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California's malpractice statute of limitations

Proper health is essential to all aspects of life. For this reason, society looks to medical professionals to provide an exceptional level of service.

Unfortunately, not all medical professionals rise to the occasion, and such action may lead to harm. In those cases, parties may be able to bring medical malpractice cases against the physicians. However, there are a few important facts to understand, particularly regarding the statute of limitations.

What it is

Simply stated, the statute of limitations is the amount of time that a party has to bring a certain claim against another party. Particularly in the case of filing a medical malpractice claim, there are two options. In some cases, symptoms may take years to discover. In recognizing this, parties have up to three years after a procedure to file a malpractice claim. However, once a party discovers a medical malpractice offense against himself or herself, or a person of which the party has guardianship, the claimant must file a claim within one year of said discovery. If a party seeks to pursue a malpractice claim outside of these parameters, the court will not hear the case, unless there are acceptable exceptions. 

Proper notice

Along with filing within the proper timeframe, claimants must also provide the accused party with at least 90-days’ notice that they are filing the claim. Some medical professionals may seek to resolve the matter out of court. In such instances, it may be beneficial for claimants to consult with an attorney to weigh the best option.


There is one particular exception that allows claimants to file a claim after the statute of limitations expires, and that is if a surgical sponge or other medical instrument is left inside of a patient. This discovery may occur at any time beyond the statute of limitations. However, once the material is found, the claimant must file within one year of discovery.

Abiding by the statute of limitations is an important aspect of a proper malpractice claim, but it is not the only factor to consider. Having the proper evidence and medical records are also critical to a strong claim.

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Law Offices of Neil M. Howard
717 North Douglas Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

Phone: 424-259-4807
Fax: 310-452-6810
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We’ve successfully represented patients as north as Redding and as south as San Diego.