Expecting a child, and the birth of that child is an exciting time for parents. Unfortunately, things can go wrong during pregnancy and birth. It is estimated that 7 out of every 1,000 babies born each year will suffer a birth injury. Depending on the injury and circumstances surrounding the injury, there may be liability […]
North Carolina Law Firms: Knowing Your Rights in Medical Malpractice Cases
When you entrust your health to a medical professional, the last thing you expect is negligence that leads to additional complications. However, medical malpractice is a reality that can lead to ongoing complications or death for the patient. By hiring a North Carolina medical malpractice law firm, you can turn your case over to professionals who are experienced in navigating the complex medical malpractice landscape, ensuring that your rights are protected and you get the justice you deserve..
Understanding Medical Malpractice in North Carolina
Medical malpractice in North Carolina is defined by several key components. There are four key pillars to proving any medical malpractice claim. First, a duty of care must exist. This means you must show that a healthcare provider had a legal obligation to provide you with a certain standard of care. Second, there must have been a breach of this duty of care, meaning the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard that others in the profession would have reasonably provided. Third, the breach in care must directly result in injury to the patient. While this may seem straightforward, some may argue that a complication that the patient is experiencing is coincidental to the care they received from the healthcare professional. Lastly, there should be demonstrable damages, either physical, emotional, or financial, resulting from the injury.
Examples of medical malpractice include: a misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or medication mistakes. Understanding these elements helps when proceeding with a medical malpractice lawsuit in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, medical malpractice laws have a statute of limitations that mandates that a lawsuit must be filed within three years from the date of the injury or one year from the discovery of the injury, but not more than four years from the act of malpractice. While this seems like a lot of time, you may not immediately know that a mistake has been made that is causing you continuing issues. It can be very obvious - as an example, if a surgeon operates on your right knee instead of your left knee, you are going to realize that as soon as you wake up. But what if a piece of gauze or a tool is left behind in an internal procedure due to carelessness on the part of the operating team. This may start to cause you nonspecific problems after surgery that are attributed to normal recovery from a surgery. This may go on for some time, with doctors treating the symptoms with other medications or physical therapy until the situation gets bad enough that someone looks into the surgery procedure again to find and diagnose the real problem. At this point, perhaps months or years have gone by, you are still suffering symptoms and the last thing on your mind is trying to tackle the paperwork to file a case against the medical professionals. Speaking with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you can ensures that they have time to investigate the case, determine that there is enough evidence for a successful claim and file the necessary paperwork within the statute of limitations window.
It is important to note that North Carolina follows a strict contributory negligence rule. If you're found to be even slightly at fault, you may be barred from recovering damages. Contributory negligence refers to situations where the injured party may have contributed to their own harm or injury. It's a defense that can significantly impact or even completely bar a plaintiff's recovery in a medical malpractice claim.
As an example, suppose a patient is prescribed a certain medication by their doctor for a chronic condition. The doctor instructs the patient to take one pill a day and emphasizes that taking more could lead to severe side effects. Despite these instructions, the patient decides to take two pills per day, believing that a higher dose would expedite their recovery. As a result, the patient suffers severe side effects.
The patient then sues the doctor for medical malpractice, alleging that the doctor did not warn them of the potential harm. However, if the doctor can provide evidence (like pharmacy records and patient notes) showing that they had indeed clearly warned the patient about the risks of overdosing, then there is an increased chance that the case would be dismissed due to contributory negligence.
In this case, the patient's own negligence in failing to follow the doctor's instructions contributed to the harm they experienced. Thus, even if the patient could prove that the doctor was negligent in some way (for example, by not doing a thorough enough check on potential drug interactions), the doctrine of contributory negligence might still prevent the patient from recovering damages, depending on the jurisdiction.
While there is no cap on economic damages for things like medical bills and lost wages, the NC General Assembly determines the cap on non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) in medical malpractice cases. As of January 1, 2023, the cap was adjusted to $656,730 to account for inflation.
The Role of a North Carolina Law Firm in Medical Malpractice Cases
A North Carolina law firm can play a pivotal role in safeguarding your rights in a medical malpractice case. Attorneys at these firms are skilled in investigating the incident, gathering critical evidence, filing the claim on time, and navigating the nuances of local laws and court systems. They know how to obtain records, who the local experts are in cases like yours and are able to efficiently gather this information to put together a case that shows that the healthcare professional’s actions did lead to the patient’s injuries.
Choosing the right law firm can make a significant difference in your case. Look for a North Carolina law firm that has experience in medical malpractice and has a strong track record of success in local courts. A reputable firm should have a team of skilled attorneys, medical consultants, and experts that collaborate to build a robust case.
For instance, Rosensteel Fleishman Car Accident & Injury Lawyers had a client who was being transported for non-emergency medical treatment. After arriving at the location the client was injured when he fell out of the transport. There was disagreement about whether the client failed to use proper care and caused himself to fall and the case was denied. The case was originally handled by another law firm. Our office took over the handling of the claim. Shortly after becoming involved we resolved the case for $500,000.
Taking time to be sure that you are hiring a reputable and effective medical malpractice law firm can mean the difference in whether you can reach a settlement on compensation for your injuries or a loved one’s death in a timely manner or being frustrated and disappointed and possibly having to start the entire process over again with another firm or even wore, settling for less than you deserve with no way to continue with your claim. Not all attorneys have the same approach or level of experience to help medical malpractice victims who are suffering through their injuries. Call us today at: 1-704-714-1450 for a free consultation about your case. Let our team help you cut through the confusion and fight for your rights to get you the compensation and closure that you deserve.
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