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How medical malpractice cases start in California

Do you think that you've been a victim of medical malpractice?

If so, start your case off on the right foot by taking the following steps:

1. Talk to your doctor.

Unless you clearly know what went wrong (like with a surgical procedure that was performed on the wrong body part), talk to your doctor. It's important to try to get a sense of what went wrong and if it really is an error that happened through negligence or just a negative outcome that sometimes happens. It's also possible that your doctor can offer a solution -- in which case, you might suffer no permanent damage. He or she may also offer you compensation without a battle.

If your doctor isn't talking and you're suddenly shut out, however, there's a good chance that he or she knows that it was an incidence of malpractice and has already sought legal advice.

2. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

In California, you have a very short time limit to file medical malpractice claims. For most cases involving adults, the limitation is one year after you either discover or reasonably could have been expected to discover the injury or three years from the date of the actual injury -- whichever comes first. That isn't a lot of time to think about your options or negotiate a settlement on your own.

3. Get a second medical opinion.

While California doesn't require a medical doctor to certify that your claim has merit in order to file a malpractice lawsuit, you still need another doctor to testify that your condition is a result of substandard care. Your attorney may even direct you to a specific doctor that is comfortable testifying against other doctors.

4. Decide if you are going to report the incident.

Talk to your attorney about whether or not you plan to report your doctor's mistake to the state medical board. The medical board can't actually get involved with your lawsuit, but it can look into the incident. If the board considers the incident to be a clear case of malpractice, it can take steps to censure the doctor in some way. That may strengthen your case -- and also provide a warning for his or her other patients!

An attorney can provide more information on malpractice claims.

Source: Findlaw, "First steps in a medical malpractice case," accessed July 21, 2017

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