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What is Considered Medical Malpractice in North Carolina?

heart monitoring machine in the foreground, surgeons in the background

Protecting the physical health of yourself and your loved ones is essential. That’s why medical professionals spend years training and undergoing rigorous testing to ensure they are qualified. Doctors, nurses, specialists, and others in the field are enormously responsible to the patient. Delivering quality care is their goal. However, medical mistakes do happen. When they do, a qualified personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a case for medical malpractice in North Carolina.

Types of Medical Errors

Unfortunately, there are many ways a medical professional can fail a patient. Among the most common claims are:

  • Misdiagnosis – Misdiagnosing an illness can be fatal. Even delaying the diagnosis of a severe injury can harm the body irreparably. Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include heart attack, stroke, cancer, and other organ injuries during surgery. Medical professionals must take patient concerns seriously and thoroughly assess their complaints.
  • Medication Errors – These mistakes occur when a healthcare professional or facility administers the wrong medication or dosage, prescribes the wrong dose, fails to warn the patient about side effects, or fails to take a patient’s history into account.
  • Childbirth Injuries – Injuries to the baby and mother are all too frequent. Whether a delayed diagnosis of life-threatening illnesses or improper care of the mother, childbirth injuries are a traumatic experience.
  • Surgical Errors – Common surgical mistakes include injuries to nearby organs, infections, bleeding, and retained medical instruments. However, surgical errors are not restricted to injuries sustained during the operation. Pre-operative and post-operative care is crucial to the patient’s ultimate recovery from illness and surgery.

When Medical Errors are Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice is professional negligence by a health care provider in which the treatment falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient. Medical malpractice may include misdiagnosis, improper treatment, failure to diagnose or treat an illness or injury, or unreasonable delay in providing treatment. To determine whether an error is legally considered malpractice, you should seek experienced legal direction from a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney. Here a few preliminary things to consider when determining your own eligibility.

Establishing Accountability

Doctors, nurses, or other hospital employees may be held accountable for medical errors. Sometimes, the responsibility goes far beyond those directly involved in patient care. Hospital negligence is sometimes a root cause of the individual’s mistake; in those instances, the hospital itself can be liable.

Evidence of Malpractice

Medical errors in and of themselves don’t immediately qualify as malpractice. North Carolina has two laws addressing the type and amount of evidence required for a malpractice case.

First, the injured party must employ at least one expert medical witness. This person must review the patient’s medical history and testify that their medical care fell below the accepted standard of care. Second, the injured party must prove “by the greater weight of the evidence” that the medical staff failed to meet a required standard of care. This involves providing enough proof that the person’s injuries were more likely than not the result of the care received.

Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In North Carolina, a patient has three years from the date of injury to file a claim. If the error was not immediately discovered, a patient has only one year after the discovery. For that reason, it’s important that when you have a medical error, you seek counsel immediately to ensure your case isn’t denied.


Damages in a medical malpractice case refer to the compensation for your injuries. Because medical errors can lead to a costly recovery, a patient may recover economic damages such as past and future medical treatment and reimbursement for lost income or future earnings.

Non-economic Damages

North Carolina does not place a limit on the economic damages mentioned above. However, the state sets a cap on the non-economic damages at $500,000 and adjusts that total for inflation every third year. As of 2020, the cap is $562,338.

Representation for Medical Errors in North Carolina

Medical malpractice cases are incredibly complex and challenging. First, a patient must determine whether their injuries result from medical errors and then whether a legal case exists. Therefore, it’s crucial that you seek legal consultation as soon as you recognize a possible injury resulting from medical care. Maginnis Howard offers free personal injury consultations and can help you determine whether the medical errors you sustained are grounds for malpractice and how to move forward.

Contact our office at (919) 526-0450 or send a confidential message through our contact page.