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The Basics of North Carolina Medical Malpractice

North Carolina malpractice rules are defined by the state's medical malpractice laws. These laws establish such things as the amount of time an injured patient has to file a case against a medical professional, as well as limits on the amount of money a patient may collect from a doctor.

Before you file a medical malpractice claim, you should consult with a medical malpractice lawyer. North Carolina medical malpractice attorneys can help assess your case's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you should make an effort to educate yourself on the basics of North Carolina medical malpractice law.

What Is North Carolina Malpractice?

To have a legitimate medical malpractice claim in North Carolina, you must first show that your doctor or other relevant medical provider breached, or violated, the standard of care while treating you.

In the context of medical malpractice, the standard of care is the generally accepted practices and procedures used by healthcare professionals in the same geographic area for treating patients with a particular disease or disorder. The standard of care will change depending on the specific disorder, as well as other factors, including the patient's age and overall health.

In addition to violating the standard of care, the doctor's breach must have directly contributed to your injuries to have a valid North Carolina medical malpractice claim. This means you and your attorney will have to show in court that the doctor's actions are the cause of your injuries. Often, this requires the use of outside medical experts to testify on your behalf.

Although treatment is often thought of as what a doctor provides to a patient to alleviate an ailment, treatment in terms of medical malpractice can mean any number of things, including diagnosis, the application of anesthesia, and surgery.

North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

North Carolina malpractice law sets limits, known as the statute of limitations, on how long a patient has to file suit against a medical practitioner. In general, patients have either up to three years from the date of the treatment that caused the injuries or within one year of when the injury was or should have been discovered. However, a patient may not bring a claim more than four years after the date of the treatment that caused the injuries.

In cases where a foreign object is left within a patient, the patient has up to one year after the discovery of the foreign object or 10 years from the date the object was left inside the patient.

Because of these strict time limits on bringing claims, it is important for injured patients to look into hiring a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney as soon after injury is discovered as possible.

Damage Caps in North Carolina

If you file a North Carolina medical malpractice claim, you will seek a monetary award, known as damages. There are three types of damages that apply to these types of cases, and North Carolina medical malpractice law puts limits, or caps, on some of them.

The first type is known as compensatory damages. This is money to cover costs such as past, present, and future medical bills to treat the injury and lost wages. There is no limit on compensatory damages in North Carolina.

The next type of damages is non-economic damages. These compensate a patient for such things as pain and suffering. Once again, there are no statutory limits on how much a court can award an injured patient for non-economic damages in North Carolina.

Finally, there are punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish a healthcare professional for egregiously reckless actions, such as causing injury with an intent to harm. In North Carolina, patients may only seek up to three times compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater, for punitive damages.

If you have any additional questions about the North Carolina medical malpractice claims process, contact a North Carolina medical malpractice lawyer.