Tort reformers have fought hard to limit the ability of patients to sue doctors and hospitals that provide substandard care. Those who work to protect negligent medical professionals have had success in getting tougher laws passed. Several years ago, for example, the South Carolina General Assembly passed reforms that imposed certain conditions on plaintiffs and that set strict deadlines for filing court paperwork.
Now, however, the South Carolina Supreme Court has provided more leeway for malpractice victims. According to Myrtle Beach Online, the court has allowed a plaintiff’s case to go forward despite a missed deadline because doing so is consistent with previous Supreme Court rulings that “permit medical malpractice cases to proceed on the merits rather than to affirm unwarranted dismissals based on technical noncompliance with the medical malpractice statutes.”
While this is good news for injured victims who may now be able to pursue cases despite technical mistakes, plaintiffs still need to do everything they can to follow procedural requirements to avoid jeopardizing cases. A South Carolina medical malpractice attorney can provide assistance to victims who need help suing after a medical error causes harm.
Under South Carolina’s procedural requirements for malpractice cases, a person who wants to sue has to find a lawyer to obtain the medical records and then find a medical expert to review the allegations made against the doctor. Typically, the medical expert comes from another state because local physicians don’t want to testify against “one of their own.”
A malpractice case can proceed only after a medical expert signs a sworn affidavit indicating the case has merit. Mediation is then required to give the parties an opportunity to negotiate a settlement. Only after mediation fails can the case move forward to court.
Unfortunately, it was not previously clear exactly what a plaintiff had to do within the deadline for filing a malpractice claim. By law, victims of medical negligence have just three years to file a lawsuit. However, South Carolina legislation didn’t make clear whether a plaintiff who decided to sue within the last three weeks of the three-year period of time could first file a notice of intent to sue and then have another 45 days to actually get the medical expert’s affidavit and file the suit.
The court has ruled that the plaintiff will get this extra time. As a result, someone who decides to sue just before the time limit is up will not be prevented from doing so by the need to jump through all of the procedural hoops put into place.
The court issued this ruling after a plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her lawsuit. The victim claimed harm in a 2008 procedure but her lawsuit was dismissed by a Circuit Court judge in 2012 as a result of a missed filing deadline.
The plaintiff will now be able to move forward to trial where the merits of her claim will be considered. Other victims in the future will benefit from the clarification of the rules, and the additional leeway, that the South Carolina Supreme Court has provided. Those who have been harmed and who want to take action should contact an experienced attorney for help, such as those you will find at Howell & Christmas.