We all depend on our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals and trust that they will take proper care of us to help us get better when we are sick or injured. But medical professionals are also human and are prone to making mistakes at times.
A medical malpractice lawyer can identify where medical malpractice may have occurred and help victims hold providers responsible for the additional medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by carelessness, negligence, and other medical errors.
Contact our Columbia medical malpractice attorneys to hear more about what you may recover through your medical malpractice lawsuit. When you reach out to our offices today at (803) 451-4000, Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers can provide you with a free initial case assessment.
What is Medical Malpractice in Columbia, SC?
Any person or facility engaged in a professional health care practice is responsible for providing a certain standard of care to their patients. This does not mean that any situation where a patient suffers an adverse outcome is the medical professional’s fault.
However, the medical care provider will be liable for the consequences of any harm or exacerbation of existing injury to a patient that is caused by the professional’s deviation from the standard and quality of care that is to be expected in their field. These deviations are known as medical malpractice.
What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice in Columbia, SC?
There are several ways in which a physician, nurse, or medical care facility could deviate from the standard of care and cause harm to those they are charged with treating. Below are just a few examples of circumstances that commonly give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits in Columbia and South Carolina.
When on the operating table, patients are in a particularly vulnerable state. That is why it is imperative for surgeons to use the utmost care in performing their job. However, you would be surprised to discover how many situations arise where patient identities and charts get confused, leading to the wrong surgery being performed on the patient. Other surgical errors include ineffective stitching techniques or the leaving of surgical equipment inside the body. These can lead to infections, which can be serious or even fatal for patients.
To the average person, there is often no way to tell whether the pills you received from the pharmacy are the right dosage or even the right medication. Unfortunately, errors in the filling and dosage of prescription medications can cause health complications, not just because the patient isn’t getting the medications that they need, but also because the wrong medication could cause adverse effects.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to identify the ailment from which the patient is suffering. However, suppose the physician fails to perform lab tests or account for symptoms that another reasonably prudent professional in the same field would have utilized in their diagnosis. In that case, the physician’s deviation from the standard could be considered medical malpractice. The physician does not need to provide an incorrect diagnosis for a valid medical malpractice claim to exist. Failure to diagnose or an unreasonable delay in reaching the correct diagnosis could also cause an unnecessary and serious exacerbation of the patient’s condition, for which compensation may be available.
Doctors go through years of medical training before they are given control of a patient’s treatment. Patients do not get that same level of education on these topics, which means that they may not understand the implications of a given course of treatment. Therefore, doctors are responsible for explaining the merits of a given treatment– and the risks involved– and getting the patient’s knowledgeable approval before commencing. Too often, however, patients are not aware of the risks that they agree to when they sign off on their plan of care. Statistics suggest that this issue affects minorities at a much higher rate than the general population.
Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer to Recover Damages in Columbia, SC?
If a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other medical professional made a mistake or was careless and you suffered a significant injury or harm because of their mistake, you may need legal representation.
Medical malpractice law firms help to make sure patients are treated properly and get the standard of care they need. A personal injury attorney will work with you to push through the legal hoops, red tape, and pushback from the medical practice or their insurance to be sure your personal injury case receives the attention it deserves.
Why Do Medical Professionals Make Mistakes?
Some medical professionals work in difficult conditions with long shifts, no lunch or restroom breaks, sometimes with significant staff shortages, and in very high-stress environments. This combines to create an atmosphere where mistakes are bound to happen. Medical professionals are trained on how to prevent medication errors, but sometimes they still occur. Especially when conditions are not ideal.
Some mistakes may be caught early and result in little or no harm to the victim. However, medical malpractice can cause significant harm, injury, illness, or even death without preventative measures. Medical professionals may not want to make mistakes, but that doesn’t erase the harm that comes when terrible injuries happen. Legally, they are liable and should be held responsible for any medical errors they make that cause harm to their patients.
No one should have to handle something this traumatic and stressful alone. You need someone to look out for your best interests so that no one takes advantage of you or deprives you of any compensation you deserve.
Proving Medical Malpractice in South Carolina
An injured patient must be able to prove that:
The patient and medical professional had a relationship and the medical professional had a duty of care.
The medical professional breached the duty of reasonable care.
The breach of reasonable care injured the patient.
If there was a mistake but the patient was not harmed, there is no claim. There are no damages that require compensation.
