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A Brief Look at Medical Malpractice in South Carolina



Medical malpractice is two terrifying words for both patients and medical personnel. Neither wants to hear them. When used, it means that a caregiver’s career has possibly changed for the worse. Moreover, it may also mean a patient’s life has been wrecked or destroyed. It cannot be put any more kindly. There are states like California and Illinois, that have the highest number of medical malpractice cases and payouts, but for this discussion, we will take a brief look at the state of medical malpractice in South Carolina.

First, to understand our discussion, it is best to define what medical malpractice is. According to the website, “Medical malpractice, in short, is an act of medical negligence that results in undue injury to a patient. Medical negligence comes in a wide variety of forms that range from misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, surgical errors, failure to follow up with treatment, acquired infections or failure to monitor patient vital signs.”

What is Medical Malpractice?

To be able for a patient to establish that this occurred, four factors must be present:

1) Duty – Existence of duty owed by caregiver not provided to patient

2) Medical Negligence – Standards for care have been created using hundreds of years’ worth of data and practice so that determinations for care can be streamlined. For example, when a 60-year-old man complains of chest pains, yet the caregiver does consider heart attack a possibility, yet that’s what the signs reveal, this would be regarded as negligent.

3) Patient Injury – The patient is injured due to duty not performed, or negligence. If the 60-year-old mentioned above has avoidable effects from misdiagnosis, then an injury has occurred.

4) Causation – The fourth and final aspect of presenting a winnable medical malpractice lawsuit is that a link between negligence and trauma can be made. In the example above, the patient has a heart attack post-visit to doctor that could and should have been avoided had the doctor or caregiver correctly ascertained what was happening to the patient.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are significantly more complex and challenging than this explanation, and, therefore, require legal assistance from a firm such as Elrod Pope Medical Malpractice Lawyers who regularly handle these kinds of cases in South Carolina.

Other Elements of South Carolina Medical Malpractice Law

Sometimes a wound or injury does not immediately appear and can take time to evolve as a result of a caregiver’s negligence. An example of this may be an instrument left in a patient from surgery; it may take time to surface. Still, the state of South Carolina allows for up to three years from the time of the offense, or, two years from time of discovery, for an individual to bring a lawsuit. Minors have up to 7 years, but not more than one year after their 18th birthday, as they would then be considered an adult.

South Carolina does not impose caps on damages in these cases, and defendants may not seek a reduction in damages paid if the plaintiff receives a settlement from an insurance company. If multiple defendants are involved, but one is unable to pay their share of the judgment, then the other defendant will only be required to pay up to 50% of the decision. As well, there are no limitations on attorney’s fees in these kinds of cases.

South Carolina Medical Malpractice Awards in 2011

In 2011, medical practitioners in South Carolina paid a total of $19,750,000 in medical malpractice claims, with an average payout of $173,000, for roughly 114 successful suits. This total represents on .006% of all total dollars paid in the United States in 2011 (U.S. average award was over $330,000). This would suggest that South Carolina has superb and competent health care providers.

Best Hospitals in South Carolina

According to US News and World Report’s annual rankings of hospitals lists two of their 90 hospitals in the top 100 nationally and also have three hospitals (including top two) with firm standards. Here is the top two on their report

1)      Medical University of South Carolina – Located in Charleston, they are nationally ranked in cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology and ear, nose, and throat. They are listed as having 9 “high performing” areas of concentration and include cancer, geriatrics, orthopedics, and gynecology.

2)      Greenville Memorial Hospital – This hospital is nationally ranked in one category: diabetes and endocrinology. They also are listed as high performing in 10 categories, including cancer, pulmonology, urology, and neurology and neuro-surgery.

Of course, there are mostly good doctors, caregivers, and hospitals in the state of South Carolina. Still, if you are ever in need of a medical malpractice attorney to the right a wrong that should have been avoided, there are plenty of those as well.