North Carolina has several laws governing various aspects of medical malpractice claims, from who to sue to how to establish liability to the amount of compensation you can recover.
Our experienced Charlotte medical malpractice attorneys have detailed knowledge of these statutes and how they apply to your claim. There are several things you need to know about North Carolina medical malpractice laws:
WHO DO I FILE A CLAIM AGAINST?
Every medical malpractice claim is filed against a health care provider. North Carolina General Statutes § 90-21.11(1) defines a health care provider as:
- An individual licensed to practice duties associated with medical specialties such as medicine, surgery, dentistry, radiology, nursing, anesthesiology, pathology, psychiatry or psychology, among others
- A hospital or nursing home licensed under Chapter 131E of General Statutes
- Anyone acting under the direction or supervision of a hospital or individual licensed to provide health care
TYPES OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ACTIONS
General Statutes Section § 90-21.11(2) outlines two types of medical negligence claims for recovering damages for personal injury or death.
The first is an action against a health care provider for failing to provide necessary health care or providing substandard care.
In these types of claims, courts and juries will not hold the defendant liable unless you show by the greater weight of evidence that the defendant did not uphold the standard of health care.
The standard of health care requires health care providers to provide professional services that meet the standards of practice among other health care professionals in the same field with similar training and experience. The standard of care also requires health care professionals to provide care similar to what would have been provided by a health care professional in the same or similar community under the same or similar circumstances.
North Carolina also allows civil actions against hospitals, nursing homes or adult care homes over:
- Breaches of administrative or corporate duties, including negligent monitoring or supervision or employing staff members who do not have the proper credentials
- Providing substandard care or failing to provide the health care services the victim needed to avoid injury or death
In these types of claims, you also have to prove that the facility or health care professional did not uphold the standard of care.
No matter what type of medical malpractice lawsuit you file, you will probably need testimony from a medical expert to establish the standard of care and explain how it was violated.
Under Rule 702 of North Carolina General Statutes, no one can give expert testimony on the appropriate standard of care unless he or she is a licensed health care provider in the state and meets the following criteria:
If you are filing a medical malpractice action against a specialist, the medical expert you choose must satisfy one of these conditions:
- Work in the same specialty as the party your action is against
- Work in a specialty that includes the performance of the procedure that is the subject of the complaint and have prior experience treating patients
There is another requirement concerning the expert’s professional activities in the year preceding the date of the alleged malpractice. In that time, the expert had to have devoted his time to one or both of the following:
- Clinical practice in the same health profession as the party accused of malpractice
- Instructing students at an accredited health professional school, residency or clinical research program in the same health profession as the defendant
CLAIMS AGAINST NURSES AND ASSISTANTS
Medical experts can testify on the standards of care for different types of nurses and assistants if they have knowledge of these standards of care through clinical practice or instruction of students. An expert who meets these qualifications can testify to the standard of care for:
- Nurse practitioners
- Certified registered nurse anesthetists
- Certified registered nurse midwives
- Physician assistants
CLAIMS AGAINST MEDICAL FACILITIES
In a claim against a hospital or other health care facility, an individual cannot give expert testimony about the standard of care on nonclinical issues unless he or she has substantial knowledge of the standard of care through training or experience.
EXPERT WITNESSES WHO DO NOT MEET REQUIREMENTS
In some cases, courts will allow expert testimony from individuals who do not satisfy requirements for expert witnesses. However, the plaintiff has to prove that there are extraordinary circumstances and the person must be allowed to testify as an expert to have a chance of achieving justice.
CAP ON NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES
The purpose of a medical malpractice lawsuit is to recover fair compensation for the damages caused by a medical professional’s failure to uphold the appropriate standard of care.
Some damages have a defined economic value, such as medical expenses or lost wages. This means that you can determine exactly how much you had to spend on medical bills and how much money you lost from missed time at work.
There are other damages that do not have a defined economic value, such as the physical pain and emotional suffering caused by your injuries. These are called non-economic damages.
While North Carolina does not limit economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, it places a cap on all forms of non-economic compensation.
Plaintiffs cannot recover more than $500,000 in combined non-economic compensation from all of the defendants, according to General Statutes Section § 90-21.19.
There are only two exceptions where non-economic compensation is unlimited:
- The plaintiff was killed, permanently injured or suffered disfigurement or the loss of use of a body part
- There was a reckless disregard for the rights of others, gross negligence or fraud that was intentional or with malice
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Every type of civil action is governed by a statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to file a claim. If you do not file a claim before the statute expires, you will be prohibited from doing so.
North Carolina’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is three years from the date of the alleged malpractice.
However, there are a few exceptions to the three-year deadline:
- Claims must be filed within one year of a discovering an injury if you could not have discovered the injury when it occurred through the exercise of reasonable care.
- Claims cannot be filed more than four years from the date of the alleged malpractice, regardless of when you discovered an injury or realized you had the basis for legal action.
- Claims involving foreign objects left in the body must be filed within one year of discovering the foreign object. However, these types of lawsuits cannot be filed more than 10 years from the date of the alleged malpractice.
EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS READY TO TAKE ON YOUR CLAIM
The Nye Law Group’s experienced lawyers have represented many victims of medical malpractice. We are prepared to investigate your claim and build a robust case to help prove medical malpractice so you have a chance to achieve justice and recover the compensation you deserve.
We offer a free, no obligation consultation and do not charge legal fees unless we are successful.
Contact the firm today by calling 855-856-4212 or completing a Free Case Evaluation form.