Does My Case Meet The North Carolina Medical Malpractice Elements?
If you sustained an injury due to a healthcare provider’s negligence, you may be considering a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When you visit a healthcare provider, you expect they will take care of you.
Whether you are having surgery or just visiting your doctor because you aren’t feeling well, you never expect you’ll end up seriously injured.
Medical malpractice lawsuits, like all personal injury cases, require the plaintiff to provide proof. All personal injury cases involve the premise that the defendant (the party that caused harm) acted negligently. Because of the defendant’s negligent actions, the plaintiff sustained an injury.
In medical malpractice cases, the defendant is the healthcare provider. When a medical professional does not adhere to the standard duty of care they owe their patients, and because of that, they injure their patients, there may be a claim for medical malpractice.
There are certain North Carolina medical malpractice elements the plaintiff must show to be successful. If you wish to bring a lawsuit against your healthcare provider, this article will help you assess if you have a strong medical malpractice case.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can take many forms. Patients suing for medical malpractice commonly experience one of the following:
- Receiving an incorrect diagnosis or not receiving a diagnosis that they needed
- Having a healthcare provider misread or not read their laboratory results
- Getting prescribed the incorrect dosage of their medication or getting the wrong medication
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- A healthcare provider’s negligence during childbirth
It’s important to understand that not all medical injuries amount to malpractice. Additionally, just because a patient may not like a diagnosis or result does not mean that the healthcare provider committed malpractice.
For a patient injury to rise to the level of medical malpractice, the patient must be able to show certain elements.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Elements
There are four elements that a plaintiff must show in court to succeed on a medical malpractice claim. Even if the case does not proceed to litigation, the plaintiff must be certain of these four elements before sending a demand letter to their healthcare provider:
1. The healthcare provider owed you, as a patient, a duty of care.
All medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care. If the case were to proceed to trial, the plaintiff’s side would bring in other medical experts to talk about the duty of care that the defendant owed the plaintiff.
Usually, these medical experts would talk about how a competent doctor would treat a patient that had the same disorder in the same age bracket, with a similar history.
2. The healthcare provider did not meet that duty of care.
Here, you, as the plaintiff, would need to explain how your healthcare provider didn’t meet the duty of care they owed you. This involves more than just showing that the medical professional made an error. You must show that they were negligent.
3. Because the healthcare provider failed to meet their duty of care, you sustained injuries.
Your injury must be due to the medical professional’s malpractice. In other words, you must be able to show that if it weren’t for the medical professional’s actions (or inaction), you would not have sustained the injuries that you did.
4. You can show damages.
For the final element of medical malpractice, you must show that you were damaged by the injuries you sustained. The damages could be physical, financial, or emotional.
If you can prove the North Carolina medical malpractice elements, you may be able to receive monetary damages. In North Carolina, there are three types of damages available:
1. Economic Damages
Economic damages are those that will cover you for the expenses you’ve faced due to your injury. They include compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
2. Non-economic Damages
Non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other mental and emotional injuries. In North Carolina, there is a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The cap is $500,000 unless two specific conditions are present:
- The health care provider was grossly negligent, reckless, malicious, or acted intentionally; and
- The plaintiff suffered disfigurement, permanent injury, death, or loss of use of part of their body.
In practice, these two elements together are hard to prove, so generally, the court won’t lift the cap on non-economic damages.
3. Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are meant to punish the healthcare provider for acting in a grossly negligent, reckless, intentional, or malicious way. There is also a cap on punitive damages. It is the greater of three times the combined amount of economic and non-economic damages, or $250,000.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice in North Carolina is three years from the date of the malpractice or one year from the date the injury was discovered or should have been discovered.
Contact Us Today
If you think you may have a claim, it’s important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away. It will take time to gather evidence, such as medical records.
Not only that but proving medical malpractice can be complicated, so it’s best to have a skilled attorney on your side.
If you’ve been injured as a result of a healthcare provider’s malpractice, contact Dawson & Albritton, P.A. We offer free consultations, so we can sit down and talk about how to pursue your potential claim.