Medical Malpractice FAQ

South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Answer Negligence Questions

A bad outcome for a medical procedure does not always constitute as medical malpractice. However, physicians who fail to provide the required standard of care, lack training or the skill to provide the appropriate treatment a reasonably competent physician would provide may be at fault for medical malpractice. Medical professionals who make preventable errors are not following the accepted medical standards and may be held liable for medical negligence.

If you and your family are dealing with the consequences of physician negligence or hospital malpractice, the Columbia medical malpractice lawyers at Proffitt & Cox, LLP offer the following general explanations to common medical malpractice claim questions and does not constitute as legal advice. We have successfully represented medical malpractice victims in South Carolina, and a medical malpractice attorney at our firm is available to provide legal advice for your specific situation if you call or submit a free case review form today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice

How do I know if I have a claim for medical malpractice against my doctor, hospital, nursing home or other medical provider?

If any of the following situations apply to you or a family member, you may want to seek legal advice regarding a potential claim for negligence or malpractice against a physician, hospital, nursing home or other medical care provider:

  • You believe or are told by another medical provider that the care provided to you may have been negligent
  • Your medical provider admits that he or she committed a medical error
  • The outcome of a surgical or other medical procedure is unexpectedly negative
  • Your condition worsens after you receive medical treatment
  • Your medical provider is unable or unwilling to explain why your condition has worsened or why your loved one died unexpectedly
  • You have a “gut feeling” that the medical provider made a mistake or failed to provide appropriate treatment.

The review and analysis of a potential medical negligence claim are complex issues. Contact our lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
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What must a patient prove to win a malpractice or negligence claim against a physician, hospital, nursing home or other medical care provider?

In South Carolina, a patient must prove that the actions or omissions of the physician, hospital, nursing home or medical provider did not meet the required standard of care under the facts and circumstances of a particular case. A physician or other medical provider must provide the level of care that a reasonably competent physician or provider in the same field would have provided.

In order to prove medical negligence, a physician who is an expert witness in the same field of medicine as the treating physician must be able to testify, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that it is more probable than not that the actions or omissions of the treating physician did not meet the required standard of care. The expert witness also must be able to testify that the physician’s negligence caused the injuries and damages suffered by the patient.
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What are the basic steps in the review, analysis and pursuit of a medical malpractice claim?

The first step in reviewing a potential medical malpractice case is to obtain all relevant medical records. You or your lawyer may request the records from the physician, hospital, nursing home and other medical providers involved in treating you or your loved one. The provider is required to provide a copy of the records to you and may charge you a copying fee as allowed by statute.

Next, an appropriate medical expert – a physician or other provider who practices in the same field of medicine as the treating physician or provider – must review the medical records and offer an opinion about whether the treating physician or provider acted negligently.

Next, the medical expert must sign an affidavit which identifies at least one negligent act or omission by the treating physician, hospital or medical provider. A notice of intent to file a lawsuit is filed in court, which results in a pre-lawsuit mediation.

If the case is not resolved at the pre-lawsuit mediation, the injured patient may file a lawsuit in court. If the patient is deceased, the lawsuit is brought by the personal representative of the patient’s estate. The personal representative must be appointed by the probate court.

The parties then engage in discovery, i.e., the exchange of written questions, documents and depositions. Fact and expert witnesses are deposed. Another mediation usually is required after the discovery process is complete. The defendant physician, hospital or provider may file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case as a matter of law. If that motion is denied, the case then proceeds to trial if the parties cannot agree on a settlement.

Contact our lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
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What is the deadline to bring a malpractice or negligence claim against a physician, hospital or other medical care provider?

In South Carolina, the statute of limitations to bring a medical negligence claim generally is three years against a private person or entity, and two years against a government defendant. The deadline usually begins to run when the negligent act or omission occurs. In some cases, the deadline may not begin to run until the negligent treatment is discovered. Determining the precise time that the statute of limitations begins is an important step that generally requires legal advice. If you believe that you have a claim, it is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney right away.

The review and analysis of a potential medical negligence claim are complex issues. Contact our lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
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I have heard there is a required mediation process for medical malpractice cases. What is that?

In order to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina, the injured patient must first obtain an affidavit from another physician who identifies at least one negligent act or omission by the treating physician, hospital or medical provider. A notice of intent to file a lawsuit must be filed in court and served on the defendant. A mediation must be held before the lawsuit may be filed in court. If the case is not resolved at this mediation, the injured patient may then file a lawsuit in court.
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Why is expert testimony required to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit?

The two basic types of witnesses are lay witnesses and expert witnesses. A lay witness is an ordinary person, someone who does not have special expertise in a given field. A lay witness usually may testify about things that he or she personally observed or experienced, but may not offer opinion testimony. An expert witness is someone who, by training, education or experience, is considered an expert in a given field. An expert witness may offer opinion testimony about the breach of the standard of care and legal cause of damages suffered by the injured or deceased patient.

Testimony by an expert witness is required in a medical malpractice case because the witness must have training, education or experience in a particular field of medicine. The expert witness must explain the errors of the treating medical provider to the jury, and he or she must explain how those errors caused the injuries and damages suffered by the patient. The expert witness will offer his or her medical opinion about the case.
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Why are expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases usually from out of state?

Physicians or other medical providers who live in the same area or state as the negligent physician or provider often are not willing to testify against a friend or neighbor. Consequently, the injured patient usually must ask an appropriate medical expert who lives in another state to review the medical records and testify in the case.
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How much does it cost to find out if I have a medical malpractice case?

Our firm handles medical negligence cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not owe us any fee unless we are able to obtain compensation for you. If we believe that your case might have merit, we will often perform a preliminary review of your medical records without charge. The next step is to have the case reviewed by an expert physician or medical provider. We can talk with you about the costs and options for having your potential case reviewed by an expert for merit.
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How do I know if I was injured badly enough by medical malpractice to make it worth bringing a lawsuit?

While any act of medical negligence that causes you harm might technically mean that you have a valid claim, because of the time involved to pursue medical malpractice cases and the expense associated with having expert witnesses testify in the case, our firm generally does not agree to pursue medical malpractice cases unless the negligent treatment results in long-term or permanent injury or death. If the negligent care results in only a short-term situation that does not result in significant unnecessary medical expense, we usually are unable to accept the case. If you are unsure whether your damages are substantial enough to bring a claim, we will be happy to talk with you and discuss your particular circumstances without charge. We are happy to talk with you and answer your questions.
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Are there limits on how much I can get in a medical malpractice case in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s legislature passed a statute that limits the amount that can be recovered in medical malpractice cases in certain situations. The limits are subject to various exceptions, and in some situations the limits do not apply. The limits also are increased each year for inflation. A medical malpractice attorney can discuss the issues in your case and whether the statutory limits might affect the value of your claim.
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What types of medical errors usually support a claim for medical malpractice?

There are numerous issues that can arise in the course of medical care which are fertile ground for medical malpractice. Surgical errors, failures to properly diagnose, delayed diagnosis, failures to order required diagnostic tests, failure to provide proper treatment, and errors during pregnancy or birth are common areas where malpractice can occur. Physicians and medical providers also are required to properly discuss the risks and alternatives of proposed treatments with patients prior to undertaking treatment in most situations.
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