North Carolina Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When you or a loved one is injured in an accident, no one hands you a pamphlet containing all of the information you need to understand your case. In this section we strive to answer the basic questions that everyone has in the time following a car accident, on-the-job injury, medical malpractice, abuse, or other accident.
If you don't find the answers to all of your North Carolina injury questions here, we encourage you to contact our Raleigh injury lawyers for answers to questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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What is Tort, and What is the Cap for Tort Damages in NC?
First and foremost, in order to understand the role a medical malpractice plays in tort law, you must know the definition of tort. Tort is defined by Medical Malpractice Tort Reform "as a civil wrong which causes an injury, for which a victim may seek damages, typically in the form of money damages, against the alleged wrongdoer." This means tort occurs when non-economic damages have taken place on someone during surgery, an examination, etc.
A few examples of tort:
- having the wrong body part removed during surgery (which has happened) or
- having a doctor's surgical tool left inside of your body after surgery (which has also happened).
Currently, the cap for tort compensation in North Carolina is $500,000.
Why Do Lawyers Reject Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are several reasons a lawyer may not pursue a medical malpractice case. State law may require the attorney to receive a medical expert opinion explaining that a medical malpractice has taken place, but the attorney cannot find a qualified second opinion. The attorney may find the cost of the case would come close or barely exceed the value of the case. Obtaining the necessary testimony to win the case is often expensive, especially if the case is taken to trial. Insurance companies are less likely to settle these days, according to Lawyers.com. Many lawyers do not find "economically feasible" cases.
How Can I Avoid a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Although some medical malpractice cases are unavoidable; however, there are ways you can help yourself from receiving one. According to a study conducted by RAND, by the age of 45, 36 percent of low-risk specialty physicians, and 88 percent of high-risk physicians are likely to have one medical malpractice claim against them.
So here are three tips on how to avoid filing a medical malpractice claim:
1. Healthy Doctor-Patient Relationship
This means you and your doctor must communicate. Electric Medical Certification.com states the largest cause of medical malpractice cases occurs because of a lack of communication. Listen to your patient and ask them questions.
Dealing with a lawyer in a medical malpractice case is stressful. And at the end of the day, it's not the lawyer who is suing you, it's the patient. So as soon as your patient walks through the door work on creating a healthy bond with them so they will feel listened to and trust you. Make sure, to be honest with them at all times to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit.
2. Have Proper Documentation
Healthy relationships, paired with communication are important, but you must have keeping documentation is just as important. Keeping a record of events might come in handy if you ever need to recount a scenario. Documenting events is not something doctors are unfamiliar with; however, there are ways they can drastically improve their record keeping:
- Write legibly
- Include the date and time of all notes
- Sign every entry
- Identify the people
- Keep note of advice given, decisions, patient's related issues, and instructions
- If you are not sure as to whether or not you should document something, document it.
3. Inform Your Patient of Expectations of Treatment
Make every treatment option and ALL the potential outcomes of each known to your patient. Explain why you plan to assess their situation in the way you want to assess it. Unrealistic expectations held on the patient's end can leave them feeling as if you failed them. Clear and honest--even being brutally honesty--is always the best way to address your patient's health issues.
What is the Difference Between PPO and HMO?
A PPO plan offers a network of providers, but you are not restrained to only seeing those providers. However, seeing a network provider may result in a lower co-pay.
- You can see any doctor or specialist you want.
- Your hospital bills outside of your network will be covered.
- Premiums are usually higher than those of HMO plans.
An HMO plan allows you to see doctors and hospitals within their network. Your medical bills are only covered if you see doctors or specialists within the network. There are several restrictions to an HMO plan "such as allowing only a certain number of visits, tests, or treatments."
- With certain HMO plans, you will need to see a primary care physician (PCP) when determining your next step in treatment.
- You will need a PCP referral to obtain coverage when visiting a specialist or when receiving a special test.
- You will not receive coverage for medical visits outside your network.
- Premiums are typically lower for HMO plans vs. PPO plans.
How Will a Jury Determine if a Doctor Was Negligent?
For medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses are called to testify. An expert witness is a doctor, chiropractor, nurse, or other specialty doctors that are in the same practice as your doctor. They explain to the jury how your doctor was negligent. Their testimony weighs heavily on your case. An expert witness is incredibly expensive.
I Think My Doctor Was Negligent, How Can I be Sure?
Certain medical malpractice cases are not black and white. You will need an expert opinion to know for sure if you have a medical malpractice case. You might not be aware of your injury until several months after your surgery or treatment.
Brent Adams and his team of lawyers would be happy to consult your projected case with you. He and his team of experts could explain what action you could possibly take. To schedule a free consultation, call 877-273-6823 or click here. There is no obligation.
What is the Purpose of a Certificate of Merit?
A "certificate of merit" is a medical malpractice form many plaintiffs must file before they can proceed with their case. To file a certificate the plaintiff must have an expert witness review their medical records to see if the plaintiff's injuries were caused because of negligence. After this, the plaintiff's attorney files a certificate of merit as confirmation that the attorney has consulted with a medical expert. The plaintiff's case is granted merit.
What is a "Preponderance of Evidence?"
A "preponderance of evidence" means the defendant is "more probable than not" the reason for the injury. The plaintiff only has to prove the defendant is over 50% guilty of negligence. This is what any plaintiff must prove in a civil case. In criminal cases, the plaintiff must prove the defendant is 100% guilty or "beyond a reasonable doubt."
In order to win a medical malpractice case, a "preponderance of evidence" is the level of proof that must be shown to the court. The plaintiff must prove by a "preponderance of evidence" the defendant was negligent and provided poor health services to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must further show they obtained an injury as a result of the negligent care.
