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Medical Malpractice

Have you been injured by medical malpractice? Contact an attorney immediately.

Being hurt by those responsible for healing is tough, but it does happen. Hold them accountable.

Have you been injured by medical malpractice? Contact an attorney immediately.

Being hurt by those responsible for healing is tough, but it does happen. Hold them accountable.

PERSONAL INJURY OVERVIEW
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This page refers to Medical Malpractice law in North Carolina.

Since laws differ between states, if you are located in South Carolina, please click here.

North Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyers

A doctor prescribes a medication or device without properly informing the patient of potential risks. A nurse accidentally administers the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage of the correct medication. Cosmetic surgery turns to disfigurement – or worse. Medical instruments were left in the body of a patient after a surgery. A surgeon operated on the wrong body part or the wrong patient.

These are all examples of medical malpractice. According to a study from 2016, medical malpractice is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. So, how you can recover damages from a medical professional’s mistake in North Carolina?

Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

An attorney is your best resource for answering this question, but you can get a good idea by following the standard set by North Carolina law. In general, according to the state, medical malpractice means a healthcare professional has not met the following three-part standard of care:

  1. Must possess the degree of professional learning, skill, and ability which others similarly situated ordinarily possess
  2. Must exercise reasonable care and diligence in the application of knowledge and skill to the patient’s case
  3. Must use best judgment in the treatment and care of the patient

In layman’s terms, medical professionals must be qualified for the position and responsibilities they’re assuming. That means the degrees and certifications that are commonly expected for the care they are providing. An anesthetist is not going to be qualified to perform surgery.

The “reasonable care and diligence” requirement applies to standard practices. If the standard or normal way to diagnose an illness calls for a standardized response such as the prescription of a certain medication or a diagnostic scan of some sort, these standards can reasonably be expected by a patient.

Best judgment generally means that the treating medical professional is expected to make treatment and care decisions in the patient’s best interests. An example of this could be making a decision about a treatment method or medication for a patient based on the interests of the doctor and not that of the patient.

If any of these criteria were violated, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice action.

What is a “medical malpractice action” in North Carolina?

This term refers to the lawsuit itself – the action taken against the defendant in a malpractice case. The technical definition, according to North Carolina law, is:

Medical malpractice action. – Either of the following:
a. A civil action for damages for personal injury or death arising out of the furnishing or failure to furnish professional services in the performance of medical, dental, or other health care by a health care provider.
b. A civil action against a hospital, a nursing home licensed under Chapter 131E of the General Statutes, or an adult care home licensed under Chapter 131D of the General Statutes for damages for personal injury or death, when the civil action (i) alleges a breach of administrative or corporate duties to the patient, including, but not limited to, allegations of negligent credentialing or negligent monitoring and supervision and (ii) arises from the same facts or circumstances as a claim under sub-subdivision a. of this subdivision. (1975, 2nd Sess., c. 977, s. 4; 1987, c. 859, s. 1; 1995, c. 509, s. 135.2(o); 2011-400, s. 5; 2017-131, s. 1.)

Common Areas of Mistakes and Potential Malpractice Liability

Anesthesia

  • Choosing the incorrect drug
  • Administering drugs that interact negatively with one another
  • Administering the wrong dosage of the drug
  • Giving a drug to an allergic patient
  • Failing to monitor vital signs
  • Failing to act upon changes in vital signs
  • Administering anesthesia too late
  • Failing to intubate
  • Failing to use machines correctly
  • Using faulty equipment
  • Shutting off the alarm on the pulse oximeter
  • Failing to inform the patient of instructions regarding the procedure

Birth Injury

Birth injury refers to any trauma sustained by a mother, or by an infant in the womb or during the birth process. Mishandling and miscommunication among the birthing team can potentially result in dozens of types of temporary or permanent injuries to both the mother and the child.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

  • Choosing the incorrect drug
  • Failing to thoroughly examine medical history
  • Failing to interpret tests correctly
  • Failing to listen to the patient
  • Failing to recognize symptoms
  • Ordering an improper test

Postoperative Negligence

After a surgery, medical professionals are responsible for monitoring patients for potential complications. This includes, but is not limited to, giving medications and treatment to prevent and treat infections, monitoring vital signs, and explaining post-operative care instructions.

A wide range of complications can occur after surgery if your surgical team did not fulfill its duty of care:

  • Blood clots or pulmonary embolism
  • Bacterial infections of the bloodstream or surgical site, including MRSA and Staph
  • Internal bleeding
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Organ perforation that went unnoticed
  • Peritonitis
  • Pneumonia or other respiratory infections
  • Sepsis
  • Tissue necrosis (death)
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Viral infections

Hospital and Emergency Room Errors

Any medical facility can be liable for injuries caused by negligent employees and other systemic problems within the facility. Some of these might include unreasonably long ER wait times, infections acquired from unsanitary instruments, or conditions or injuries resulting from improper protocol.

Other areas of liability include:

  • Administering drugs that interact negatively with one another
  • Failing to consult a specialist when appropriate
  • Failing to identify allergies to medications
  • Failing to inform patient of procedural instructions
  • Failing to intubate
  • Failing to monitor vital signs
  • Failing to order required tests
  • Failing to react to changes in vital signs
  • Failing to use machines correctly or using faulty machines
  • Ignoring a patient’s condition
  • Inaccurate diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Overdosing or under-dosing a medication
  • Patient neglect
  • Performing unnecessary surgeries
  • Unsanitary medical equipment

Pharmacy Errors

While a pharmacy has responsibility to dispense the prescribed medication and correct dosage, always check your medications to make sure. Many drugs have similar names, and when a busy pharmacist or technician is scrolling down the list of drugs to administer, it can be easy to accidentally check the wrong box. Mistakes can and often do happen in this manner.

