What are medical malpractice caps?

When a patient sues a medical provider for malpractice, he/she usually hopes to get money damages to compensate them for their injury.

There are generally two classes of damages: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refer to specific costs the patient incurred as a result of his/her injury, such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earnings, and miscellaneous out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, noneconomic damages refers to all the other types of damages, such as emotional distress, physical pain, and mental suffering.

The North Carolina Legislature on October 1, 2011 enacted legislation that severely restricts the rights of those injured by negligent health care providers in this state. The legislation will mean that many patients injured by negligent health care providers will no longer be permitted to recover all that they have lost.

For the first time in North Carolina history, the politicians in Raleigh are now able to overrule a jury of ordinary citizens. The legislation limits the amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered in medical malpractice cases to $500,000 regardless of the jury’s decision.

This means that the most that can be recovered for pain, suffering, permanent injury, scarring and disfigurement or even the death of a loved one is $500,000. The statute mandates The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to update the current limit on noneconomic damages of $500,000 to account for inflation. The statute requires the update to occur on January 1st of every third year beginning with January 1, 2014. The OSBM reset the limitation on damages for noneconomic losses related to medical malpractice to $533,409 as of January 1, 2017.


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