As a California plaintiff's attorney representing families in wrongful death caused by alleged medical malpractice/medical negligence, I strongly advise you to contact an attorney ASAP!!! As other attorneys have posted here, if the case was dismissed without prejudice, a new case can be filed against the defendant physician/medical facility. However, there might be very real problems with that newly filed case--regardless of the substantive facts/wrongdoing of the defendants--if the statute of limitations has already expired. California's statute of limitations for medical malpractice/medical negligence is different than the statute of limitations for other personal injury actions. But even if the usual one-year period of time has elapsed, there very well may be legitimate and lawful reasons (for example, due to concealment of the wrongful actions) that the statute of limitations might have been tolled for some period of time., which could save your opportunity to at least have the case heard on the merits. All of these factors, and many more, need to be very carefully evaluated ASAP by a skilled, knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. Every day that passes without that evaluation makes it more difficult for you to succeed, so I can't stress it enough: get in contact with an attorney right away!
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I believe the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim in CA is three years, and is two years for a wrongful death claim (I leave it to my CA colleagues to advise if I am correct). The statute of limitations starts to run as of the date of the act of malpractice, with some other circumstances which may affect that computation. Even though dismissed without prejudice, if the applicable statute of limitations has already run, you could be time barred from commencing the action anew. You should meet with a medmal lawyer in your area to go over the specific details of the medmal/wrongful death claims to see where you stand. Good luck.
It depends what you mean by "reopened". In the event that a case was dismissed "without prejudice", it may be re-filed at anytime. You simply file a new complaint. However, the statute of limitations (the time you have within which to bring a lawsuit) would be governed by the filing date of the 2nd complaint, not the first. Therefore, if there were a two year statute of limitations that was applicable to the case, whether or not you filed within that period of time would be based upon the date of the filing of the 2nd complaint. If the statute of limitations has run, then your father would need to investigate the possibility of having the dismissal set aside. However, that would be extremely hard or impossible unless he could point to some type of excusable neglect that led him to dismiss the case in the first place. I don't know all of the facts, but proving excusable neglect, or some other basis for having the dismissal set aside would be extremely difficult. I hope that answers your question.
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Check your local statute of limitations. You may be precluded from bringing suit again if the limitations period has expired.
DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.