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What Is the Average Settlement for Medical Negligence Resulting in Death?

Posted by Hopkins Law Firm | Jul 19, 2022 | 0 Comments

average payout for medical negligence resulting in death

Medical malpractice plaintiffs want to know how much money their medical malpractice case is worth. Victims understandably want an estimate of the potential trial and settlement value of their case.

Approximately 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. While most procedures in hospitals go smoothly and contribute to a patient's recovery, when it goes bad it can really be bad. Sometimes a person suffers more than they need to due to a mistake; other times a person may actually lose their life.

If you have lost a loved one in this way, you are no doubt wondering how much the average settlement for medical negligence resulting in death is. If so, read our in-depth article to find out more information.

Is There a Medical Malpractice Settlement Formula?

When trying to calculate the average payout for medical negligence resulting in death, it is important to understand the question of what is medical negligence.

When a person undergoes a medical procedure and suffers unnecessary harm as a result, this may be evidence of negligence. This harm may be in the form of pain, ongoing discomfort, or an unnecessarily extended period of convalescence resulting in lost earnings.

Victims of medical errors are entitled to damages. Because courts cannot undo the negligence, the only method they have to “fix” the negligence is to compensate the victim with money.

This helps the victim to make his or her life better—sometimes money is needed for future therapy, surgeries, or even adaptive equipment. Second, people who cause harm should have to pay compensation because, if they didn't, there would be less of an incentive to avoid causing injury.

What Is the Average Value of a South Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

The average payout in a medical malpractice lawsuit in the U.S. is somewhere around $242,000.00.  The median — as opposed to the average – value of a medical malpractice settlement is $250,000.00. The average jury verdict in malpractice cases won by the plaintiff is just over $1 million.

The compensation payouts in individual negligence cases will vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the plaintiff's injuries. When the negligence results in death the consequences are far more serious. Of course, each case has its own unique circumstances.

What Influences the Amount?

Since the negligence led to the death of a loved one, the compensation is far more than that of a personal injury case.

A case of medical negligence resulting in death can leave loved ones in a difficult situation. For example, if the person was hospitalized, they may have accrued significant medical bills that relatives now have to pay. There are also now funeral expenses that the family must meet.

In addition to this, any medical negligence settlement would take into account the needs of surviving family members such as young children and a spouse.

In extreme cases, a judge may decide that exemplary damages should be awarded to ensure that the hospital and doctors responsible learn a lesson from the case and enact changes.

Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Settle Out-of-Court?

Around 90% of all medical malpractice cases end in some type of out-of-court settlement. Only 10% of medical malpractice cases are resolved by jury trial. For those cases that do end up in a courtroom, the plaintiff only wins about 20% of the time. This means that around 3 out of every 4 plaintiffs who file a medical malpractice case, end up getting money.

How Long Does a Maryland Malpractice Lawsuit Take to Settle?

The average length of time between the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina and the time that the case gets resolved (usually by out-of-court settlement) is 28 months. Most settlements occur after the discovery phase ends and before the trial is scheduled to start.

What Percentage Does the Lawyer Get for a Malpractice Case?

Medical malpractice lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they receive a percentage of whatever money they recover on your behalf. A typical contingent fee percentage in a malpractice case is 33.333% if the case ends in settlement and 40% if the case goes to trial.

In addition to their percentage fee, the malpractice lawyer typically also gets to collect the expenses they laid out for the case when a medical malpractice is won. In medical mistake cases, the expenses can be $100,000 or more because of all the expert witnesses although the average is far less.

Malpractice Settlement Formula

The formula to determine how much money (value) to provide to a victim of medical negligence or the victim's family in a wrongful death/survival action claim is this:

Value = Economic Damages (past & future) + Noneconomic Damages (past & future)

That is the value that a jury places on your verdict. If you are calculating settlement value, you have to consider the possibility that a jury might find against you. So you multiply the value by your chances of success at trial.

Of course, the difficulty is figuring out what numbers to use in the formula. That is the challenge.

