The Thin Line Between Medical Malpractice & Wrongful Death

The Thin Line Between Medical Malpractice & Wrongful Death

It’s estimated that acts of medical negligence are responsible for the deaths of over 250,000 Americans each year. With such a high statistic, it’s no wonder that many people confuse “medical malpractice” with “wrongful death.” However, these are two entirely separate legal concepts.

To shed light on this legal conundrum, the Charleston medical malpractice and wrongful death attorneys at Pierce, Sloan, Wilson, Kennedy & Early, LLC have developed this simple FAQ post.

Defining Medical Malpractice

Simply put, medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by the negligent actions, inactions, or omissions of a medical professional.

Examples of medical malpractice include, but is not limited to:

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Failure to treat a condition
  • Delayed treatment 
  • Surgical errors
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Pharmaceutical errors
  • Birth injuries
  • Anesthesia injuries
  • Directly injuring a patient with surgical tools or medical equipment
  • Performing surgery on the wrong patient
  • Performing surgery on the wrong body part

Each of these examples can lead to serious injuries and dangerous side effects. According to the South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-545, an injured plaintiff has three years to file medical malpractice claims against any negligent parties. Per the statute of limitations, this countdown begins from the moment of the injury or at the time a plaintiff should have reasonably discovered the injury.

Defining Wrongful Death

According to the South Carolina Code of Law section 15-51-10, a wrongful death is defined as “the death of a person…caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.” In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim can be filed by an executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate. This representative works on behalf of the deceased individual’s surviving family members.

Wrongful death cases can result from a variety of circumstances, not just medical negligence. For example, a wrongful death claims often stem from the following incidents:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Assault & Battery
  • Product liability accidents
  • Birth injuries
  • Industrial accidents

If a lawsuit is successful, certain members of the deceased’s person’s family may be able to recover damages. These surviving family members include: the decedent’s spouse and children; the surviving parents if the deceased didn’t have a spouse or children; the heirs at law should there be no spouse, children, or parents.

Plaintiffs may be able to recover the following economic and non-economic damages by pursuing medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damages
  • Punitive damages

Plaintiffs can only recover the following economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death case:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of consortium

In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim must be filed within 3 years of the date of the deceased person’s death. If a claim is not filed within this time period, the court may decide not to hear the case, or the defendant may be able to dismiss the case entirely based on the statute of limitations.

Schedule a Consultation to Explore Your Legal Options

If you’re interested in pursuing a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit, contact the Charleston personal injury attorneys at Pierce, Sloan, Wilson, Kennedy & Early, LLC. Our experienced legal team can evaluate your case and help you explore your legal options.

Our law firm has been providing exceptional legal services to clients since 1999. Call Pierce, Sloan, Wilson, Kennedy & Early, LLC at (843) 968-0886 to schedule a consultation. We are licensed to represent clients in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  

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