Does North Carolina limit damages in a medical malpractice case?
Yes. Like a lot of states,
North Carolina places a limit or “cap” on the amount of compensation that is available
to a plaintiff who has been successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In other words, the jury finds the defendant liable
for malpractice, and awards the plaintiff a certain amount of damages, but (fair
or not) this law kicks in to limit the actual amount that the plaintiff can receive.
In 2001, North Carolina passed a law capping non-economic damages
at $500,000 in medical malpractice
cases. Non-economic damages include compensation for things like pain and
suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life that result
from the defendant’s medical malpractice. Non-economic damages are often
described as more “subjective” because they tend to vary from plaintiff to plaintiff.
Beginning in 2014, North Carolina’s $500,000 cap will be adjusted upward for
inflation every year.
You can see the full text of this law at N.C. General Statutes section 90-21.19.
One important exception to North Carolina’s medical malpractice
damages cap: The law will not apply at all in cases where the injured patient
suffered certain kinds of disfiguring or permanent injury AND the defendant's
malpractice arose from recklessness, malice, an intentional act, or gross
negligence. Where those criteria are met in a medical malpractice case, all damages
It’s important to remember that compensation for losses like past
and future medical bills, lost income, lost earning capacity, and other
economic damages are not subject to any sort of cap in a North Carolina medical
malpractice case. Learn more about medical malpractice damages.
by: David Goguen, J.D.