Medical malpractice lawsuits can seem overwhelming. In addition to managing the emotional
and physical injuries, victims and their families often have to contend
with a dizzying mix of medical and legal jargon. With this in mind, it
can be helpful to understand some key legal terms used in medical malpractice
lawsuits and their definitions.
Filing the lawsuit
When consulting with a California medical malpractice attorney, the following
terms may be used to explain the process of filing suit:
Plaintiff and defendant: The plaintiff is the person pursing the lawsuit, while the defendant is
the negligent party against whom the lawsuit is brought. It may be a medical
professional (nurse, doctor, etc.) or medical facility (hospital, outpatient
Complaint: Filing a complaint with the court initiates the medical malpractice lawsuit.
It sets forth the facts surrounding the patient’s injury as well
as the legal theories that support liability and damages.
Wrongful death lawsuit: When medical negligence results in a patient’s death, certain close
family members (spouse, children, parents, etc.) can seek compensation
through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Statute of limitations: State laws establish the time period in which patients (or their families)
must pursue a lawsuit. Under California law, adult plaintiffs must generally
pursue a claim within one year from the date of discovering the negligent
act, but no more than three years from the date of injury. Other statutes
of limitations apply to minors and birth injury cases.
In order to be successful, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant
should be held liable for the patient’s harm. San Diego medical
malpractice lawyers may reference the following terms when discussing
elements of the medical malpractice lawsuit:
Medical negligence: While this is a complicated legal term, the basic definition is action
or inaction by a medical professional that deviates from the accepted
standard of care.
Standard of care: Medical professionals are required to provide patients the level of care,
skill and knowledge that is recognized as reasonable by similar medical
professionals under similar circumstances. The failure to follow the standard
of care is called a “breach.”
Informed consent: Doctors are obligated to explain the risks, benefits and alternatives
of a medical procedure or treatment plan before a patient agrees to it.
Causation: In order to establish liability, the plaintiff must establish a relationship
between the patient’s injuries and the health care provider’s