Economic Damages

You may be compensated for your existing expenses and losses as well as those you expect to have in the future.

Economic damages are calculated with near-exact certainty. Items included in non-economic damages are:

  • Past and future medical and therapeutic expenses, including surgeries
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Past and future adaptive devices like prosthetic limbs, medical devices,
    and wheelchairs
  • Past and future medication

Items of past damages are the easiest to calculate because there are bills or receipts. For items of damage in the future, it more difficult because no one can be sure of the future. New technology or advances in medical techniques may make a planned surgery obsolete. Health care costs may skyrocket above inflation, rendering these costs more expensive than planned.

In catastrophic injury cases, the best medical malpractice lawyers in South Carolina hire an economist to determine the present-day value and the real value of a lifetime of care.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are things that cannot be precisely calculated. South Carolina allows non-economic damages for harm such as past and future pain, suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and inconvenience. It is very tough to know how any particular judge, jury, defense lawyer, or insurance adjuster will value non-economic damages. Lawyers should look to recent settlements and verdicts for similar types of cases for guidance (provided above) and consider South Carolina's cap on non-economic damages.

Damage Caps

One important component in South Carolina medical malpractice lawsuits is the damage cap. South Carolinalimits the amount of money that a victim of healthcare negligence can receive for non-economic damages. A plaintiff can receive any amount of proven economic damages. So there is no cap on hard costs.

But judges will reduce a jury's verdict for non-economic damages to the maximum amount allowable by law. The amount of non-economic damages recoverable is determined based on the year of the negligence. Click here to see a chart on Maryland's non-economic damages cap. For negligence that occurred in 2023, the cap is $545,869.00 for a single health care provider and a health care institution for each claimant.

The cap for all health care providers and all health care institutions who may be liable to a claimant is $1,637,608.00.

Again, this is cap just applies to non-economic pain and suffering damages. There is no cap on economic damages such as past and future care, medical bills, and lost earnings.


As if damage caps weren't enough, the government also limits damages against itself. Not just a limit on non-economic damages, the following governmental entities have limits on all damages recovered in medical malpractice cases:

Governmental Entity
  • If the malpractice is committed by a physician or dentist working for a government entity, damages are capped at $1.2 million from a single occurrence, regardless of the number of agencies involved
  • If the malpractice is committed by a non-physician, damages are capped at $300,000 per person, per occurrence, and not more than $600,000 total per occurrence
  • An “occurrence” is an unfolding sequence of events flowing from a single act of negligence
  • Punitive damages, exemplary damages and prejudgment interest are not available
  • For these limits to apply, the professional must be acting in the scope of their employment when rendering services
Charitable Organization
  • Where malpractice is committed by the employee of a charitable organization, the victim may recover actual damages up to the limits of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act
  • Damages caps in claims against charitable organizations are like the caps that apply in cases involving government entities, ranging from $300,000 to $1.2 million
  • For the employee to be individually liable, the victim must prove reckless, willful or grossly negligent conduct

Collateral Source

South Carolina has a collateral source rule. This means that even if a victim received services or benefits, he could still recover the cost of those services. A good example is health insurance. If a doctor negligently performs a surgery that requires a second surgery, the victim's health insurance may pay for that second surgery. However, in medical malpractice cases, there is an exception to this rule that limits the recovery to what the victim paid or will have to pay.

A Sliding Scale: Settlement v. Trial

A medical malpractice settlement value is different from the trial value of a case. That's because a settlement is a compromise—each side gives up something in exchange for the certainty of knowing what they will get or give up. No one can ever say what a judge or jury will do, so settlement is a way to play it safe. For this reason, the settlement value is almost always less than the trial value.

Getting Help from a South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice or to get more information on the value of your medical negligence claim, contact our Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island lawyers at (843) 314-4202 or online for a free consultation. Our South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers handle cases involving birth injuries, delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, pharmaceutical errors, and other medical errors. If you are looking for answers, give us a call. 

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