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What Damages Are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case in South Carolina?

November 12, 2014 Medical Malpractice

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in South Carolina, you may be wondering what damages you are entitled to.  Medical malpractice is an area of law that differs greatly from state to state.  This is particularly true with regard to medical malpractice damages because many states have special laws called “damages caps” that limit the amount a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover.

Types of Medical Malpractice Damages

In order to understand how the South Carolina medical malpractice damages cap works, it is first necessary to have a basic understanding of the types of damages that are available in medical malpractice actions.

Medical malpractice damages can be divided into two types:  economic damages and noneconomic damages.  Economic damages are damages that the plaintiff suffers that are monetary in nature.  Economic damages include:

  • Medical bills (past and future);
  • Lost income or wages;
  • Lost earning capacity; and
  • Any other financial damages.

Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, are damages that are not monetary in nature. This can be somewhat confusing, because the jury in a personal injury case is often asked to assign a dollar value to noneconomic damages.  These damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life; and
  • Loss of consortium.

Medical Malpractice Damages Cap in South Carolina

Like many states, South Carolina does have a medical malpractice damages cap (South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 15-32-220).  However, the cap only applies to non-economic damages.  There is no cap that applies to economic damages.

The cap also only applies against health care “providers” and “institutions.”  Healthcare providers can include physicians, surgeons, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and chiropractors.  Examples of health care institutions are ambulatory surgical facilities, hospitals, institutional infirmaries, nursing homes, and renal dialysis facilities.

The medical malpractice damages cap draws a distinction between lawsuits against one health care provider/institution and lawsuits against more than one health care provider/institution.  Remember, there may be many parties that are partly to blame for an incident of medical malpractice, including a doctor, nurse, hospital, and/or a nursing home.

For judgments that are against one health care provider, non-economic damages are capped at $350,000.  For judgments that are against more than one health care provider, non-economic damages are capped at $1.05 million – however, no single provider can be liable for more than $350,000.

What Does this Mean for Victims of Medical Malpractice?

If you are considering bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina, it is important to hire an experienced attorney who can make the best possible case for economic damages, such as lost wages or lost earning potential.  An attorney will be able to help you by presenting evidence and arguing that these damages are high.