What is the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina?

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Question:

What is the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina?

Answer:

Like a lot of states, South Carolina has a specific “statute of limitations” that anyone looking to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must follow. This is a law that puts a strict limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and get your case started.  In South Carolina, that means filing not only the initial complaint but also a sworn affidavit from a qualified expert medical witness who must describe the factual basis for your claim and at least one instance of misconduct on the part of the defendant(s).

You can find South Carolina’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits at South Carolina 15-3-545, and it says that this kind of case must be filed “within three years from the date of the treatment, omission, or operation giving rise to the cause of action or three years from date of discovery or when it reasonably ought to have been discovered, not to exceed six years from date of occurrence.”

In other words, you need to file the lawsuit within three years of the date on which you were actually harmed by -- or could reasonably be expected to know that you were harmed by -- the defendant’s medical error. But once six years have passed, your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is lost in South Carolina, even if you didn’t know (and couldn’t have known) you were harmed by malpractice during that time, subject to a few rare exceptions.

The most common exception to South Carolina’s overarching six-year deadline is medical malpractice cases involving “the placement and inadvertent, accidental, or unintentional leaving of a foreign object in the body”, such as a medical instrument or a sponge after surgery. In those cases, the lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date on which the presence of the foreign object was discovered, and the larger six-year deadline does not come into play.

If the lawsuit filing deadline has passed and you try to file the complaint anyway, you can count on the defendant (the doctor or hospital you’re suing) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court granting the motion. If that happens, that’s the end of your lawsuit. That’s why it is crucial to pay attention to and abide by South Carolina’s medical malpractice statute of limitations as it applies to your case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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