North Carolina ranks very low among all the states for number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year. In 2015, for instance, there were just ten cases for every 100,000 residents, putting North Carolina nearly last. Those cases amounted to just $51 million in total payouts to victims of medical negligence. In spite of the low number of lawsuits in the state, laws have been introduced recently that make it more difficult for victims to recover damages.
If you have been harmed by medical errors, you need a North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer to help you decide if you have a valid case and to guide you through the legal process if you do. The laws that govern malpractice cases can be complicated and often favor medical professionals, so it is important to have this expert fighting on your side.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Laws
Malpractice lawyers are important to have on your side in a medical negligence case. They have spent their careers studying the laws that guide and restrict malpractice lawsuits, and they have experience working with patients who were victimized by medical mistakes. Although patients can rely on these professionals to help them navigate the system, they should also be able to make educated decisions by understanding the basics of the laws.
The statute of limitations is important to understand because if a patient is not aware of it, he or she may miss the deadline to file a lawsuit and lose that opportunity forever. The statute of limitations in North Carolina is three years from the date of the negligent act or inaction. The state also has a discovery rule that allows patients one year after discovering the mistake to file the lawsuit. The statute of repose puts a definitive time limit of ten years on malpractice cases.
A new set of laws was passed in North Carolina in 2011 that impacts victims of medical negligence in several ways. One is that a cap was placed on damages that can be recovered. Another change that makes recovering damages more difficult is a more rigorous burden of proof in cases of mistakes made during emergency treatment. Patients harmed while receiving emergency care must prove negligence through what the law calls “clear and convincing evidence.” This makes it more difficult for a patient’s lawyer to prove negligence than in other situations.
North Carolina Damages Cap Challenged
The most recent changes to North Carolina medical malpractice laws included a cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages. This amount began increasing each year for inflation in 2014. Non-economic damages cover intangible costs, like suffering or being disfigured. There is no cap on damages that cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other actual costs.
In several states a cap on non-economic damages has been challenged, and in some cases has been found to be unconstitutional. There is a case in North Carolina now that is expected to challenge the cap by going to the state Supreme Court. The case is a terrible one that warrants a significant amount of non-economic damages for the pain, emotional distress, disfigurement, and other issues caused by the medical error.
The case began when a woman, Adrienne Harris, was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy and underwent a procedure to have her fallopian tube removed. The surgeon damaged her small intestine, but didn’t notice. The damage caused her intestine to leak and resulted in a serious infection called sepsis. After suffering serious pain it took doctors several days to make the diagnosis. By then she had developed gangrene in her hands and feet and had to have them all amputated.
Harris is now left permanently and seriously disabled with no hands or feet. Her malpractice lawyers are fighting for her in a lawsuit and are committed to taking her case to the Supreme Court if necessary in order to challenge the cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages. They believe her case warrants going over the limit to compensate her for the serious injury caused by negligence.
Medical Malpractice Cases in North Carolina
In North Carolina, medical malpractice lawyers work hard to win positive results for their clients, the victims of medical errors. There are many examples of cases in the state that went in favor of victims and ended in significant settlements or jury awards. The case that will be challenging the damages cap is just one of many instances in which malpractice lawyers fight hard for victims.
In another case a plaintiff was awarded $1.5 million by a jury after being blinded in one eye by a medical mistake. The patient was undergoing cataract surgery, and it was later determined that a miscommunication between the ophthalmologist and a nurse resulted in the damage. The wrong dye was used to stain the cataract during the procedure. They used a substance that is actually toxic to the eye. The man lost vision in one eye, and filed a lawsuit to recover damages for the harm caused.
How to Find a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyer
When you are suffering because of a medical mistake, you have a lot to worry about and big decisions to make. In order to make the best choices and to take the steps necessary to successfully seek justice for the harm caused to you, you need a good North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer. Only lawyers who specialize just in this type of law can provide you with the best possible chances of having a successful case.
You can find a malpractice lawyer by referral from a previous client or you can contact the state bar association to find a lawyer in good standing in the state who takes malpractice cases. Either way, make sure to ask your lawyer a lot of questions before committing to a working relationship. You need to feel comfortable that the lawyer you choose really has the experience and expertise needed for your case. You also need to know that your lawyer is dedicated to fighting your case in a settlement or in court, helping you get the justice you deserve.