How Much Money Can You Sue For Medical Malpractice In South Africa?

Over the last decade, medical malpractice cases have increased in South Africa, with more and more people taking healthcare practitioners and doctors to court. If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, you might ask yourself, how much money can you sue for medical malpractice in South Africa? The answer to that question is based on the unique circumstances of each case.

In South Africa, you can claim medical malpractice damages for all medical expenses, including past and predicted future expenses such as rehabilitation, treatment, and ongoing care. You can also claim damages for general suffering, pain, or disfigurement. Lastly, you can claim for loss of income.

To help you gauge what kind of compensation you might receive, it would help to understand what you can claim for properly. This way, you might be able to calculate an estimated amount of money. Looking at your medical expenses and what they might be, your loss of income and general damages will help you with this estimation.


How Much Money Can You Claim In A Medical Malpractice Case?

So, how much money can you sue for medical malpractice? Well, that will depend on your case’s circumstances, as they will dictate what you can claim compensation for and how much you receive.

Several factors are involved with claims associated with medical malpractice. Your compensation will vary depending on which of the following four categories under the heading Severe Adverse Events (SAEs) your case falls. These categories include:

  • SAC1 – Where death or severe harm is incurred.
  • SAC2 – Cases that involve moderate harm.
  • SAC3 – Cases that involved minor harm.
  • SAC4 – Cases deemed to be ‘near-misses’ where no harm resulted.


The amount of money you can sue for medical malpractice is divided into different heads of damages. These include:

  • Past loss of earnings;
  • Future loss of earnings;
  • Interference with your earning capacity;
  • Past medical and hospital expenses;
  • Future medical and hospital expenses;
  • General damages, disfigurement, and loss of amenities of life.


If it so happens that an instance of medical malpractice led to the untimely death of a breadwinner, the deceased’s family may claim funeral expenses and loss of support.

You can claim for an amount under each of the heads of damages. One thing to remember is that each amount is not cast in stone and can be amended or changed at any time before the settlement or judgment.

The amount of money you receive should place you back in the position you might have been in had the medical malpractice issue not caused you to suffer damages.

Let’s look closer at the different heads of damage:


Past Medical And Hospital Expenses

You would claim all the medical and hospital expenses you incurred from the incident date until the compensation date.

It would help if you kept all your medical, hospital, doctor, psychologist, physiotherapist, pharmacy, etc., accounts so that you can submit these to your attorney to add to your claim.


Future Medical, Hospital, And Supplementary Expenses

Medico-legal experts will use their expertise to predict how much money you will need for all future expenses. To correctly predict this amount, you will be sent to different experts, depending on your type of injury/ damage resulting from the medical negligence.

The experts will not treat you. Instead, they will assess the damages you suffered and write a report on them. Remember that the defendant(s) also have the right to send you to their experts, meaning you might have to visit two experts for each medical field.

The reports will include the experts’ suggested future treatment, current prices of recommended treatment, and the amount of time you will need to stay off work. These amounts make up the claim for future medical and hospital expenses.

The extra expenses will include travel expenses, renovations, equipment, etc.

The experts’ reports will then be sent to an actuary who will calculate what the costs of treatments/ procedures will be in the future or when it is anticipated you will need them. The final figures will then be amended in the final Summons to be brought in line with the medico-legal reports from the various experts.


Past Loss Of Earnings

This information will include all the earnings you have lost due to the incident. Including all loss of income from the date of the incident until the date you are compensated.

To properly account for the differences, you will more than likely be required to furnish all of your pay slips and tax documentation for a period, typically three years, before the incident and until the present date. They will use this information to deduce the difference in earnings, which will be the amount you claim.


Interference With Earning Capacity And Future Loss Of Earnings

The information gathered for this claim will be obtained from the medico-legal reports garnered for future medical and hospital expenses.

One report that will be of the utmost importance for this claim is that given by an industrial psychologist. They need to consider where you were in your career at the time of the incident and your likely progression if it had never occurred; the difference is what will make up the claim. These calculated figures will also be sent to an actuary for the same reasons stated above.

The employer you were working for at the time of the incident might be consulted to obtain information on your abilities, retirement age, promotional prospects, skills needed for the job, etc. The experts might wish to use this information in their reports.


General Damages

As this head of damages includes issues surrounding disfigurement, compensation for suffering and pain, emotional shock, loss of life expectancy, and loss of amenities of life, it is hard to put an amount for compensation. For this reason, the amounts awarded for these damages is at the discretion of the South African courts.


Loss Of Support

Suppose the breadwinner of a household dies due to an incident of medical negligence. In that case, loss of support can be claimed on behalf of their dependents. It is calculated on an actuarial ratio of one part to each child and two parts to each parent.

An actuary will calculate the correct figures for each dependent by taking the deceased income and dividing it according to the ratio from above, taking into account aspects such as inflation.

The compensation amount will be awarded to the dependents until they reach working age or the date when the deceased would have retired.

One thing that you might notice from the above information is that a medical negligence case is a complex and highly specialised procedure. So how much money can you sue for medical malpractice in South Africa? That depends on your unique circumstances, as all the monetary factors considered are unique to your situation.

These types of cases can take years to conclude. To get the best results, you should use the services of a professional attorney. Someone specialising in medico-legal cases will understand the process and whether or not you should sue a hospital or a private entity. They will know which papers you need to keep and how to put your case forward to get the best possible outcome with the highest monetary rewards.

Our Burnett Attorneys & Notaries team is available to answer any questions you might have about this topic. Our experience in this field puts us in the perfect position to help you achieve the best possible outcome in this unfortunate situation. So if you are considering suing a hospital or doctor in South Africa or looking for information regarding how much money you can sue for medical malpractice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.