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Limitations on California Medical Malpractice Claims

Heiting & Irwin attorneysIf you or a loved one have been injured by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional’s negligence, it is extremely important to seek competent counsel from an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after you suspect you’ve been harmed. In Perris, California, and in all of our county courts statewide law applies. Medical malpractice claimants have time limits in which they can bring their claim; and they may only receive specific damages awards.

45+ Years Serving the Inland Empire and $500 Million+ Recovered. Medical malpractice victims should call Heiting & Irwin at (951) 682-6400 or complete a contact form as soon as possible as there are strict time limits in which to recover for your damages.

How long do I have to file my California medical malpractice claim?

All 50 states impose time limits for filing a medical malpractice claim. This time limit, called a “Statute of Limitations,” dictates the last date on which you can file your claim. If too late, the claim may be completely barred, no matter how valid and meritorious it may be. There may be exceptions to those general time limits, too.

Under California law, an adult injured in Perris, California, would generally have to file a medical malpractice claim within one year of the date the person discovers, or should have discovered, the injury. This is referred to as the “discovery rule.” The claim must be filed within three years of the injury, regardless of when discovered. But there are many exceptions to these limitations, and other limitations that apply to specific circumstances, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

Is the statute of limitations the same for all types of medical malpractice claims?

To put it simply — no. One of the exceptions to the previously discussed general statute of limitations is when a foreign body is left in a patient’s body. In cases where a foreign body is left inside a patient’s body, the statute of limitations may stop running, and not begin to run until the injured person discovers, or should have discovered, the object.

There have been numerous instances where doctors and other hospital personnel have left medical implements like sponges, gauze, instruments, pieces of devices, and even scissors inside their patients. Sometimes these items cause immediate discomfort and symptoms, but other times, it may not be immediately obvious that something is wrong. If the state only allowed the one-year or three-year statute of limitations, doctors and hospitals could escape responsibility if they make such a mistake that isn’t discovered until many years later.

Is the statute of limitations the same for medical malpractice claims involving children?

In general, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims when a child is injured is different than that provided for adults. The minor’s parent or other guardian must file, if the child is under six years of age, within three years of the medical malpractice or by his or her eighth birthday, whichever results in a longer period. Otherwise, they must file the claim within three years of the injury. Note that the statute of limitations begins to run for adults at the time of discovery but for minors at the time of the alleged malpractice.

What’s the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit against a public entity?

Certain hospitals and clinics are affiliated with or run by the state, county, or city. They may be registered as “Public Entities.” California law provides a shorter statute of limitations (usually six months) for medical malpractice claims against a public entity such as a California county hospital or a hospital that is part of the public healthcare district.

How are payments for medical malpractice claims paid out in California?

If the damage award is under $50,000 in future damages, payment will usually be made in a lump sum, which is an entire award given all at once at the end of trial. However, per Code of Civil Procedure §667.7, if the damage award is over $50,000 in future damages, either party may request the court to order that payment be made in part or in whole by periodic payments. This is usually requested in cases in which the award is better protected by periodic payments and/or future economic damages are very substantial.

Is there a limit on the amount that can be claimed in a California medical malpractice case?

Yes. Noneconomic or general damages are (in our opinion very unfairly) limited to $250,000 in California medical malpractice claims. “Noneconomic damages” includes compensation for pain and suffering, discomfort, loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, and the psychological impact of the injuries. Economic damages do not have such a limit and include medical bills (past and future) and loss of earnings and earnings capacity.


Obviously, time limits in medical malpractice claims, and other claims involving injuries, deaths and losses can be very detailed and complicated to understand and to meet. Calculation and recovery of damages also requires in-depth review, study and calculation. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, call our offices for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin want to fight for you and the justice you deserve. Delay can only hurt and could be fatal to even valid claims.