Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, hospitals, or nursing homes, fail to provide a standard of care treatment towards the patient. The standard of care is defined as the proper approach for a specific medical situation that is generally accepted by medical professionals. Generally speaking, a patient may be entitled to compensation under medical malpractice if he/she can prove that the healthcare provider was negligent.

In North Carolina, there are four steps that the plaintiff must prove in court to help them succeed in a medical malpractice claim. First, the plaintiff needs to show that the medical provider breached the standard of care for a given treatment. The court will likely use expert testimony to identify the proper medical standards used to treat a specific medical issue to see how far the medical provider deviated from the typical treatment. After establishing the standard of care, the plaintiff must show that the medical provider did not simply make an error, but was negligent, or acted careless enough to directly cause the injury. Third, the injured party needs to prove that the medical malpractice was a cause for the injury. This can be supported by witnesses or stories about the treatment and its effects. Finally, the plaintiff should determine what type of damage was caused by the medical malpractice. Compensatory damages include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or non-economic damages, such as pain or anxiety. While North Carolina does not limit recovery in most compensatory damages, there is a $500,000 cap on compensation for non-economic damages. In addition, there are punitive damages, or those intended to punish the defendant for severe negligence or malice behavior.

Victims of medical malpractice in North Carolina have up to three years from the date of the medical treatment that caused the injury, or one year from which the injury was discovered, to file a lawsuit. Cases are generally expert driven, meaning both parties will use medical experts to determine if there was a breach of standard of care. As a result, cases can be extremely long and expensive, especially because it can take months for an individual to realize that they have been a victim of malpractice. However, medical malpractice is common and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). To lessen the likelihood of experiencing medical malpractice, it is important that patients be proactive about their health by researching both their condition and medical provider as well as ask many questions.

This post only provides a brief overview of medical practice claims in North Carolina. Because of the complicated nature of this body of law and the many technicalities associated with it, it is best to reach out to an attorney after a potential medical malpractice case as soon as possible.