You may also be compensated if you’re not asked about allergies, or whether you are taking other medications that could react with the one prescribed. If you are not given correct information on how and when to take a medication, severe health consequences can result and the pharmacy or pharmacist could potentially be held liable for damages.

Other Possible Sources of Malpractice Claims

  • Chiropractic
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Dentistry
  • Failure to follow advanced medical directives and living wills
  • Failure to properly read X-rays and other diagnostic tests
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology (OBGYN)
  • Orthopedics
  • Podiatry
  • Psychiatry

Is Medical Malpractice Common in North Carolina?

It’s as common as it is anywhere else – medical malpractice can happen anywhere, and there’s no real way to assess the rate at which it occurs. What we can measure, however, are the number of medical malpractice suits that are filed as compared to other states.

In 2015, the last year for we have statistics, there were ten medical malpractice lawsuits filed for every 100,000 North Carolina residents. That rate of filing trails only Hawaii. North Carolina is 49th out of 50 states in number of suits filed.

So, why is that number so low? North Carolina’s low case numbers could be the result of how intimidating the process seems, or that people simply do not know they have grounds for a suit. Malpractice suits are, generally, more likely to go to trial, and North Carolina law requires a number of things that can make it difficult for plaintiffs – none of which should discourage you from filing suit if you’ve been injured by malpractice.

How Do I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in North Carolina?

To file a medical malpractice claim, contact a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney. The laws governing these cases are complicated and nuanced, and those same laws can make it difficult to pursue a case without experienced legal assistance.

Because of North Carolina law, there are a few things that could affect your medical malpractice lawsuit. You should never hesitate to contact an attorney about your case or proceed with a claim. This information is merely intended to give you an understanding of the laws your attorney is dealing with:

  1. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is three years from the date of injury. This is the same as the state’s general statute of limitations in cases of negligence.
  2. In 2011, the state passed a law capping the amount of certain noneconomic damages a patient could receive at $500,000. There is a great deal more detail to this cap and what it actually limits, so you should consult an attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases about how it may or may not affect your particular case.
  3. According to law, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case has a high burden of proof, including having medical expert review their claim and be available to testify to its validity. This naturally makes malpractice cases more expensive to pursue, though that should not discourage anyone with a valid claim.

It’s probably becoming clearer why North Carolina residents file the second fewest medical malpractice lawsuits in the country. We’re here to tell you: do not give up.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Medical Malpractice?

Medical professionals, facilities, and even companies can be held liable if their negligence can be proven to be “proximate cause” for an injury. The key here, as with any civil lawsuit, is that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff – the person who was injured – to prove “proximate cause.”

Proximate Cause

In medical malpractice cases, the patient’s negative outcome must be proven to have been avoidable “but for” the negligence of the care provider. If the harm or injury to the patient would have occurred regardless of the actions of the medical professional, there is no valid claim.

This definition is deceiving, however. The state may establish a threshold that must be reached to prove proximate cause, which moves the goalposts for plaintiffs depending on the circumstances of a case. What percentage of other medical professionals with the same qualifications would have made the same decision? Did the patient’s probability for a positive outcome change significantly due to a misdiagnosis or mistake?

There are so many variables at play, and the details of every case vary so greatly, that it’s nearly impossible to extract an accurate example without knowing all the facts.

Are There People Who Are Immune to Malpractice Lawsuits?

Yes. According to North Carolina law, there are certain circumstances under which a medical professional or caregiver cannot be sued for medical malpractice, or under which their liability is limited.

  • Someone who renders “first aid” when it is reasonable to believe that the lack of or delay in rendering aid would seriously worsen the patient’s condition
  • Emergency treatment administered with an automated external defibrillator or epinephrine auto-injector
  • Volunteer medical professionals receiving no compensation for services, unless the injury or death caused was due to gross negligence
  • Medical directors of nursing homes, unless patients were un their direct care or they were negligent in their supervision of those providing care

These exceptions are paraphrased from the law, which is more specific.

How Much Can I Get From My Medical Malpractice Case?

The amount you can receive if your case is successful depends on a number of factors that will depend on the details of your particular case. Here are the things for which you can receive compensation:

  • Lost income – An inability to work due to your injury means you’re losing the income you need to pay your bills. The amount awarded will likely be calculated, though no specific cap is set.
  • Medical costs to repair current and future damages – Medical costs can be high, and adding procedures to undo or repair the harm done to you could be astoundingly high. This award will seek to cover those costs.
  • Disfigurement – In some cases, the injury may permanently disfigure or disable you, and you may be compensated for that injury.
  • Pain and suffering and mental anguish – These are what are known as “non-economic” damages, and are capped by state law at $500,000 with a few exceptions. Even if a jury awards more, the judge will reduce this part of your award to $500,000.
  • Loss of consortium – This is the loss of your family relationship due to injuries you suffered due to someone else’s fault. This can include affection, sexual relations and/or ability to share in household activities. Awards here vary.
  • Punitive damages – In some cases, a jury may award an amount to a plaintiff to punish a defendant for wrongdoing. These awards are subject to some oversight, and may or may not apply to your particular case.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Free Case Evaluation

Medical malpractice can result in significant pain, disability, and even death. If you or someone you love has suffered from due to malpractice, fight back. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078, contact us online, or chat with us now.