Can I Sue A Doctor Years After Undergoing Surgery?

Surgeons are required to perform surgeries responsibly. They are required to hold themselves to a high standard of medical practice. Sadly, they do not always do so. Doctors, even the most experienced ones, can act negligently before, during or after surgery. If this has happened to you, you can sue the surgeon for surgical malpractice. Talking to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney can be beneficial if you are uncertain about whether malpractice occurred.

Common surgical errors

Surgical errors are actually more common than you would think. Some of the most common medical malpractice cases involve:

  • Injuries at birth
  • Amputation of wrong limbs
  • Surgical complications such as excessive bleeding
  • Blood contamination
  • Inadequate dosage of anesthesia
  • Surgical instruments left in the body
  • Failure to diagnose post-operative complications

This list is not exhaustive. There are many more examples of surgical errors and they can be costly. It is estimated that up to 200,000 Americans die as a result of medical malpractice every year.

Every citizen has a right to the highest standards of medical care available. When surgeons, medical practitioners, pharmacists or hospitals act negligently, they ought to be held fully responsible for their actions.

Suing for medical malpractice

To succeed in a claim for medical malpractice, you have to prove that there was a doctor-patient relationship in existence giving rise to a duty of care. You must then prove that there was a breach of this duty and that you suffered injury or loss as a result of the breach.

Surgeons owe their patients a duty of care. They have a duty to follow prescribed, peer-approved standard medical practice during treatment. They have a duty not to deviate from the accepted medical standards of professional and ethical practice.

When a surgeon acts negligently, disregarding his/her professional duties at the expense of his/her patient, this duty of care is breached. When a surgeon deviates from standard surgical practice and performs an improper diagnosis, treatment or operation, one that his/her fellow surgeons would not do under the same situation, the duty of care has been breached.

Medical malpractice usually leads to losses in the form of:

  • High medical expenses
  • Prolonged treatment cycles
  • Temporary or permanent disfigurement
  • Internal bleeding
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

If you have been injured or suffered loss as a result of a surgical error, you have a right to sue the surgeon or hospital for medical malpractice. However, if you delay for too long before filing your case, you may lose that right.

The deadline for suing – California’s statute of limitations laws

In California, patients must sue for surgical malpractice within three years of the date of the surgery or within a year of discovering the surgical malpractice, whichever happens sooner.

If you went through surgery in January 2017, you have up to three years from the date of surgery (up to January 2020) to sue for medical malpractice.  However, if you discover an injury sooner, say in May 2017, you have only one year after the date of discovery (up to May 2018) to sue.

The deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits are different for children below age six. Lawsuits on behalf of a minor below age six must be commenced within three years of the surgery or before his/her eighth birthday, whichever period is longer.

Noteworthy, there are exceptions to these statutes of limitations. There are also instances when the statute of limitations are tolled or temporarily stopped. These unique exceptions vary depending on each individual case. Contact the California personal injury attorneys at J&Y Law to know whether you qualify for one of these exceptions. The sooner you do so the better!