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Doubly Victimized: Medical Error Victims Can Only Get So Much

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South Carolina medical malpractice law forces severely injured or grieving victims to face a cold reality. Despite harm and loss that may never end, victims’ financial recovery can be limited by so-called “tort reform.”

I call it tort deform because it deforms your rights by devaluing human suffering. It’s legalized double victimization of innocent people. If your blood is already simmering, wait until you reach the end to see who it really benefits. But first, the practical impact on everyday people.

The Law Takes Away—But Still Gives

For people who have been hurt by substandard medical care, “tort reform” puts  a cap on how much money they might recover in a damage award or settlement. Losses above the cap just go unpaid- legally.

Specifically, the malpractice law limits the amount medical error victims get for “noneconomic damages,” which some call “pain and suffering.” I call it human loss—if you look at what it includes, you’ll see why. For those with permanent losses, it’s the biggest part of your case!

At least the law keeps some vital items unlimited, like lost wages and medical bills, including future care. But this is only for private providers, meaning they're employed by hospitals or offices not affiliated with the government. You'll read about that below.

Malpractice Injury Human Loss Limits

Here are the basic maximums a malpractice injury victim can get for pain and suffering—even if you’re paralyzed:

  • For a government–affiliated hospital: $300,000. “Government–affiliated” usually means it’s a county hospital. This includes nurses.
  • For a government-affiliated doctor, single private provider or private hospital: $350,000. This includes private nurses, doctors, and surgeons.
  • For more than one single private provider or hospital, or any combination of the two: $350,000.00 per provider with a maximum total of 1.05 million dollars.

Three things worth mentioning: 

  1. First, these are the basic amounts. They’re adjusted every year based on the consumer price index, meaning the true annual amount can go up or down.
  2. Second, for private providers, the limits don’t apply if the provider’s guilty of:
  • Reckless conduct causing the harm.
  • Fraud or dishonesty related to the harm.
  • Altering or destroying medical records to try to hide wrongdoing.
  1. The limits for government providers are “hard caps,” meaning they never change. And these limits include economic damages, like lost wages and medical care releated to the malpractice. So if you're suing a nurse and your lost wages are $50,000 with medical bills of $200,000, you can only get $300,000 against that nurse. The limit for government doctors is much higher- $1.2 million.

Wrongful Death Malpractice Non-Economic Damage Limits

While South Carolina’s Supreme Court has yet to make a definite interpretation of the law, wrongful death victims arguably fare better.

In the best case scenario, the limits above apply to each person legally allowed to recover under the wrongful death law. For a typical family who loses a devoted wife and mother, that means the husband and each child can be given up to the applicable limit.

Who The Law Really Benefits And What It Really Is

Let’s throw back the veil on who pays for doctor mistakes. Insurance companies pay settlements and verdicts, not doctors personally. Let’s be honest what this law is. It’s an insurance company protection law.

Let’s talk about how I really feel about it. It’s especially cruel because insurance companies enjoy protections victims with life-changing losses don’t—limits on the consequences of medical mistakes. They keep billions, while devastated families stare at empty chairs on Thanksgiving. It makes the third branch of government the injustice system. No matter how bad you’re hurt or how searing your loss, no matter how much compensation the jury feels you deserve—after hearing both sides of the story—the insurance company only has to pay so much.

Why I Told You And What You Should Do

I want you going into a potential malpractice case with your eyes open. Still, if you’re permanently hurt or lost a loved one from a medical mistake, learning your legal options can give you peace of mind. It may be the only way the harm gets recognized so it won’t be repeated.

For you, it may be the only way your future medical care gets paid. To maximize your chances at compensation, you'll need a sharp, determined attorney who can find every potential provider who harmed you, so you can have the best access to the most compensation the law allows.

If you want to know more about your options, feel free to email us right where you are to see if you qualify to be one of our medical malpractice clients.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a criminal defense attorney.
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