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North Carolina Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

Important Notice: The following overview of North Carolina's workers' compensation laws is presented on an as-is basis. This information is believed accurate as of the date of authorship, but is not intended to provide a complete analysis analysis of medical malpractice law and may not reflect subsequent changes in the law. For a full review of North Carolina's medical malpractice law, or for a determination of how the law applies to a specific incident or injury, please consult a malpractice lawyer licensed to practice in the state of North Carolina.

Contents

What Is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, sometimes referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider violates the governing standard of care when providing treatment to a patient, causing the patient to suffer an injury. Medical malpractice can result from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis of, or failure to diagnose , a disease or medical condition;
  • Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition;
  • Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition;

Medical malpractice actions can be brought by the injured patient against any responsible licensed health care provider, including doctors, counselors, psychologists and psychotherapists.

Limits on Malpractice Damages

Punitive damages are limited to $250,000.00 or three times economic damages, whichever amount is greater.

Collateral Source Rule

Under the collateral source rule, a defendant may not seek to reduce its liability by introducing evidence that the plaintiff has received compensation from other sources, such as the plaintiff's own insurance coverage.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

Medical expert witnesses must be licensed physicians, and must testify to the standard of care used in the defendant's community.

Joint and Several Liability

Under the rule of joint and several liability, where more than one defendant is found liable for the injury suffered by a plaintiff, each defendant is individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment, such that if one defendant is unable to pay the other defendant or defendants are liable for the entire amount of the judgment.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within three years of the act or omission giving rise to the injury, or within two years of the date of discovery, to a maximum of four years following the date of the act or omission. In cases involving wrongful death, the limitations period is two years. Medical malpractice actions for objects left inside the body may be commenced within one year of the date of discovery, to a maximum of ten years after the date of the act giving rise to the injury. Under North Carolina law, a minor must file suit within one year of his or her eighteenth birthday.

Limits on Attorney Fees

North Carolina does not impose special limits on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases.

Additional Rules

North Carolina mandates a pretrial mediated settlement conference for all civil cases.

Why Use A Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice law is a highly technical field of law, and malpractice lawsuits tend to be fiercely defended by well-funded defense firms.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be exceptionally expensive to pursue, with costs often exceeding $100,000.00. Due to the technical skills involved in prosecuting a malpractice claim, the possibility that an inexperienced lawyer may not be sufficiently conversant with the medical issues, or might make a technical error which causes a case to be lost or dismissed, and the very high costs the malpractice law firm typically must advance, an injured patient is very well served by going with a specialist firm.

Even within the specialized practice of medical malpractice law, you will find that some lawyers have subspecialties of practice, for example focusing on surgical errors, misdiagnosis, or birth trauma cases.