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5 FAQs About Medical Malpractice in Columbia SC

April 25, 2022

It’s generally assumed that you can trust doctors and other medical professionals to provide you with the best care possible. However, an unfortunate reality is that, sometimes, a healthcare provider’s negligence leads to needless harm and suffering (such as a new or worsening medical condition). This is known as medical malpractice, and it is punishable under South Carolina law.

If you feel that you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Columbia, SC, you likely have many questions about potential recourse. In this article, we’ll be addressing five frequently asked questions about medical malpractice, including:

  • What qualifies as medical malpractice in Columbia, SC?
  • Can I sue my doctor?
  • What damages can I expect to receive from a medical malpractice lawsuit?
  • How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?
  • How to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Columbia, SC
01. What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice in Columbia, SC?

By definition, medical malpractice refers to an instance in which a medical professional’s actions (or lack thereof) do not meet the accepted standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. This extends beyond doctors to include other healthcare practitioners such as nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.

It’s important to note that not every mistake made by a medical professional can be considered malpractice — only those that are outside of the accepted standard of care. To many, this definition will seem fairly ambiguous. Indeed, medical malpractice law in South Carolina is very complex and nuanced — which is why you should consult a Columbia medical malpractice lawyer to help you assess your unique situation. 

02. Can I Sue My Doctor?

In short, yes, you can sue your doctor. As mentioned above, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against any licensed healthcare professional (doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.). That being said, you must file the claim within a certain timeframe known as the statute of limitations.

According to Section 15-3-545 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 3 years from the date of the treatment/omission, or, in some cases, 3 years from the date you discovered that harm had been done. In all cases (excluding rare exceptions), the lawsuit must be filed within 6 years from the date of treatment/omission — regardless of when you discovered that harm had been done. If you try to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, you will, unfortunately, have no legal recourse.

03. What Damages Can I Expect to Receive from a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Medical malpractices damages can be divided into two overarching categories: punitive damages and compensatory damages. 

Punitive Damages for Medical Malpractice

Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant (reserved for egregious cases in which willful, wanton, or reckless behavior can be proved). 

Compensatory Damages for Medical Malpractice

Compensatory damages, on the other hand, are monetary awards that serve as compensation for the financial loss, pain, and suffering you’ve experienced as a result of medical malpractice. Compensatory damages can be further divided into two types: economic and non-economic. 

  • Economic damages reimburse objective financial losses that you’ve incurred, such as medical bills and lost wages due to an inability to work. 
  • Conversely, non-economic damages account for subjective or speculative harm/loss, such as pain, emotional distress, future medical bills, future lost wages, etc.

In South Carolina, there is a limit of $350,000 for non-economic damages against a single defendant. If multiple defendants are involved, that limit increases to $1.05 million. However, this limit only applies to non-economic damages; there is no cap on economic damages. On that note, working with an experienced Columbia medical malpractice lawyer will help you maximize the amount of compensation you receive.

04. How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Take?

Medical malpractice lawsuits are complicated processes with many steps. As such, they can last anywhere from a few months to multiple years. To better understand this timeframe, we can break down the primary phrases of a case…

The process begins when you select a Columbia medical malpractice attorney to work with. Your attorney will start by reviewing your medical records, bills, and other relevant documents. After sufficient examination, your attorney will then file the lawsuit. However, it can take up to 1-3 years for your case to go to trial

Once the lawsuit has been filed, a “discovery” phase ensues in which both parties request information to build their cases. Three to four months after filing the lawsuit, you’ll be required to participate in mediation to see if the case can be resolved out of court. During this time, it is common to negotiate a settlement before the case goes to trial (which can reduce the amount of time it takes for you to receive compensation). 

If a settlement is not agreed to, the case will then go to trial. Trials can last months or even years depending on the complexity of the case. But, keep in mind that a settlement can still be negotiated at any point during the trial.

05. How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Columbia, SC

Medical malpractice lawsuits in South Carolina begin with a Notice of Intent to File Suit (and other required documents). However, given the complexity of these cases, you should consult a Columbia medical malpractice attorney before you attempt to do anything on your own. An experienced attorney will guide you through the legal process, help you build the strongest case possible, and act as your advocate during both the trial and settlement negotiations.

Planning to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit? Trust Bernstein & Berstein to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys’ experience extends across a wide variety of medical malpractice claims and we’ll work tirelessly on your behalf. Contact us today to learn more about how Bernstein & Bernstein can assist you with your case.

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