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Who and why you can sue for malpractice in South Carolina

Sometimes it's hard to find an attorney to take a medical malpractice case. Once you've had a medical problem, seen a doctor, suffered procedures and side effects and didn't get any better, at best, not being able to find legal help can seem like real insult to literal injury.

An attorney can have a vast array of reasons to accept or decline a case. And yet, roughly half of all doctors get sued at some point, and more than $4 billion was paid in 2018 to U.S. malpractice plaintiffs. So, here are few of the basic legal questions that may affect your potential malpractice suit.

Who can they be?

You might want to file suit against someone only to find they simply aren't liable for medical malpractice in South Carolina.

You can only file such a suit in South Carolina against people or groups needing a license from the state to act as a health care provider. That would include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists and chiropractors, as well as hospitals, corporations and practices. This list is not complete.

If you can't sue them for medical malpractice, they might be liable for fraud, negligence or some other misdeed.

The following questions are surely more complex and tricky issues and they're where the expertise of an experienced medical malpractice attorney will matter most.

Doctor-patient relationship?

First, you and person or entity in question must have had some equivalent of a doctor-patient relationship.

You hired them, so they examined and treated you, for example. A friendly suggestion about fruits and vegetables while running into a doctor in the grocery store probably won't count.

Below the standard of care?

Next, the doctor had to be negligent in diagnosing or treating you.

Their care must fall beneath the standard a patient can expect from comparable doctors for comparable medical conditions in comparable practices. Even if your medical outcome was terrible, you may not have a case if they used reasonable care and skill in diagnosing and treating you.

Is their failure to blame for your injury?

Finally, the doctor's negligence had to cause your damage.

If the doctor was wildly incompetent but you came through it just fine, you might not have a case. Or if you were almost sure to lose a limb unless a doctor performed with amazing skill, only to find your doctor was wildly incompetent, you may still not have a case.

Have you waited too long?

In South Carolina, you must file suit within three years after the time the doctor harmed you (or the time you could be reasonable expected to find out, a distinction that often matters when, for example, a sponge is left in you after an operation). In all, no matter the circumstances, your chance to file ends entirely after six years.

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