How Medical Malpractice Claims Work In South Carolina
Among the legal services offered by Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., is the investigation and litigation of medical malpractice claims.
These lawsuits seek to hold medical professionals and/or medical institutions accountable when their negligence harms patients. They also seek to compensate patients for the physical, mental and financial harm that has been suffered.
Medical malpractice claims are complex. They can also be lengthy undertakings. Not every negative outcome to a medical procedure is malpractice. Those responsible for medical errors may also vigorously contest liability.
We take seriously our duty to investigate medical malpractice cases thoroughly and to advise patients candidly. If legal claims are warranted, we will pursue them aggressively on our clients’ behalf. Contact us today to learn more.
If you believe that you are the victim of medical malpractice in Spartanburg, Greenville or elsewhere in Upstate South Carolina, please review the following aspects that are typically involved in pursuing a claim.
Understanding Medical Malpractice Claims
A medical malpractice claim rests on the allegation that a relationship exists between a patient (plaintiff) and medical professional and/or medical institution (defendant), and that the defendant owed a duty of care to the patient that was breached. As the victim of medical malpractice, you would be the plaintiff.
A breach of duty in medical treatment is a failure to provide “reasonable care” or to follow the accepted standards of medical practice for illness or injury that a patient presented. A claim must show that there was an incorrect action or failure to act, which caused the plaintiff to suffer harm.
A lawsuit would also establish the amount of compensation that a plaintiff should recover. This would include economic damages (medical expenses and lost income) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering and emotional distress).
Investigating Medical Malpractice
Obtaining and analyzing evidence is the most time-consuming aspect of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Generally, the process includes:
- Obtaining copies of medical records – This may require contacting multiple doctors or medical institutions and/or their records retention services. A file for a patient who has undergone extended care and/or surgery may include hundreds of pages of records and reports.
- Having medical records reviewed by medical professionals – This may include having a generalist provide his / her opinion and then having one or more specialists review the records to develop an opinion as to whether negligence or an avoidable error occurred.
- Obtaining an affidavit of merit – This is a signed statement from an expert medical witness. It is required for a medical malpractice claim to move forward in South Carolina. It must identify at least one negligent act or omission that resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
Litigating Medical Malpractice
Once it is decided that a patient should go forward with pursuing a medical malpractice claim, several steps must be taken before a lawsuit is actually filed in Circuit Court. These steps include:
- Filing Notice of Intent to File Suit – This notice must be filed in the proper court along with the affidavit of an expert witness mentioned above. It must name all defendants and be served on all of them. In addition to meeting other requirements, it must also contain a short and plain statement of the facts showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – Within 90 to 120 days after the notice is filed and served, a mediation conference must be held (unless an extension is allowed). Mediation is an informal process in which a third-party mediator facilitates settlement discussions between the lawsuit’s parties. Any settlement is voluntary. If the matter cannot be resolved through mediation, the plaintiff may file the lawsuit.
- Filing the lawsuit – The lawsuit, or complaint, must be filed within 60 days after the mediator determines that mediation is not viable, an impasse exists or mediation should end or before the statute of limitations expires, whichever is later. Your attorney will determine the proper court in which to file this lawsuit and take care of all other documents that must be filed and served as well.
- Obtaining depositions – These are sworn statements made in response to an attorney’s questions. If your suit moves forward, it will be necessary to depose each defendant as well as several others involved in the care provided to you, the plaintiff. If a hospital or another medical center is a defendant in a lawsuit, various people responsible for how it is managed or run may need to be deposed. As a plaintiff, you should expect to be deposed as well by the defendant(s).
As your claim is developed, your attorneys would keep you apprised of the progress made. At each decision point, we would advise you of the pros and cons of moving forward and proceed only if you agree to do so.
Once a lawsuit is filed, we would continue to seek a settlement with the defendant(s). In most cases, an appropriate settlement can be reached without going to court. This saves time and can allow you to obtain compensation and get on with your life. Regardless, we will provide our honest opinion about any settlement offer received. We will accept or reject it according to your instructions.
If a lawsuit must go to trial, we will prepare you. We will advise you of the process of a court trial and what you should expect to see and hear. We will prepare you for seeing your case go before a jury.
A trial will also require expert testimony to support your claim. These will be court-recognized medical experts who we work with and trust to be an asset to your case. The defense will also put on its case, which will allow us to question their witnesses.
Once both sides have prevented evidence and arguments to the judge and jury, the judge would advise the jury, and the jury would return a verdict.
In some cases, negligence may be admitted, and a case will only go to trial based on how much compensation (damages) should be awarded.
Statute of Limitations for South Carolina Medical Malpractice Claims
South Carolina law establishes a statute of limitations – a deadline – on filing medical malpractice lawsuits. A lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the injury, or three years from the date the injury was discovered or should reasonably have been discovered. If the doctor is a government employee or the hospital is a public institution (as opposed to a private corporation), the statute of limitations may only be two years.
We Investigate South Carolina Medical Malpractice Claims
The outline above is an abbreviated explanation of what occurs in a medical malpractice claim. We advise you to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible if you have questions about the negative outcome of any medical treatment. It is best to begin the investigation right away.
The lawyers of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., will work with you to answer questions about an injury that has occurred while under medical care. We investigate medical malpractice claims in Upstate South Carolina, and we do not charge a legal fee unless we obtain compensation for our clients through a negotiated settlement or court order.
Call us today or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.