With all of the press relating to frivolous lawsuits and outrageous plaintiff’s verdicts over the past 20 years, laws have been written to strictly limit personal injury settlement amounts. Unfortunately, many of these laws are based on questionable statistics and emotional appeals.
Tort Reform Nationally
Based on a lot of advertising, tort reform swept the country in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Much of the information relied upon has been somewhat misleading. The truth is very few civil lawsuits result in large awards. Typical personal injury cases settle for just enough to compensate the victim for his or her reasonable losses and medical expenses. Few personal injury claims are actually filed, with most settling out of court between the parties. Even less are litigated to trial. Only about 1-2 percent of all lawsuits are personal injury.
According to a 2008 article by Professor Philip G. Peters of the University of Missouri School of Law, over the past 30 years, doctors have won between 80 and 90 percent of all lawsuits filed against them for malpractice. Likewise, they win 70 percent of all cases that are considered a “toss-up,” and they even win half (50 percent) of all the cases filed against them with strong evidence of medical malpractice. Therefore, the myth of wild verdicts seems to fade when facts are involved.
South Carolina’s Response To Tort Reform
First, in 2005, the South Carolina Legislature passed the South Carolina Noneconomic Damage Awards Act of 2005. The law effectively states that an injured victim of medical negligence cannot collect more than $350,000 in non-economic damages against a single defendant in any action, regardless of the number of claims or defendants involved. If there are multiple negligent parties (hospital, physicians, etc.), no individual defendant must pay more than $350,000, and the aggregate total of such damages cannot exceed $1,050,000.00. This law only applies to non-economic damages, which are things like pain, suffering, and other non-monetary losses, as opposed to lost wages and medical expenses.
More Recent Limitations On Punitive Damages
On June 14, 2011, South Carolina passed major changes to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, which now places restrictions on punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to deter bad conduct and punish wrongdoers.
Claims for punitive damages are now bifurcated, meaning evidence of extreme and egregious conduct often cannot even be presented to jurors until after a finding of negligence. This places a substantial limit on the type of evidence a jury can hear early in the case. Then, in a second proceeding, the jurors must determine what to award.
Likewise, punitive damages are capped at $500,000 or 3 times the compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are monetary amounts of loss, such as wage loss and medical bills. By tying the two together this way, the punitive damages for harming a wealthy, highly paid individual could arguably be far higher than if the defendant hurt a poorer person. Still, there are exceptions that apply.
Hire A Personal Injury Attorney In South Carolina
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you need aggressive and determined representation. Do not fight the insurance company alone. The laws are always changing, so it is best to have an attorney on your side to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.
The hard-working attorneys of Klok Law Firm, LLC represent injured people throughout South Carolina. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and to get helpful answers to your questions.