Legislation Would Limit Compensation on North Carolina Malpractice Claims, Leaving Victims to Pay Out-Of-Pocket

Slated to start in October, a reformed medical malpractice bill could discourage North Carolina lawyers from taking on those kinds of cases, says an article in the Star News.

Some think a drastic increase in malpractice filings could occur prior to the October start date. The reformed law puts a $500,000 limit on certain types of compensation that a person can be awarded.
Our personal injury lawyers in Gastonia think this law is completely unfair considering many long-term injuries exceed well over the capped amount when all is said and done. Though big business interests failed in passing caps on workers compensation, they succeeded in passing them on medical malpractice claims. Studies have shown less than 10 percent of the cost of medical care has anything to do with malpractice claims – or less than 1 year of increased premiums. Meanwhile, an estimated 100,000 people a year died due to medical error – three times more than die in car accidents.

Supporters of the bill say the changes will decrease the cost of medical insurance and boost the economy. There will be no limit on the amount paid for suffering and pain if two of the following conditions happen: disfigurement occurs, functioning of any part of the body is lost or is permanently damaged or if a person dies and actions of the defendant were negligent or reckless.

A representative for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, an organization of lawyers that help defend individual rights, said it is likely that lawyers will take on less medical malpractice cases. The malpractice bill was vetoed by Governor Beverly Perdue but policymakers later overrode the veto.

It is likely the bill will have legal confrontations on its constitutionality. Supreme Courts in Illinois and Georgia have already dismissed laws that put a cap on compensations. The same could happen in North Carolina, though it is not expected any time soon.

First, the case would have to be filed after October 1. A malpractice case can take as long as 2 years to go to trial. Then, a person would have to be awarded damages over the cap. Following that, the appeals process would start. Recently, a past Supreme Court Chief told policymakers he felt a law putting a cap on damages awarded by juries would be unconstitutional.

Several local attorneys are watching to see if there is a change in the amount of malpractice cases after the new law. North Carolina Advocates for Justice looked at statistics from 1998 to present day on the quantity of malpractice cases that have been filed.

Their research concluded that the amount of cases has decreased in recent years. Medical malpractice declined over 19 percent from 2008 to 2010. There were only 7 cases in New Hanover County since 1998 that had jury trials and only 2 of the cases were successful with damages awarded of $25,000 and $10,000.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Hickory, Asheville, Greensboro or the surrounding areas, contact the skilled attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965 today.

Additional Resources:

New N.C. malpractice law to cap certain damages, by Erin Zureick Dunn, Star News

Parents Weighing Options on Teen’s First Vehicle Can Reduce the Risk of Injury in Charlotte Car Accidents, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, August 5, 2011

Head Injuries a Serious Aftermath of Motorcycle Accidents in North Carolina, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, July 27, 2011

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