South Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Medical malpractice cases often result in changes to safety procedures within hospitals and shine light on healthcare negligence that was previously unknown. Our legal process not only helps provide for the injured patient, but can help encourage change to protect all citizens.
When sick people go to a doctor or hospital for care, they expect to be helped and not harmed. When health care professionals make a mistake that harms a patient they’re supposed to help it may be considered medical malpractice. Legally, malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse or other medical caregiver fails to care for a patient according to the accepted standards of care within the medical profession.
If you or someone you care about may have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today toll free at (803) 454-1200. You can also contact us online for a free evaluation of your case.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as an injury to a patient that occurs when a health care provider fails to practice medicine within the “professional standard of care” expected from any other reasonable, prudent healthcare provider.
Statute of limitations
The South Carolina statute of limitations to file a medical negligence claim is generally three years against a private healthcare provider or entity (hospital/clinic). The statute falls to two years if the claim is filed against a government defendant. The “window” to file the claim usually begins when the negligent act or omission occurs, but in some cases may not begin until the negligent treatment is discovered.
Understanding “Standard of Care”
The term is defined as “the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person under the same circumstances would exercise.” Standard of care is relative. And for the purposes of medical malpractice, it is determined by the absence of the level of treatment one expects from a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with similar background, and within the same medical community, that would have been available to that patient under similar circumstances.
Who can be held responsible for medical malpractice?
Doctors, dentists, nurses, hospital employees, technicians, pharmacists, hospitals or clinics and nursing homes (and their employees) can be held liable for medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Causes
While medical malpractice can be a deliberate act, such as amputating a healthy limb, it is often also a failure to act, such as not sanitizing equipment well or not diagnosing a deadly disease. The Institutes of Medicine estimates that such errors kill 40,000 to 98,000 Americans each year; an additional 7,000 die from drug prescription errors.
Common types of medical malpractice include:
- Delay or outright misdiagnosis of a time-sensitive or serious disease.
- Failure to treat a disease correctly.
- Botched surgeries and incorrect doses of anesthesia.
- Failure to care for a pregnant woman and her baby properly, leading to birth injuries.
- Prescribing a drug that’s wrong for the patient’s medical condition, existing drug regimen or body chemistry.
- Unnecessary surgery (often Cesarean sections, hysterectomies or non-elective circumcisions).
- Not giving patients complete information (informed consent) that may change their minds about whether to undergo a procedure.
Common injuries from medical malpractice
Studies by many organizations generally agree on the largest number of medical malpractice injuries, although their rankings are not identical:
- Misdiagnosis of an illness or other medical condition
- Birth injuries to newborns and mothers during childbirth, or negligent prenatal care
- Surgical errors
- “Failure to treat” – When a doctor correctly diagnoses a condition, but then fails to treat it properly
- Medication errors involving a pharmacist filling a prescription, or hospital nurse dispensing a prescription, or a doctor who writes the wrong prescription
- Anesthesia errors – Even a small error by an anesthesiologist can result in permanent brain damage, or even death.
The Emotional and Financial Costs of Medical Malpractice
In addition to the emotional and quality-of-life injuries that medical malpractice can cause, it can often be very expensive for victims and their families. A severe medical injury can put a breadwinner out of work, require multiple surgeries, and even necessitate years of physical therapy. Permanent disabilities or disfigurement also affect the victim’s future, which is particularly appalling when the victim is a baby or young child. When medical professionals commit malpractice, the patients who trusted them end up dead, permanently disabled or living with a significantly reduced quality of life. Careless doctors can and should be held responsible for their actions in court. Victims may be able to recover money to cover past and future medical needs; lost jobs or missed work; compensation for a permanent disability or disfigurement; and other costs caused by medical negligence in South Carolina.
What you should do if you suspect negligence by your healthcare provider
- Document: Once you believe malpractice may have been committed, document everything. Get copies of your tests, blood work and lab results. Get names of the nurses and doctors who tended to you. Understand the procedures or surgeries you received and their outcomes. The more you document, the better the malpractice case your lawyer can make on your behalf.
- Question: You, as a patient, have the right to know exactly what is happening at every step of your care. Ask questions about your treatment, and if your gut tells you to get a second opinion, do it. Be certain you know your injury and its ultimate prognosis. But be civil — even deferential — not provocative. Give the impression that you’re curious, not confrontational.
- Request: Ask for a copy of your medical records. They’re yours and you are entitled to all of them. But again, don’t be provocative or confrontational. You might hide your intent by saying you might take a long vacation and want your records on a flash drive in case they’re suddenly needed by another treating physician. Also be prepared to ask for all records from both your doctor(s) and the hospital.
How to Cope With the Fallout of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice victims (and their loved ones) assume a lot of needless guilt. Family members may feel that they haven’t protected loved ones from caregiver mistakes. According to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, many victims and family members fear retribution if they do complain. Often, physicians who commit malpractice distance themselves from patients and their families, in effect isolating them when they most need their doctor.
Because malpractice cases can sometimes progress at a snail’s pace, your attorney probably has plenty of good suggestions to help dial down your emotions and those of your family. Support groups often help. Sometimes counseling may provide emotional or psychological relief; but also let those who support you every day help you shoulder the burden, and let them know this isn’t their fault. The malpracticing healthcare provider is the only one who should feel shame, not you or your family.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys Serving Residents of South Carolina
Medical malpractice is a politically charged issue, which has led to an extremely complex set of laws governing malpractice lawsuits. If you or someone you care about has been injured by the carelessness of a medical professional, you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at the Louthian Law Firm as soon as possible.
Our malpractice lawyers can help you evaluate your case; protect your legal right to the courts; stand by your side throughout the legal process; and get you the best possible results. For a free consultation, call a medical malpractice lawyer today toll free at (803) 454-1200. You can also fill out our confidential online case evaluation form.
More information on medical malpractice
South Carolina’s Three-Year Statute of Limitations for Malpractice: SCCL §15-3-530
South Carolina’s Non-Economic Malpractice Damage Caps: SCCL §15-79
Guilty, Afraid and Alone: Struggling with Medical Error: New England Journal of Medicine