Medical Malpractice

A study by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine estimated that medical errors cause close to 100,000 American deaths each year. This number does not include those who are injured or maimed by medical negligence. Doctors and hospitals ordinarily do a good job, but when they do not, the results can be catastrophic. Medical malpractice attorneys represent those who have been injured by medical malpractice.


The rules of how claims and lawsuits can be brought against doctors and hospitals who negligently injure or kill their patients are different from those for other types of personal injury claims. Such claims need lawyers who are experienced in handling medical malpractice claims and who have the financial and medical resources to handle such claims. Learn more about common causes of medical malpractice.

At Merritt Webb, we have several attorneys who are skilled and experienced in handling medical malpractice cases in North Carolina and South Carolina. The first step in preparing any medical malpractice case is usually for the attorney to receive from the patient an outline or narrative of everything that the patient remembers about the incident with a complete set of medical records created at the time of the incident. The next step will be to have this package reviewed by a Board-certified expert. If the attorney and the medical expert agree there is a satisfactory case of medical negligence, our attorney may recommend filing suit against the doctor. Learn more about the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

Any patient suing a doctor or a hospital for medical malpractice must prove three things:

  1. Negligence: that the doctor, nurse, hospital or other health care provider was negligent – that is did something wrong or failed to do something they should have;
  2. Proximate Cause: that the doctor’s negligence actually caused the patient’s injuries;
  3. Injury: the extent and permanence of the patient’s injuries.

If the patient fails to prove any of these three elements, his/her medical malpractice case will be dismissed from court.

Miscellaneous Issues

Doctors’ Medical Malpractice Insurance

Just as most drivers have liability insurance to protect them from claims for vehicular negligence, doctors and hospitals carry large amounts of insurance coverage to protect them from the results of their negligent conduct. Most doctors and hospitals have insurance coverage well over a million dollars or more. Any time a doctor is sued for negligence, both the doctor’s legal fees and any judgment the doctor is forced by the jury to pay is almost always covered completely by insurance.

In South Carolina, the Joint Underwriters Association and the Patient’s Compensation Fund may provide South Carolina doctors with additional coverage on any claim that is in excess of $200,000 per incident or when the total of the incidents in a year exceeds $600,000.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Medical malpractice cases are usually time consuming, expensive and can be very difficult to win. The doctor’s insurance company usually hires lawyers who specialize in the defense of medical malpractice cases. For an attorney to be successful in suing doctors for patients he or she needs a certain amount of knowledge in that kind of medicine, in finding and using experts and in deposing doctors. Not all attorneys are equipped with the training, experience, or temperament to handle such cases. When looking for an attorney, the injured patient should make sure the attorney has experience in such cases.

Contingency Fees

Attorneys representing injured patients against doctors and hospitals are seldom paid by the hour because their clients could not afford that kind of fee. The average hourly rate (over $ 250) and the average number of total hours (over 500-1000) required for such cases by an attorney would make the fee so large that few would be able to pay it. Instead, almost all medical malpractice attorneys are paid by way of contingency fees. Under a contingency fee, the attorney is paid no fee for his time and effort in a case unless and until the attorney recovers money or some other value for the patient by way of settlement or judgment. A contingency fee is usually a percentage (agreed upon in advance) of the settlement or judgment.

Contingency fees for good medical malpractice attorneys vary, but usually range from 40 to 50 percent of any recovery plus costs. While this may seem high, remember that many malpractice cases do not result in a verdict and in those cases the attorney receives no fee for his months, perhaps years of effort and time.

At Merritt Webb, we usually handle medical malpractice cases by contingency fees. If we do recover something for you, we get an agreed-upon percentage of the total recovery received, prior to the subtraction of any costs or expenses. Any costs or expenses will be subtracted from your share of any amount recovered in the lawsuit.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Merritt Webb are anxious to aggressively represent your interests and ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries and losses. As a regional law firm we are able to take on the powerful medical community and their insurance companies. If you need our help with a potential medical malpractice matter, call us at 1.800.556.8404.

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Website responsibility: The attorneys responsible for this site are Joy Rhyne Webb (NC), 2525 Meridian Parkway, Suite 300, Durham, NC 27713 and Heather Caruso (SC, TN), 8910 Two Notch Road, Suite 400, Columbia, SC 29223.