South Carolina medical malpractice laws can often be seen to favor medical professionals and to present barriers to genuine victims of medical negligence who are seeking justice. These strict laws help to explain why the state ranks 31st out of all states for the number of malpractice lawsuits filed each year, with just 19 cases per 100,000 people in 2015.
If you have suffered because of medical negligence in the state, make sure you find a good South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer who can guide you and help you make your case. Without that specialized knowledge of the law and experience with similar cases, achieving a positive outcome is very challenging.
Laws for Medical Malpractice in South Carolina
While malpractice lawyers are there to help victims navigate the system, it is important for patients to be informed of some of the laws that impact them in malpractice lawsuits. Patients in South Carolina face limits on when they can file malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations in the state is three years, either from the time of the negligence or from the time the patient discovered the negligence, as long as he or she could not have reasonably discovered it earlier. A statute of repose states that cases cannot be filed any more than six years after the actual negligent act. The only definite exception to this is when a foreign object is left in a patient during surgery.
As with many other states, South Carolina also limits the amount of money a plaintiff can recover in non-economic damages. These are for the costs associated with pain, emotional harm, disfigurement, and other factors. South Carolina caps these damages at $350,000, but it places no limits on economic damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and other definable costs. The amount for non-economic damages can go up to $1.05 million if there are multiple defendants.
Requirements to File a Malpractice Lawsuit in South Carolina
Damages caps are controversial and have even been overturned in some states. Also controversial are laws that place extra burdens on patients in order to file a lawsuit. South Carolina has a couple of those, including the notice of intent. To file a suit a patient or his or her lawyer must file this notice that identifies all the defendants and gives the basic outline of the negligence complaint.
This also must be accompanied by an affidavit of expert, which is a signed statement from a qualified medical expert. This expert must have reviewed the evidence and be of the opinion that there was a negligent act before the case can proceed. Once these two items are filed the plaintiff’s lawyer must participate in mediation with the defendants in an attempt to settle the case out of court.
While these requirements are supposed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits in the state, they can also be seen as being too restrictive. Patient advocates believe the laws place barriers in the way of patients being able to seek a fair trial and have a chance to get justice, a day in court, and to recover damages.
Examples of Malpractice Cases in South Carolina
South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers are busy and hard at work fighting for the rights of victims of medical negligence in the state. These patients were harmed by doctors and others they trusted to provide good care. With dedicated medical malpractice lawyers guiding them, many of these patients are able to get justice and recover damages for the harm they suffered.
Some of the most tragic cases are those in which the patient dies because of a mistake made by a doctor or other medical professional. The plaintiffs were the widow and three children of a woman who died because her doctors miscommunicated and failed provide surgery in time to save her from cancer that didn’t need to be terminal.
The doctors who were the defendants in the case were tracking the woman’s kidneys, watching a non-cancerous mass. There were several instances in which recommended surgery was put off or delayed. This included an incident in which the woman suffered pain in her side and underwent a CT scan. The radiologist recommended her kidney be removed, but her doctors did not get the communication. By the time her doctors realized the mass was malignant, it was too late to remove and treat. She died soon after, and her family sued and was awarded an unusually large amount for South Carolina cases. The $10 million awarded may be reduced because the state’s damages cap.
An important case in the state is ongoing and expected to go all the way to the state Supreme Court to challenge the statute of limitations. In this case the plaintiff is a woman who was treated for depression with electroconvulsive therapy, once called electroshock therapy. She was left with pain, memory loss, and exacerbated disabilities. She and her lawyers claimed that the treatment was unwarranted, that it should have been saved as a last resort, and that it was done without her consent. The woman’s husband consented for her.
The woman began receiving the treatment in 2003 and continued through 2008. Because it began in 2003 and the woman filed her lawsuit in 2011, a circuit court dismissed the case based on the statute of limitations. An appeals court reinstated it because the treatment didn’t end until 2008. It could not be proven that the harm it caused was in 2003, in which case the statute of limitations would have run out. The defendants are appealing again, taking the case to the Supreme Court. The plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyers are fighting hard to ensure she gets her chance at a fair trial and to seek justice.
Finding a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in South Carolina
South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers are experts in the laws that govern these cases. The laws often favor defendants and can be very difficult to understand, and so it is crucial that patients and victims of negligence work with lawyers who specialize in just this complex area of the state’s laws. If you have been harmed by medical errors, you need this specialist on your side.
You can begin your search for the right lawyer with the state’s bar association, which keeps a record of all lawyers licensed in the state. It can point you in the direction of those lawyers who only take malpractice cases and who have the specific knowledge and experience you need. As you search for your lawyer, ask questions to interview your top choices. You don’t have to go with the first malpractice lawyer you find. Choose the lawyer who has proven success in cases like yours, and with whom you feel comfortable working on what could be a years-long case.