In South Carolina, there is a statute of limitations of “within three years from the date of the treatment, omission, or operation giving rise to the cause of action or three years from the date of discovery or when it reasonably ought to have been discovered, not to exceed six years from the date of occurrence.” (South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-545)
So after six years, you can no longer file a medical malpractice lawsuit in our state. There is an exception for a medical instrument or other medical device being left in someone’s body after surgery. You must file a claim within two years from the date the object was found.
Types Of Medical Malpractice Damages You Could Recover in South Carolina
A patient who has experienced a significant injury or illness because of a medical provider’s negligence or breach of duty of care may be eligible to receive compensation for certain expenses like:
- Economic damages:
- Medical bills
- Past lost wages
- Future medical expenses
- Compensation for future lost earning capacity
- Non-economic damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish or emotional distress
- A spouse’s loss of consortium
- Punitive damages:
- In extreme situations when the medical provider intended harm
South Carolina does have a statute for medical malpractice cases that “caps” the amount of compensation awarded to a plaintiff. Non-economic damages have a cap of $350,000 against a single medical provider or institution. For a judgment against multiple defendants, the cap is $1.05 million.
Should You Settle or Sue in a Columbia, SC Medical Malpractice Case?
In many cases, medical malpractice injury victims may be sought out by the at-fault party’s insurance provider shortly after the malpractice becomes clear. The other party may even offer to settle the case for a negotiated monetary sum.
Settlement agreements consist of an agreement by the injured party to waive their right to pursue damages in court in exchange for a direct payment. Settlements can be a useful tool to get malpractice victims the compensation they need sooner without going through the time-consuming and expensive process of a court case. However, you should always be careful any time you are considering giving up your rights.
In many cases, insurers will attempt an early settlement offer that consists of much less value than would account for the victim’s actual harms (or what they stand to recover through a court verdict). This strategy relies on a desperate, often-unrepresented victim who gets tempted by the prospect of a guaranteed sum. However, you should always discuss settlement offers with your Columbia medical malpractice lawyer before agreeing to anything.
You are not obligated to accept any settlement offer. The terms of a settlement can be countered and negotiated as long as necessary, even after the victim has filed their formal claim in court. In many cases, settlement negotiations can carry on all the way up to and even during the trial itself. Generally, the longer you negotiate, the more favorable the terms of your ultimate settlement will be.
The negotiation process can be difficult and stressful. It may also put victims in a position where they might accidentally make statements that the other side could use against them in court. Therefore, we urge you to let your Columbia medical malpractice attorney do the talking for you.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
The statistics are rather sobering.
According to Leveragerx.com:
- The total payout amount for medical malpractice in 2018 nationwide was $4 billion.
- The average malpractice payment was $348,065 in 2018.
- Total medical malpractice payouts in SC in 2018 were over $40 million.
- The top 4 payouts were for
- Wrong diagnosis 34.1%
- Surgery issues 21.4%
- Treatment problems 21.1%
- Obstetrics related 10.3%
- 96.5% of payouts were paid as settlements. Only 3.5 cases went to court.
- Highest payout amounts by the severity of the alleged outcome
- Death 29.7%
- Major permanent injury 18.7%
- Significant permanent injury 18.4%
Some of the areas of health care that tend to involve the greatest number of malpractice claims include the following:
- Medication Errors
- Incorrect Diagnosis
Sometimes we look at doctors and medical professionals as if they are incapable of making mistakes. We trust them too much. It’s wise to ask questions if you have concerns and to double-check behind your medical providers. If you keep up with things as much as you can, you may just be able to stop a medical error from causing you or a loved one serious harm.
Most people dread the thought of having surgery. We all understand that there are risks with anesthesia and risks of potential infections or complications. Sometimes these risks are unavoidable. It can be scary to think about going under anesthesia, all the cutting and difficulties of the surgery, and the recovery process.
We are thankful we have surgeons and other specialists who can take care of us when we have an urgent health problem that needs correction. Obviously, we can’t operate on ourselves. But we are entrusting our health and our very lives into the hands of the people in the operating room and recovery room.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals involved in surgeries do make mistakes at times. Surgical equipment can accidentally be left in someone’s body. The wrong leg might be operated on. Staff may take inadequate precautions to prevent infection. Or a surgeon may injure you during surgery, accidentally nicking your liver or your bladder, causing complications later.
