Medical malpractice statute of limitations in California

Choosing a physician to care for your health involves an issue of trust. You trust that your physician has your best “health” interests at heart and will perform his or her job to the best of their abilities. When your physician breaks that trust and fails to properly treat you, committing an error that causes an injury, impairment, serious illness, or even death, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.

However, there are medical malpractice time limits, also known as statutes of limitation, which refer to how long you have to file a claim from the date of the incident. If you miss the deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim, you may lose the legal right to file at all or, if you do go ahead and file, your claim will most likely be struck down by a court of law. The result? You will not be able to get the compensation for your losses, no matter how significant they may be.

In cases of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations “clock” doesn’t usually start running until you discover that you may have been harmed. Each state law has its own exceptions that could have an effect on the deadline for filing your claim.

3 years is not a lot of time

The medical malpractice statute of limitations in California is detailed in the Code of Civil Procedures sections 340.5 and 364. In general, an individual who feels that he or she has been a victim of medical malpractice must file no later than 3 years after the date of their injury or for up to 1 year after they discover that the injury was caused by medical negligence, or whichever comes first.

In medical malpractice cases involving minor children, you still must file a lawsuit on behalf of the child within California’s statute of limitations. However, if the child is under 6 years of age when the incident occurred, you must file within 3 years before he or she turns 8. In cases such as these, the court will uphold whichever option offers a longer window for filing a lawsuit.

There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in California.  The “countdown clock” will pause if:

  • The healthcare provider in question committed fraud by concealing their misconduct, negligence, or mistake
  • The lawsuit involves the healthcare provider leaving a foreign object inside a patient’s body

In the second case the victim may file whenever the foreign object is discovered to be inside their body. Once the discovery is made, the victim has a year from the time of discovery to file.

While you may think that 3 years sounds like a long time to file a claim, the time to file is complicated because it is dependent upon who you’re suing. You may only have up to 2 years to send a Federal Tort claim vs a federally-insured health care provider. 

When filing a claim against a public entity hospital, the statute of limitations can be as short as 6 months from the date of injury. Contact an attorney immediately to explain your legal rights and determine the timeline to file your claim, because being compensated for your injury depends on it.

Speaking with an attorney today

Hiring a qualified medical malpractice attorney can make all of the difference between receiving equitable compensation for injuries that resulted from medical mistakes vs walking away with nothing.