Can I Sue the Hospital?
It is not likely that you can sue the hospital. Hospitals are not typically responsible for a doctor's mistake if the doctor is not a direct employee of the hospital. A majority of doctors are independent contractors, not employees of the hospital. This makes suing the hospital nearly impossible. You would have to sue the doctor directly if they are an independent contractor. However, there are exceptions to this rule, which are as follows:
- Hospitals are responsible for a contracted doctor's malpractice if the hospital does not inform you that your doctor is not an employee. This information is usually provided in admission forms.
- A hospital may be responsible for an Emergency Room's malpractice due to the fact several Emergency Room patients are not conscious, so they cannot be informed about their doctor's employee status.
If I Am Misdiagnosed, Do I Have a Case?
No, you do not necessarily have a case. Depending on the information available to your doctor at the time you were diagnosed and the steps he or she took will determine whether or not you have a case. This information must be "weighed against the applicable medical standard of care." If you received low-level care compared to another medical professional in the same practice, you may have a case. If your misdiagnoses came from a poor standard of care resulting in an injury, you will have to prove this in order to make a worthy claim.
What is the Purpose of Informed Consent?
A doctor is required to have a conversation with you before performing a procedure or giving you treatment. Your doctor should give you knowledge about the possible outcomes, potential negative consequences, side effects, and complications. This conversation is called "informed consent." If your doctor did not have this conversation with you, you could obtain an injury from a surgery or form of treatment. Informed consent is not necessary for emergency situations when an unconscious patient needs urgent care.
Can I Reopen My Medical Malpractice Case After it Has been Settled?
No, you cannot reopen your case once you have received some type of settlement. The same rule is applied to lawsuits. Once your case is over, you will sign a release which prohibits you from taking any more legal action. It is vital for you to understand the extent of your injuries and losses before you make a settlement. You will not receive more compensation after the settlement has been completed.
What Constitutes a Medical Malpractice?
A medical malpractice happens when a patient is injured due to the negligence of a medical professional. A medical malpractice case can only be won if you show that a doctor was negligent. Here are three ways you can determine if you have become victim to a medical malpractice:
- If the doctor failed to diagnose you or misdiagnosed your condition, this may constitute a medical malpractice case.
- If the doctor did not follow a proper procedure, you may have a case.
- If you were not warned of the risks involved with a prescription or procedure, you may have a medical malpractice case.
Other components must also be taken into consideration when determing if you have a medical malpractice such as:
- The prior doctor-patient relationship
- Damages incurred due to the injury
What Are the Damage Caps in NC?
North Carolina does place a limit on the amount you can receive as compensation for a medical malpractice.
A law in 2001 set the cap for non-economic damages at $500,000 for medical malpractice lawsuits. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of Companionship
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Non-economic damages vary depending on the case. In 2014, the cap began changing with inflation and it will continue to change each year.
The cap does not apply to parties who suffered from disfiguration, permanent injury due to the defendant's recklessness or gross negligence. If a case meets this criterion, there is no cap on the compensation that could be awarded.
An award for loss of income, medical bills, and other economic damages are also not restricted by a cap.
What is a Medical Malpractice?
Any negligent injury caused by the treatment you received from a doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, therapist, surgeon, or other medical practitioner is considered a medical malpractice. Failed treatment or diagnosis resulting in loss of income, long-term suffering, injuries, or death are also considered medical malpractices. If you believe you have experienced a medical malpractice, call 877-273-6823 or click here to send Brent Adams and his team of lawyers a message. The consultation is free, and there is no obligation to call.
If I Can Prove Negligence, Will I Win My Case?
Just because you can prove the other party was negligent does not mean you will win your medical malpractice case. You must prove that your damages were caused by the result from poor "standard of care." Damages can include medical bills, loss wages, pain and suffering, lasting injuries, or death.
What Damages Could I Have Compensated if I Win My Medical Malpractice Case?
If your medical malpractice resulted in an injury, you can receive a reward for your medical bills, wage loss (for the past and future), and compensation for your pain and suffering or disfiguration. Wrongful death cases can result in compensation for medical bills, loss of family members, and loss of companionship. These rewards go to the family of the deceased person.
How Do I Know if I've Experienced a Medical Malpractice?
If you have received a medical malpractice, most of the time, you will know. However, some cases are not black and white. Just because you received treatment from a doctor that did not go as well as predicted does not mean you have become a victim of a medical malpractice. If a doctor, nurse, chiropractor, or other medical professional did not follow a procedure correctly, resulting in an injury, this is a medical malpractice. A medical malpractice case can usually only be determined after talking with a lawyer. Brent Adams has been practicing law for over forty years. If you would like to schedule a free consultation to see if you have a claim, please call 877-273-6823 or click here. There is no obligation to call.
How Long Will My Medical Malpractice Case Last?
Each lawsuit is different. Some medical malpractice cases take up to 18 months to two years if it is not settled before suit. These are the variables that would affect the length of your case:
- the willingness of the insurance company to comply
- the willingness of the doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, or another medical professional to resolve the case
- the time it takes to properly determine your damages
When Should I Contact an Attorney?
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations in North Carolina is three years from the date of the accident. The longer you wait, the less serious your case will appear. Opposing lawyers could argue, "If the plantiff was so badly injured, why did they wait two years to file suit?" You will have a better chance at winning your case if you call directly after the incident.
If you believe you have suffered from a medical malpractice, call 877-273-6823 or click here. Brent Adams has been practicing law for over forty years. He and his team of lawyers are highly trained at assisting the injured. The initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation.