Arizona State Senate
November 29, 2006
Arizona Senate Research Staff, 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007 • 1-800-352-8404 • 602-926-3171
Medical malpractice is a civil court action taken when a patient
sues a health care provider alleging a failure by the health care
provider to exercise the degree of care and skill that a health care
provider of the same medical specialty would use under similar
circumstances. In order to prevail in court, a party must prove that
the health care provider failed to provide adequate treatment to the
patient resulting in a personal injury or substantial loss of income.
Historically, medical malpractice law was designed to
accomplish certain specific social objectives, including addressing
poor quality care, fairly compensating patients for injuries
resulting from negligence and imposing justice in a manner that
would make future occurrences less likely.
There are two types of damages that are applicable in a
medical malpractice case – actual damages and punitive damages:
Actual damages are the cost of additional treatment, loss of
wages, loss of future wages and pain and suffering.
Punitive damages are damages awarded when medical
malpractice is the result of reckless or willful behavior on the part
of the physician.
LAWS ATTEMPTING TO LIMIT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
Statute of Limitations
In medical malpractice law, the statute of limitations refers to
the period from the time an injury occurs or is discovered to the
final date on which a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. If
the statute of limitations expires before a malpractice lawsuit is
filed, the judge can dismiss the case for being untimely.
In Arizona, a medical malpractice action must be commenced
within two years after the cause of action accrues. Arizona courts
have held that the limitations period does not begin to run until the
manifestation of the injury. The statute of limitations does not
begin to run until the