If you undergo surgery in South Carolina to have your infected right index finger amputated and the doctor accidentally amputates your left thumb, there's a pretty good chance you can recover damages by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
But not all malpractice claims are so straightforward.
Let's take a look at medical malpractice claims in South Carolina, including the elements you need to prove to recover damages and the steps you need to take before you can even file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The term "medical malpractice" is defined by the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 15-79-110(6) as follows:
To put it more simply, the term "medical malpractice" refers to a situation in which a licensed healthcare professional's negligent act or omission causes an injury to a patient.
Examples of acts or omissions that commonly result in medical malpractice lawsuits include:
To prove medical malpractice in South Carolina, you need to establish the following elements:
In South Carolina medical malpractice actions, expert testimony is required to establish that the healthcare professional failed to act competently and that the failure was the cause of the patient's injury, unless the subject matter of the lawsuit falls within a layman's common knowledge or experience.
The steps you need to take to file a medical malpractice lawsuit are similar to the steps you need to take to file any other South Carolina personal injury lawsuit—with 2 significant exceptions:
South Carolina limits the amount of time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This time constraint is called the statute of limitations.
Under the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 15-3-545, you have 3 years from the date of the negligent act or from the date you reasonably should have discovered that you were injured by the negligent act to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
South Carolina also has a 6-year statute of repose, meaning that in no circumstance can you file a lawsuit more than 6 years after the negligent act.
To make things more complicated, South Carolina has a different statute of limitations for cases in which a "foreign object" (such as a medical instrument) is left in the body after surgery. In those cases, the lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date the foreign object is discovered and the 6-year statute of repose doesn't apply.
If you file a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina, you may be able to recover the following types of damages:
Unfortunately, South Carolina caps the amount of non-economic damages you can recover in a medical malpractice case. Specifically, non-economic damages are capped at $350,000 per defendant and can't exceed $1.05 million for all defendants.
Have you ever declined to help someone experiencing a medical emergency based on a concern that you might be sued if something goes wrong?
Worried that potential good Samaritans are too scared of being sued to help others, South Carolina passed a good Samaritan law. South Carolina Code of Laws Section 15-1-310 says that any person who renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency will NOT be held liable for any accidental damages that result so long as the actions didn't amount to gross negligence.