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Can You Sue a Doctor for Negligence in California?

Stethoscope on notebook and pencil with Medical Error words

We trust medical professionals when we are at our most vulnerable. We hold doctors, nurses, and other physicians to the highest standards because if they make a mistake or deliberate error, the consequences can be severe, and often fatal. If a doctor makes a mistake, and you are injured, can you bring a lawsuit? A dedicated and knowledgeable Pasadena medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine if a lawsuit is appropriate after you are harmed by the misconduct of a doctor.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim in California

A typical personal injury claim requires that someone acted at least negligently, and that the negligence actually harmed someone else. In defining “negligence,” the law asks whether a reasonable person in the same given circumstances would have acted as that person did. Riding your bike at full speed down a crowded sidewalk, for example, is an unreasonable thing to do, so you may be liable for any injury you cause. On the other hand, if you were riding down the street safely and you hit an unexpected pothole, which threw you into a pedestrian, you are likely not liable for their injuries.

In a medical malpractice case, the basics are the same, but the standard for negligence changes. The law asks whether the medical professional was acting according to the accepted medical standard of care. This standard of care refers to the accepted methods of treatment applied by other medical professionals to treat the same or similar conditions. The standard may vary depending on the geographic area, the age of the patient, the medical condition at issue, and other factors. The standard of care includes both whether the procedure itself is medically accepted (e.g., using a new form of surgery that other doctors have not accepted may be negligent), and whether the doctor utilizing the procedure did so in the proper, accepted manner (e.g., were they intoxicated when they performed a surgery).

If the doctor was negligent, a plaintiff must also prove that the negligence caused the plaintiff actual harm. The plaintiff must prove, for example, that a missed or delayed diagnosis actually exacerbated their condition, or that a botched surgery caused actual injury. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your claims and retain experts where appropriate to prove that your harm was indeed caused by the negligence of the physician.

When Should You Not Sue Your Doctor?

A medical malpractice claim is not available when a procedure merely failed or the patient is simply unhappy with the results. Doctors guarantee only that they will perform appropriate, scientifically-accepted procedures in a medically sound manner. They do not guarantee results. If your eye surgery leaves you with 20/40 vision instead of 20/20, but your doctor did everything correctly, then you likely do not have a claim.

Additionally, if a doctor performed a procedure using appropriate medical techniques and there was an unforeseeable complication which led to an unfortunate outcome, then the doctor is likely not liable. Procedures like invasive surgeries do carry the risk of complications, and a doctor will not be held liable if they did everything right but the procedure still failed. A seasoned medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if a medical mishap was the result of actual physician negligence or misconduct, or if it was just bad luck.

Get a Free Consultation with Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you want the help of a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney after you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice in Los Angeles, contact the Pasadena Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz for a free consultation on your case at 626-844-7102.

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