The Guide to Suing a Doctor in California for Negligence in 2024

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Medical errors can have devastating consequences, and when they occur, patients deserve compensation. But going through a medical malpractice lawsuit or claim is complex and challenging. That’s where a medical malpractice lawyer comes in. They can guide you through the steps, from filing a lawsuit to reaching a settlement or proceeding to trial.

The Role of a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

A medical malpractice lawyer specializes in cases where healthcare providers have caused harm due to negligence. They can help determine if you have a valid claim, guide you through the legal process, handle interactions with insurance companies, and work towards a fair settlement or prepare your case for trial.

Understanding Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or nurse, causes injury or death to a patient through a negligent act or omission. Key elements of a medical malpractice claim include:

  • Existence of a doctor-patient relationship
  • Breach of the duty of care by the doctor
  • An injury caused by the doctor’s actions or omissions
  • Damages resulting from the medical malpractice

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in California

In California, the law sets a time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in California. Typically, you must file a lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury or one year from when the injury was discovered or should have been discovered, whichever comes first.

However, there are exceptions and limitations. For example, cases involving minors or government entities may have shorter deadlines or additional requirements.

Pre-Lawsuit Requirements: Notice of Intent to Sue

Before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in California, you must serve a “notice of intent to sue” on the medical provider. This notice must contain a statement of facts, the legal basis for the claim, and an affidavit from a qualified medical expert supporting the claim. The healthcare provider has 90 days to respond to the notice.

Filing the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If the pre-lawsuit requirements are met and the healthcare provider fails to resolve the claim, the next step is to file the lawsuit. The complaint, which outlines the allegations and damages sought, is filed in the appropriate California court. The defendant(s), usually the healthcare provider(s), are then served with a copy of the complaint.

Discovery and Investigation

After filing the lawsuit, the discovery phase begins. This involves the exchange of relevant information and evidence between both parties. This phase helps each side understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

Expert Opinions in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, expert opinions are vital. California law requires the plaintiff to obtain a sworn opinion from a qualified medical expert supporting the claim of negligence. This expert must possess the necessary knowledge, education, training, and experience in the specific area of medicine related to the alleged malpractice.

Settlement Negotiations or Trial

Throughout the legal process, parties may engage in settlement negotiations. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. During a trial, the court hears arguments, reviews evidence, and makes a judgment based on the merits of the case.

The Goal of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The main aim of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is to recover compensation for the victim. This includes coverage for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for emotional, physical, and psychological pain and suffering.

How to Find the Right Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Your Case

Choosing the right medical malpractice lawyer for your case is crucial. They should have extensive experience and knowledge in handling similar cases. Also, consider their communication style, case load, and fee structure. Many lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if they win your case.


Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in California is a complex process. A knowledgeable and experienced medical malpractice lawyer can guide you through each step, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.

Article edited and fact checked by our editorial team.