We rely on medical professionals at some of the most vulnerable times of our lives–when we’re sick, injured, or having a baby. Fortunately, most healthcare providers take that responsibility seriously. But, when a doctor or healthcare facility is negligent, the consequences can be devastating.
Your Charleston medical malpractice attorney can give you more specific information about the types of damages that may be available in your case.
The South Carolina legislature has set up some obstacles for people pursuing medical malpractice claims in the state, and has limited the amount of damages available.
Before filing a medical malpractice claim or wrongful death suit based on medical malpractice, the plaintiff must file a Notice of Intent to File Suit and an affidavit from an expert witness. This step is not required in most other types of negligence cases, such as a car accident lawsuit or a slip and fall claim. And, in certain emergency care situations, simple negligence is not enough to support a medical malpractice claim–the injured party must show that the medical provider acted with gross negligence.
South Carolina also caps certain types of damages in medical malpractice cases. The caps don’t apply to actual economic losses such as medical bills and lost income. But, they do limit the amount of compensation a malpractice victim can receive for damages like pain and suffering, and the availability of punitive damages.
Like the special notice requirement and the requirement of an affidavit to file, these caps do not apply in South Carolina personal injury cases.
In 2023, the cap on non-economic damages against a single provider or single healthcare facility is $545,869. If there are multiple providers, no single defendant will be responsible for more than $545,869 in non-economic damages, but the aggregate amount all providers are responsible for may be as high as $1,637,608. These caps apply no matter how many separate causes of action a patient has against a provider, and no matter how many individual providers and institutions share the blame.
If these numbers seem a little strange, it’s because they’re adjusted each year for inflation. In 2005, when the statute establishing the caps passed, the caps were $350,000 for one provider and $1,050,000 aggregate. Since the annual increase is percentage-based, the numbers are a little messy. And, if you’re reading this after 2023, the caps may be higher than the ones mentioned here.
The limits don’t apply if the defendant is found to have been grossly negligent, wilful, wanton, or reckless and the conduct caused the damages, or if the defendant engaged in fraud or misrepresentation with regard to the claim.
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice claims is three years. That time is shortened to two years if the medical provider is state-funded. But, statutes of limitations are complicated in medical malpractice cases. That’s because the countdown may start on the date of the treatment (or failure to treat) that caused the harm, but it may not start until the patient knew or reasonably should have known about the malpractice.
Imagine, for example, that a patient with lung cancer visited a doctor who failed to run tests indicated by his condition and told him that he was suffering the lingering effects of a respiratory infection and it could take months to fully recover. If the patient took the doctor at his word and didn’t follow up with another physician for several months, he wouldn’t know about the negligence or the harm to his health until after that doctor had properly diagnosed him. So, the statute of limitations would likely start when he found out the original doctor had negligently misdiagnosed him.
However, regardless of the date of discovery, the full time between the incident and filing the lawsuit can’t be more than six years. And, there’s a different statute of limitations for “leaving of a foreign object in the body or person of any one or the negligent placement of any appliance or apparatus in or upon any such person.”
In short, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much time you have to file a medical malpractice case in South Carolina, and sometimes you’ll even have to fight out when the statute of limitations began to run in court. So, the safest path is to speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon after you are aware of medical negligence as possible.
Medical errors happen in nearly every context where healthcare is provided. A 2016 study from Johns Hopkins concluded that about 250,000 people each year die as a result of medical negligence. Others have put the number of preventable deaths in hospitals at 22,000 to 98,000 per year. Hundreds of thousands of others suffer non-fatal injuries or medical setbacks and complications due to mistakes.
Medical never events are exactly what they sound like: events that should absolutely never happen. They’re distinguished from other types of medical injury because they are incidents that can cause serious harm and are largely preventable. Often, these are events that would not occur if proper procedures were followed, such as administering the wrong drug, transfusing someone with the wrong blood type, leaving an instrument in a patient’s body, or operating on the wrong part of the body.
Attorney Frank Hartman has built his career around helping medical malpractice victims and other injured people in and around Charleston, South Carolina. He’s committed to providing the personalized, compassionate service you need to navigate a complex matter like medical malpractice, and to securing the most compensation possible for you.
To learn more, call 843-300-7600 right now, or fill out the contact form on this page.
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