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Limits On Damages In South Carolina Medical Malpractice Cases

Damage caps in South Carolina medical malpractice cases limit the amount that victims can receive for their claims. If you’re the victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to understand when caps apply, when they don’t, and what you need to do to receive the maximum amount of compensation. Our lawyers explain limits on damages in South Carolina medical malpractice claims.

Are there limits on damages in South Carolina medical malpractice claims?

South Carolina places limits on damages in medical malpractice claims. Limits depend on the type of organization the defendant was working for – private practice, a government entity or a charitable organization, and whether the damages are economic or non-economic. 

What are the limits on damages in South Carolina medical malpractice claims?

Limits on damages in South Carolina medical malpractice claims vary. The lowest limit is $300,000 per occurrence. In some circumstances, there is a limit only on non-economic damages of $1.05 million, adjusted for inflation, while economic damages are unlimited.

Here is a summary of the limits on damages in South Carolina medical malpractice claims:

Private Practice

  • No limit on economic damages
  • Non-economic damages cap of $350,000 per claimant and $1.05 million for multiple defendants
  • Caps are adjusted for inflation. Current non-economic damages caps in private entity claims is $512,773 per defendant and $1,538,319 for multiple defendants
  • Damages limits do not apply if there is a court determination that the defendant acted with gross negligence or willfully, wantonly or recklessly. In addition, the limit does not apply in cases of fraud, misrepresentation or altered medical records to avoid a claim.
  • Punitive damages are limited to three times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater

Source: South Carolina Code § 15-32-220; § 15-32-530; SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office Memorandum 2022

Government Entity

  • If the malpractice is committed by a physician or dentist working for a government entity, damages are capped at $1.2 million from a single occurrence, regardless of the number of agencies involved
  • If the malpractice is committed by a non-physician, damages are capped at $300,000 per person, per occurrence, and not more than $600,000 total per occurrence
  • An “occurrence” is an unfolding sequence of events flowing from a single act of negligence
  • Punitive damages, exemplary damages and prejudgment interest are not available
  • For these limits to apply, the professional must be acting in the scope of their employment when rendering services

Source: South Carolina Tort Claims Act § 15-78-120

Charitable Organization

  • Where malpractice is committed by the employee of a charitable organization, the victim may recover actual damages up to the limits of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act
  • Damages caps in claims against charitable organizations are like the caps that apply in cases involving government entities, ranging from $300,000 to $1.2 million
  • For the employee to be individually liable, the victim must prove reckless, willful or grossly negligent conduct

Sources: South Carolina Code § 33-56-180,  Chastain v. AnMed, S.C. Supreme Court (2010).

Factors Impacting Damages in Medical Malpractice Claims

Damages caps in medical malpractice claims in South Carolina depend on several factors, including:

  1. Who committed the malpractice – A physician or someone else, like a nurse.
  2. What organization the defendant was working for at the time they committed the malpractice. Damages are more limited when the person was working for the government or a charity than when they were working for a private, for-profit entity.
  3. The type of damages – In claims involving private entities, damages caps apply only to non-economic damages. Punitive damages are not available in claims involving government entities or charitable organizations.
  4. The number of occurrences of malpractice.
  5. The number of defendants who committed malpractice.
  6. Whether the defendant acted fraudulently or with reckless, willful or grossly negligent conduct.

Not all these criteria impact every case. Our lawyers can personally evaluate your situation and the factors that may impact what damages caps apply.

Understanding Medical Malpractice Damages Caps

Determining the damages that apply in a medical malpractice case begins with looking at who the defendant was representing when the injury occurred. The same doctor may work in both private practice and perform services for a charitable organization. What the victim may recover depends on who they were working for at the time of the malpractice.

In private practice, economic damages are not limited. Only non-economic damages are capped. Amounts are adjusted for inflation. Punitive damages may be awarded if the criteria are met. 

When a claim is against a government entity or charity, total damages amounts are limited. In addition, the limits are different for claims against physicians and non-physicians. Punitive damages and exemplary damages are not awarded. 

Remember, damages caps are the maximum amounts that a victim can receive. Damages are always awarded based on the actual losses of the victim and the types of damages available under the law.

How can an attorney help me?

Determining what damages caps may apply in a medical malpractice claim can be complex. It may not always be obvious what type of organization the defendant was working for or what it means to have multiple occurrences of malpractice.

At Bobby Jones Law, our lawyers want you to get the compensation you deserve. Our lawyers investigate the facts, and we are experienced in the law. Together, we can help you understand your rights and pursue fair compensation.

Contact us today for a personalized evaluation of what your case may be worth and what damages caps may apply in your case.

What is the history of the medical malpractice non-economic damages cap in South Carolina?

The non-economic damages cap in private entity medical malpractice claims was written into South Carolina law at $350,000 per defendant and $1,050,000 per case. The amount has been adjusted each year since 2004. Adjustments are based on the Consumer Price Index. Each year, the State Register publishes an update which becomes effective upon publication.

Lawyers for Damages in Medical Malpractice Claims

At Bobby Jones Law, we represent medical malpractice victims. We pursue maximum compensation for each victim we represent. Our lawyers evaluate the facts, with our experience and understanding of the law, to make your claim for compensation complete. Contact us today for a consultation.

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