Medical Malpractice Law in North Carolina

Medical malpractice law in North Carolina imposes a three-year statute of limitations and full joint and several liability on tortfeasors, while stipulating that contributory negligence may bar recovery of damages completely.

Statutes of Limitations in North Carolina

In North Carolina, medical malpractice suits have to be brought within three years of the last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action, or within a year of the date when the injury was discovered (or should have been), but not more than four years from the date of the last act giving rise to the cause of the action.

Foreign object cases need to be brought within a year from the date of discovery, but within ten years of the date of occurrence. Medical malpractice cases resulting in wrongful death must be brought within two years of the death in question.

The same rules apply for malpractice actions on behalf of minors with the exception that the child's action (but not that of the parents) may also be brought any time before the child's nineteenth birthday.

 

North Carolina State Malpractice Laws at a Glance:

North Carolina State Tort Law
Statute of Limitations Three years from date of original injury or one year after injury is discovered but not longer than four years from injury.  In cases of foreign objects, one year from discovery but not longer than ten years from act.
Damage Award Limits Limit of punitive damages to greater of $250,000 or triple the economic damages.
Joint Defendant Liability Separation of joint and several liablity is recognized.
Expert Witness Must be licensed doctor and be qualified to testify regarding community care standards.
Attorney Fees No limits on attorneys fees

Contributory or Comparative Negligence in North Carolina

A claimant's contributory negligence bars recovery completely according to North Carolina medical malpractice law. Although the claimant cannot be found contributorily negligent for the behavior that caused him or her to require treatment in the first place, he or she may be found to be barring treatment by his or her acts or omissions.

Joint and Several Liability in North Carolina

Tortfeasors in North Carolina are subject to both joint and several liability. A joint tortfeasor against whom judgment is entered is liable for the entire amount of the judgment, regardless of the tortfeasor's share of fault.

No Vicarious Liability in North Carolina

North Carolina does not appear to follow the doctrine of apparent or ostensible agency in order to impose liability on hospitals for the negligent acts of their non-employee physicians.

Expert Testimony in North Carolina

Claimants must show expert testimony demonstrating a breach of the standard of care, except in cases where the negligence is obvious to a layman.

No Damage Caps in North Carolina

North Carolina does not generally limit the compensatory damages recoverable in medical malpractice actions. After January 1, 1996, punitive damages are limited the greater of three times compensatory damages or $250,000. Statutory Cap on Attorneys' Fees.

Arbitration

The General Assembly of the state has authorized a system of court-ordered mediated settlement for all types of cases. A court order and good cause are required to dispense with mediation altogether.

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