Medical malpractice actions in the state of North Carolina, or lawsuits filed under the grounds of damages sustained as the result of medical care received that was beneath the reasonable relative standard of care, adhere to a set of state-specific interpretations of medical malpractice law.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Laws
For example, a recently enacted North Carolina medical malpractice law has made it more difficult for persons who are injured by medical malpractice to pursue otherwise viable malpractice claims. In response, unsurprisingly, medical malpractice actions have not disappeared entirely from North Carolina, but now the burdens placed upon claimants or prospective claimants are substantially greater because of this recently enacted North Carolina negligence cap in medical malpractice actions.
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Synopsis of the Basic Features of a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Laws
In current and existing North Carolina-specific medical malpractice laws, a person who has been injured by medical malpractice in North Carolina should consider:
- An injured party has three years from the date of malpractice or only one year from the date of discovery of the injury to file a lawsuit in North Carolina, and in all cases the lawsuit must be filed within four years of the alleged malpractice
- If the injury results from a foreign object left inside a person during surgery, the absolute four-year bar is extended to ten years, but the case must be filed within one year of discovering the object
- Noneconomic damages are capped at $500,000, with annual adjustments for inflation
- North Carolina does not impose a cap on economic damage sin medical malpractice cases, but it does mandate a separate trial to determine the amount of those damages if they are claimed to be more than $150,000
- Injured persons must submit a sworn affidavit from an expert to justify their claims, and that person bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that his or her injuries were caused by medical malpractice
- Per the North Carolina General Statutes §1B-1., North Carolina adheres to a joint negligence and several liability standard permitting the filing of claims with the presence of comparative fault
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Damage Caps and Other Statutory Conditions on Damage Awards for Medical Malpractice Torts in North Carolina
North Carolina caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at an inflation-adjusted $500,000, and it will make exceptions to the cap. An injured party can take advantage of these exceptions, however, only if his injuries are egregious and the conduct of the physician who caused the injuries was grossly negligent. The second condition of gross negligence places the exception out of range of all but a very small number of medical malpractice cases in North Carolina.
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Important Deadlines for Patients to Note in Medical Malpractice Laws in North Carolina
- North Carolina maintains a different statute of limitations than most other states for medical malpractice claims. The three-year filing date from the occurrence of malpractice is on the longer side, but the state’s one-year cutoff from the discovery of an injury and its absolute four-year statute of repose are more severe.
- Even the state’s ten-year statute of repose for claims flowing from objects left inside of a person is tightened by the one-year deadline that begins once the object is discovered. North Carolina’s statutes of limitation and repose are designed to force an injured party to take quick actions once the malpractice or injury are known or could have reasonably been known.
Verification of Claims Requirements in North Carolina Medical Malpractice Laws
North Carolina’s verification requirements, like many of its revisions to its medical malpractice laws, are found in its Senate Bill 33. That Bill obligates an injured party to procure an affidavit from a medical expert witness who can testify as to the causal relationship between the person’s injuries and the underlying medical malpractice. That North Carolina expert witness in med mal lawsuits bill also imposes a strict evidence rule on the injured party to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a treating physician’s actions “more likely than not” caused the person’s injuries. It is too early to understand how this standard will interact with North Carolina’s application of comparative negligence in medical malpractice cases.
By some measures, the number of medical malpractice cases that have been the field in North Carolina after its adoption of Senate Bill 33 has dropped by more than half. A North Carolina party that has a medical malpractice claim is facing longer odds of success with that claim. Injured persons should consult with an attorney at the earliest possible date in the event of suspected or ostensibly confirmed instances of medical malpractice.