Does North Carolina Have Caps on Damages?

If you wish to file a personal injury case in North Carolina, what can you expect in terms of compensation? Will you be able to receive an unlimited amount of money for your damages? Like many states, North Carolina has limits to what you can receive for certain personal injury claims.

What the Law Says

According to Code of North Carolina § 90-21.19(A):

Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, in any medical malpractice action in which the plaintiff is entitled to an award of noneconomic damages, the total amount of noneconomic damages for which judgment is entered against all defendants shall not exceed five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). Judgment shall not be entered against any defendant for noneconomic damages in excess of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for all claims brought by all parties arising out of the same professional services. On January 1 of every third year, beginning with January 1, 2014, the Office of State Budget and Management shall reset the limitation on damages for noneconomic loss set forth in this subsection to be equal to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) times the ratio of the Consumer Price Index for November of the prior year to the Consumer Price Index for November 2011. The Office of State Budget and Management shall inform the Revisor of Statutes of the reset limitation. The Revisor of Statutes shall publish this reset limitation as an editor's note to this section. In the event that any verdict or award of noneconomic damages stated pursuant to G.S. 90-21.19B exceeds these limits, the court shall modify the judgment as necessary to conform to the requirements of this subsection.

This means that if you file a medical malpractice suit, you can recover the full amount of your economic damages (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages). For example, if your medical bills are $2 million and you suffer $200,000 in lost wages, you can recoup this amount. However, there is a cap on non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional damages, disfigurement and other non-monetary losses. 

Up until 2014, non-economic damages were capped at $500,000 in North Carolina. Every third year, this amount increases based on inflation. This means that the amount is equal to $500,000 multiplied by the Consumer Price Index. So the amount goes up in 2017, 2020, 2023 and every three years after.

It’s important to understand that this cap does not apply to injuries stemming from situations other than medical malpractice.

In addition to medical malpractice cases, there is a cap on punitive damages. Under North Carolina law, punitive damages are limited to three times the amount of economic damages or $250,000, whichever is greater. This law is rarely used, however, since punitive damages are rarely awarded.

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident in North Carolina, the best course of action to determine your recoverable damages is to speak to an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney.