Back in 1976, South Dakota imposed a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims, no matter the amount of the pain and suffering that the victim of South Dakota medical malpractice experienced in the past, or would have to suffer for many years into the future. The cap has not been increased since it was set in 1976; if it had kept up with the rate of inflation, the cap would be in excess of $2 million today.
While the South Dakota medical malpractice cap on noneconomic damages has not kept pace with inflation, the costs of investigating and prosecuting South Dakota medical malpractice has risen dramatically, resulting in South Dakota medical malpractice lawyers severely limiting the medical malpractice cases they can afford to pursue (one South Dakota medical malpractice lawyer has stated that he handles only two or three medical malpractice cases per year despite receiving between 100 and 120 medical malpractice inquiries each year).
One major impact of South Dakota’s $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases is that the South Dakotans who are the most seriously and permanently injured by medical negligence are precluded from obtaining full justice due to the law that protects the financial interests of South Dakota medical providers over the rights of South Dakotans harmed by medical negligence.
A Sad Example
On January 4, 2013, an emotionally distraught South Dakota woman, whose fetus had died in utero, went to the local hospital to have her deceased fetus removed from her uterus. When she awoke in the recovery room following the procedure, she immediately knew that something was terribly wrong and that her body was going into shock. The physician who performed the procedure had perforated the woman’s uterus during the procedure but had failed to recognize the injury. A physician who examined the woman in the recovery room also failed to recognize that the woman was bleeding to death.
After a nurse finally realized that the woman was bleeding to death, the woman was brought back to the operating room where her uterus had to be removed to stop the bleeding and save her life. The result was that the woman could not have a baby in the future and she would never realize her dream of having a large family.
The woman tried to find a South Dakota medical malpractice lawyer to handle her medical malpractice claim but was unable to find any lawyer to help her because the cap on noneconomic damages was the hurdle that she could not overcome in her effort to obtain justice — no lawyer would handle her case because the costs and time involved in pursuing her case would not be financially feasible in light of the $500,000 medical malpractice cap (while the cap has not been increased since 1976, the costs of obtaining necessary medical experts to support medical malpractice cases have increased exponentially).
The immovable barrier to obtaining justice that South Dakota’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases represents reaches an insurmountable height for those who are harmed the most by medical negligence in South Dakota — those suffering severe brain damage, horrible disfigurement, and intractable pain. Is this fair? Does the cap further the interest of justice? Is the cap righteous?
If you or a loved one were injured due to medical negligence in South Dakota or in another U.S. state, you should promptly attempt to find a South Dakota medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may agree to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.