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Understanding some points about medical harm in California

Medical professionals who don't handle cases in an appropriate manner can end up causing harm to patients. This harm is often met with the patient filing a claim for compensation. In most cases, this is done by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit; however, this might not always be the case.

The circumstances of the situation determine how the case is filed. While some cases are clear cut, other cases aren't so clear. For example, there might be cases when the circumstances could be considered medical malpractice but they could also be considered general negligence. The line between these two is often very fine.

One thing that is very different between these two types of cases is how long you have to file your claim. Medical malpractice has a one-year statute of limitations, but this time doesn't start until you notice that something is amiss. There is another component of this that adds two more years to this time limit, but only if you didn't know that you were injured by the doctor. If the injury is evident right away, the statute of limitations will expire one year from that date.

In the case of general negligence, the statute of limitations is two years. For this reason, some people try to push a medical malpractice claim as a general negligence claim if the one-year statute of limitations has expired on the medical malpractice claim.

Trying to flip something that is a medical malpractice case into a general negligence case isn't likely going to work because of a case that was decided by the California Supreme Court last year. In the case Flores v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hosp., the ruling noted that when harm occurs due to something related to medical care that a facility or practitioner is licensed to provide, the case falls under the medical malpractice laws.

Source: Harvard Law Petrie-Flom Center, "Medical Malpractice vs. General Negligence under California Law," Alex Stein, July 27, 2017

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