following: 

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  • The doctor violated the owed duty of care.
  • Your injury was caused by the doctor’s actions or omissions.
  • You suffered damages (financial losses) as a result of the medical malpractice.

Pure Comparative Fault

California recognizes the doctrine of pure comparative fault. This rule reduces a patient’s awarded compensation in proportion to their contribution to their injury. 

For example, if a patient is awarded $20,000 and is found 40 percent responsible for their injury because they withheld vital medical history from their doctor, they will only receive $12,000. 

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits and the Statute of Limitations in California

The state of California has set a specific time period in which medical malpractice victims are legally allowed to pursue a claim. This law is known as the statute of limitations (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.5) and is as follows: 

  • Three years from the date of the injury or up to one year after the injury is discovered or should have reasonably been found (whichever occurs first). 

If you attempt to bring a claim once the statute of limitations has passed, a court can dismiss your case, and you will be unable to recover any compensation. There are exceptions that toll or pause the statute of limitations. For instance,

  • If a foreign object, such as a sponge or medical instrument, was left inside an individual’s body during surgery, a claim may be filed within one year of finding the object or when it should have reasonably been discovered. No matter how long ago the procedure occurred. 
  • If the plaintiff (victim) is under 18, the parents or legal guardians have three years to file suit. However, if the victim is younger than six, the lawsuit must be pursued before the minor turns eight. For children who are victims of fraud, the statute of limitations is paused when the fraud is taking place. 
  • Parents of children injured prior to or during their birth have six years to take legal actions on the child’s behalf. 

California law also requires plaintiffs to give the defendant (at-fault party) at least 90 days’ notice of their intent to file the lawsuit. The letter must include:

  • The legal basis for your claim.
  • The type of loss claimed.
  • The nature of the injuries you suffered.

If you file the notice of intent within 90 days of the statute of limitations’ end date, the court will extend the time for filing suit by 90 days.

How Does a Lawyer Collect Evidence for Your Medical Malpractice Case?

Once a lawyer takes on your medical malpractice case, they will begin to gather evidence. There are three stages to collecting evidence: the initial review stage, the discovery phase, and the trial phase. 

In the initial review phase, your attorney’s legal team will acquire your medical records. All of your medical records and supporting healthcare documentation are critical to building a successful medical malpractice claim. These records include notes, test results, consultation records or evaluations, prescriptions, etc. Your lawyer will have them reviewed by board-certified medical experts in the appropriate specialties to confirm your case has merit. 

In the discovery phase, your lawyer will conduct depositions of the defendant, other key witnesses, such as medical staff present when the injury occurred, or family or friends on how your injury has impacted your life, as well as expert witnesses. Expert witnesses will help prove the expected standard of care was not met by your healthcare provider, which directly caused your injuries or illness. Your lawyer will also gather medical literature, such as journals and articles, that expert witnesses can sometimes rely on to show how your medical care should have been handled. If your case reaches trial, your attorney will present these essential pieces of evidence to the court. 

Each component that goes into proving a medical malpractice claim takes extensive research, a thorough understanding of the applicable laws, and experience in dealing with hospital administrative staff and insurance companies. 

What Kinds of Damages Can You Recover?

Victims of medical negligence have the right to obtain damages. Damages is a legal term for the compensation awarded in civil cases to make up for a victim’s losses. There are two types of recoverable damages: 

Economic

Economic damages are awarded as a direct result of calculable losses, such as:

  • Medical expenses: costs for care and treatment related to the illness or injury resulting from the malpractice.
  • Anticipated future medical expenses: any costs related to future medical care for the illness or injury you suffered. 
  • Lost wages: compensation for the amount of time you have been unable to work, currently and in the future. 
  • Loss of future earning capacity: if your injury or illness prevents you from working in the future or forces you into a different line of work. 

Non-economic

Non-economic damages include incalculable or subjective losses, such as: 

  • Pain and suffering: compensation for the physical pain you have endured and any accompanying emotional distress, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: if you are unable to enjoy the things that you were able to do before the incident of malpractice occurred. 
  • Disability or disfigurement: if you now have a permanent disability or suffered disfigurement and scarring, that causes you a great deal of emotional pain, affecting your ability to enjoy life and socialize. 
  • Loss of consortium: a spouse can recover this type of compensation for the loss of marital benefits, such as affection, companionship, or sexual relations. 

In some cases, punitive damages are awarded, but they can be exceedingly difficult to claim and prove. This type of compensation is only granted in cases involving outrageous conduct and is meant to punish the defendant. 

Are Damages Limited or Capped in Medical Malpractice Cases?

In California, there is a cap of $250,000 placed on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This is due to a specialized statute enacted in 1975, called the Medical Injury Compensation Recovery Act (MICRA). Unfortunately, the potential amount of harm and pain, and suffering inflicted on a patient can easily exceed this amount. However, this limit does not apply to economic damages, such as medical bills and lost income. 

Why You Need a Riverside Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical Malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider deviates from the accepted standards of practice in the medical community. When this occurs, the negligent act, or failure to act, can cause serious and life-threatening injuries, mental anguish, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death to the patient. Medical professionals have insurance companies and lawyers working hard to keep their malpractice costs to a minimum. If you or a family member believe you have been the victim of medical negligence malpractice you need a Riverside medical malpractice lawyer on your side to answer all your questions and represent your legal rights.

Our Riverside personal injury attorneys specialize in medical malpractice injuries occurring in a hospital or other medical facility, and during outpatient care. On average, up to 195,000 annual hospital deaths are due to potentially preventable medical errors. In addition, medication errors, the most common type of medical mistake, injure around 1.5 million people each year. If you or your loved one has been the victim of malpractice, even if the medical professional had no intention of harming the victim, you need a lawyer to explain your familyʼs rights.

Types of Medical Malpractice Cases We Handle

Our Riverside medical malpractice lawyers specialize in injuries resulting from, but not limited to:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure or delayed diagnosis
  • Surgical errors
  • Anesthetic errors
  • Medication errors
  • Adverse reactions to drugs or procedures
  • Providing the wrong treatment
  • Medical procedure errors

Financial Impact of Medical Malpractice on Your Family

The medical mistreatment of you or your family can have a severe impact on the financial capabilities of the entire family. Hospital bills are often enormous and can take years to fully repay. Your family may also experience economic hardship from loss of wages or earning capacity and life care expenses. Our experience can help get your family the money they need to pay bills, avoid the foreclosure of your home, and damage to your credit. Our medical malpractice attorney serves Riverside and San Bernardino with 14 years of experience and will provide you with passionate, quality legal representation. Put our experience to work for you and your family members. As experienced Inland Empire medical malpractice attorneys we can work to get your family monetary compensation to help pay your bills and ease your pain and suffering.

riverside medical malpractice lawyers

Connect with Hanson & Mouri

Contact our law firm now for a free consultation and we will listen to your case. We will keep you informed of significant developments and provide legal services promptly and professionally. Hospitals and insurance companies have lawyers working hard on their side, you and your loved ones deserve to have your rights protected by a professional. Hanson & Mouri personal injury and Riverside car accident attorneys can work to make your family whole again.

Our law office serves Riverside, Corona, Norco, Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, Banning, Beaumont, Moreno Valley, & Calimesa.

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