If you or a family member have suffered a significant injury or illness (or even a wrongful death) because of a medical professional’s mistakes, negligence, or a lack of the standard of care, please contact a personal injury lawyer. You need someone who will look out for you and make sure that the defendant makes sure to pay you the damages you deserve.
According to Leveragerx.com,
- 21% of payouts for malpractice allegations in 2018 nationwide were for surgery issues.
According to www.medscape.com
- 83% of general surgeons will face a lawsuit during their careers.
None of us want to go back to the Civil War era when people had no anesthesia and just had to bite on a leather strap during surgery. We are thankful for the wonderful technology of local anesthetics and general anesthetics. And we are glad for the expertise of nurse anesthetists and physician anesthesiologists.
If you get in a car accident and need to have a compound leg fracture reset, it is much better for you to be asleep and not feel the pain of what the surgeon is doing. But we also know that local anesthesia and especially general anesthesia have risks.
According to www.medscape.com from the Medscape Malpractice Report in 2015:
- Most anesthesiologists will face a lawsuit during their careers.
- The most common injury, by far, was that the patient suffered an abnormal injury.
- Failure to save a life was the most common reason cited for a lawsuit.
- Neurologic injuries, overdoses, dental injuries, surgical injuries, in-hospital infections, airway mishaps, and cardiac arrest during surgery were the most common reasons for lawsuits.
Anesthesiologists have a duty of care to provide safety for their patients. If they make a mistake that results in a person’s illness, injury, or death, they need to be held responsible for that mistake. And the injured person deserves to be compensated for the damages that the mistake caused.
We all depend on doctors, nurses, and pharmacies to prescribe the right medications for our specific needs. We expect our treatments to make us better and to be safe. Most medical professionals don’t purposely make mistakes. But the reality is that they all do make mistakes, at times.
Doctors may rush to write a prescription, write the wrong drug, the wrong directions, or the wrong strength. Or a nurse or transcriptionist may read the doctor’s writing incorrectly and put the wrong drug on an electronic prescription.
Errors happen in pharmacies, as well, for a variety of reasons: look-alike drug names, sound-alike drug names, understaffing, high patient volumes, illegible doctors’ handwriting, skipping over drug interactions flags, and human error all contribute to potential mistakes that can harm patients.
Nurses can also make mistakes in hospitals. They may give one patient’s medication to the wrong person, give a patient the wrong medication, give it at the wrong time, or give it in the wrong way. They may not notice allergy bracelets or other alerts.
According to the National Institutes of Health in 2016 (in the US):
Adverse drug events account for over 3.5 million doctors’ visits, 1 million ER visits, and 125,000 hospital admissions each year.
- Elderly patients are 2-3 times more likely to visit a doctor or ER for adverse drug events and 7X more likely to require hospitalization.
- In the elderly, 1 in 30 hospital admissions is due to an adverse drug event.
- The average hospitalized patient experiences at least one medication error per day.
- Common high-risk medications include anticoagulants, narcotic drugs, insulin, and diabetes medication.
- Medication errors harm approximately 1.5 million people per year.
- Cost at least $3.5 billion each year.
The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act requires healthcare facilities to report serious events (when a patient is harmed) and near misses (when an error occurred with the potential to cause harm but the patient was not injured)
You go to a doctor trusting that you will receive a correct diagnosis for your medical problem. You are sick or injured. You are suffering. And you depend on your medical provider to identify the problem and give you the proper treatment.
But sometimes doctors make mistakes. Maybe they are rushing. Maybe your situation is outside of their normal scope of practice. Maybe you have a rare condition that they missed.
The problem is, a mistake like that can be very costly for you. If you are being treated for the wrong thing, you may suffer harm. You may not get better or your condition may become worse. Or the treatment may actually hurt you because it is not what you needed.
Maybe you go to the doctor with chest pain. She diagnoses you with a pulled muscle and prescribes an anti-inflammatory. But what you really had was gastric reflux. Stomach acid was coming up your esophagus causing burning pain. The anti-inflammatory makes your reflux much worse.
The prescription causes a stomach ulcer, making your pain even worse than it was. If you end up with a bleeding ulcer and lose a lot of blood, you may just be in a life-threatening emergency situation. You may even need to be hospitalized or have surgery if it goes on long enough and gets bad enough.
Of course, if it is a more serious situation, it could get even worse with greater risks and more expenses. You might even lose your ability to work and provide for your family.
According to Leveragerx.com, the average payout amount for an incorrect diagnosis that causes harm to the patient is $386,317 (2018)