Time Limitations for a Medical Malpractice Claim in California

Individuals who sustain injuries or illnesses caused by the negligent actions of a medical professional should be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, medical malpractice claims are notoriously challenging. The first step is ensuring that the medical malpractice claim gets filed within the time frame set forth by the state of California, called the medical malpractice statute of limitations.

The Usual Timeframe for Medical Malpractice Claims

Under California law, and just like any other personal injury lawsuit, there are specific time frames in place for filing medical malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in this state is more confusing than in other time frames. 

The law says that claims must be filed within one year after an individual discovers or should have discovered through reasonable diligence that they have sustained an injury or illness caused by the negligent actions of a medical professional OR within three years from the day the injury occurs, whichever time frame comes first.

To simplify this, medical malpractice claims in California need to be filed very quickly after a person discovers that they were harmed due to a medical provider’s negligence. The one-year clock starts ticking as soon as this discovery is made. If an individual does not discover an injury or illness caused by a medical professional until after three years have passed, they will typically lose their right to recover compensation through a lawsuit.

Exceptions to the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

There are exceptions to the one and three-year timeframe. The following are reasons why the medical malpractice statute of limitations in California may be tolled (paused). 

  • If a foreign object was left inside of a person’s body, such as a surgical sponge or a medical instrument, the one-year discovery rule still applies, but there is no overall three-year time limit. Individuals can file these claims at any time, so long as they do so within one year after finding out about the presence of the foreign object.
  • If a plaintiff is younger than six years old at the time the incident occurs, the medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed at any time before the child turns eight, no matter how long it has been since the injury or illness occurred.
  • The medical malpractice statute of limitations could be paused for other reasons, including if the defendant intentionally hid the incident or if they committed fraud.

We do want to point out another procedural step that medical malpractice victims must go through in order to move forward with their claims. When we examine California Code of Civil Procedure section 364, we can see that a defendant must receive at least 90 days’ worth of notice that the patient intends to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the plaintiff provides notice to the defendant within 90 days before the medical malpractice statute of limitations runs out, then the deadline will be extended for another 90 days from when the notice was served.

If you have any questions about the deadlines associated with your case or if you have enough time to file your medical malpractice claim in civil court, we encourage you to reach out to a skilled Santa Ana medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.