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North Carolina's New Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards Explained

In North Carolina (NC) victims of medical negligence now face limits on how much they obtain from physicians and other medical providers for damages, as new state laws took effect in October 2011, according to The Associated Press. The so-called "tort reform" resulted from intense lobbying by hospitals, doctors and insurance companies

Specifically, North Carolina monies award for noneconomic damages such as pain, suffering and losing lost body parts can be no higher than $500,000 unless certain exceptions apply. Punitive damage awards are also capped at the that amount.

Perhaps the myths that medical malpractice awards are excessive and raise health care costs led to this legislation. The reality is that caps result in further injuring people who have already been hurt by medical negligence that contributed to a medical mistake that is commonly preventable. Whatever their cause, medical mistakes cannot be undone and leave victims with lifetimes of consequences like permanent disability.

The lives of Individuals who survive serious medical malpractice or hospital errors or a death of a loved one are altered forever. For example, the firm once represented a child who suffered shoulder dystocia, a permanent arm injury during birth. A lawsuit was brought against a nurse-midwife who helped the child's mother at birth. A jury determined the nurse's negligent care caused the child's arm injury. This child might never play sports because of the negligent care provided at birth.

Some opponents of North Carolia's new law think it violates the constitutional right to a trial by jury in a civil case because it strips from juries the right to decide what a medical injury is worth to a victim or family. The new cap may also discourage attorneys from accepting cases because malpractice cases are difficult and expensive as these cases require paying medical expert witnesses to review the medical records and write narrative reports. 

If you or a loved one suffers an injury due to improper medical care in North Carolina, hold NC medical professionals accountable with the help of a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney.  

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