How Is Fault Determined in a Medical Malpractice Case in South Carolina?

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To prevail in a medical malpractice claim, or any personal injury lawsuit, an injured plaintiff must establish that another party was at fault. Defining fault in an injury claim requires demonstrating that the defendant’s actions were negligent. The type of evidence used to prove negligence depends on the type of injury case. For example, a car accident victim would rely on very different evidence than someone who was hurt in a slip and fall. Medical malpractice cases have significant challenges not present in most other personal injury claims.

We expect our medical professionals and healthcare providers to adhere to a specific standard of care. When a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional makes an unjustifiable error that results in negative complications or death, they should be held liable. However, outcomes are not guaranteed when it comes to medical treatment. A doctor could do everything correctly and a patient could still die. Therefore, proving that the negative outcome was because of a medical professional’s negligence is difficult.

The first thing our Columbia, SC medical malpractice lawyers determine is if the harm, complications, or outcome was unexpected given your medical condition and relevant circumstances. More importantly, proving medical malpractice requires expert testimony from a medical expert. Burriss & Ridgeway has the experience and resources to evaluate and litigated complicated medical malpractice claims. Call (803) 451-4000 to schedule a free consultation.

Proving Negligence in a South Carolina Medical Malpractice Case

To establish liability or fault in a medical malpractice case, our Columbia personal injury attorneys must prove four elements.

Doctor-Patient Relationship

To hold a doctor or medical professional liable for malpractice, a plaintiff must prove that they hired the medical professional and the professional agreed to provide treatment. If the defendant was not directly responsible for the plaintiff’s treatment when the harm or illness occurred, a doctor-patient relationship does not exist. Fortunately, because of the documentation required in the medical field, it is usually not difficult to prove that a relationship existed. Nonetheless, this could become challenging if a consulting physician did not provide direct treatment.

The Medical Professional of Facility Was Negligent

A doctor or other medical professional that entered into a relationship with the plaintiff has a legal obligation to provide a standard of medical care throughout the relationship. This duty of care requires that the medical professional adheres to specific guidelines to ensure proper care of the patient.

Proving that a defendant breached the duty of care is typically the central component of a medical malpractice claim. Poor results are insufficient to prove that your doctor or other healthcare provider was negligent or incompetent. Our South Carolina medical malpractice attorneys will have to prove that the defendant’s conduct or inaction resulted in harm. Expert medical testimony is required to establish that the defendant’s conduct, decisions, or inaction deviated from what a reasonable and competent medical professional in the same field would have done under the same circumstances.

The Medical Professional’s Negligence Harmed the Plaintiff

Just demonstrating that a doctor or other medical professional breached the duty of care is not enough to prevail in a medical malpractice claim. A plaintiff must provide evidence that it was “more likely than not” that the action or inaction caused harm, illness, or death. Once again, our South Carolina personal injury lawyers will turn to a medical expert to provide testimony that the plaintiff’s condition is a direct result of their doctor’s negligent decisions.

The Plaintiff Suffered Financial Losses, Injury, or Harm

There is a final element to establish negligence and fault in a medical malpractice claim. In addition to proving a breach of duty and harm, our South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers must provide evidence that the plaintiff suffered qualifiable losses. Losses could include additional medical bills, hospitalization, and lost income. Additionally, a plaintiff could recover for subjective harm, including mental anguish, insomnia, depression, and physical pain. Our law office will use statements, bills, receipts, and case law to help establish a patient’s damages.

Challenges Proving Liability and Fault in a South Carolina Medical Malpractice Case

As stated above, medical malpractice cases present additional challenges not usually found in other personal injury claims. For example, personal responsibility is often factored into the determination of negligence in a medical malpractice case. For example, a plaintiff might be asked if they were following medical advice before the malpractice occurred. To illustrate how this could become an issue, imagine a plaintiff is a victim of medical malpractice during an emergency room visit. However, the reason they require emergency treatment is that they were not taking the medication their doctor prescribed. The plaintiff’s refusal to follow medical treatment could jeopardize their medical malpractice claim.

Another complication arises when the negative outcome is likely whether or not the malpractice occurred. For example, a plaintiff might have terminal cancer. Their doctor negligently misdiagnoses their condition because they failed to order a standard test. However, because there were no steps that could be taken to prevent the eventual death, there probably are no grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Contact Our South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorneys to Schedule a Free Consultation

The injury and harm arising from negligent medical treatment are serious and potentially life-threatening. A misdiagnose or careless surgical procedure could negatively impact a person for a lifetime. Fortunately, you are entitled to seek financial compensation if your suffered harm because of a medical professional’s negligence. Unfortunately, medical malpractice claims are challenging. Our South Carolina lawyers have the resources and expertise to handle the most complex cases. Call Burriss & Ridgeway at (803) 451-4000 to review the facts of your case during a free consultation.

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