Medical Malpractice FAQs

Each year millions of Americans entrust their lives to medical professionals. A National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey estimated that more than 129.8 million Americans visited the emergency room for medical assistance in 2010. Unfortunately, to err is human, and each year thousands of individuals are harmed due to medical mistakes. From misdiagnosing cancer to prescription errors, when a medical professional fails to adequately take care of their patients, it is often considered medical malpractice.

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Medical Malpractice

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is defined as negligence by a healthcare provider or professional in which substandard treatment was provided, leading to harm, injury or death.

What is the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice claim?

In North Carolina the statute of limitations states that a claim must be brought forth within three years of the time when the injury was discovered, or reasonably should have been. In cases causing death, the period is 2 years. Exceptions exists which could extend the time limitation period so contact an experienced attorney if you have any questions.

How is medical malpractice proven?

Two of the most important factors in proving medical malpractice are demonstrating that the medical professional was negligent and that the negligence resulted in an injury or death. Proving that the medical professional acted negligently typically involves evidencing that the “standard of care” was not met.

What is “standard of care?”

Standard of care is the standard at which a reasonable person, within the same field, would have acted. During a medical malpractice case an expert witness is often brought in to determine the standard of care that the medical professional failed to follow.

Who may be held responsible for my medical malpractice claim?

A claim may be made against all parties whose negligence caused the victim harm. In some medical malpractice claims only a doctor or surgeon will be held liable, while in other cases it may be an entire medical team that is held liable.

What are the most common medical malpractice claims?

According to the American Medical Association, misdiagnosis is one of the most commonly reported errors; however, many other claims have involved anesthetic errors and birthing injuries.

Are there any statistics on medical malpractice claims?

Yes. 15 million harmful incidents occur each year due to medical malpractice, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Approximately 18% of hospital patients are injured during their course of treatment, according to Harvard School of Medicine. Of those injuries, most are life-threatening or fatal.

Claims made vs. occurrence coverage: What’s the difference?

Medical professionals often obtain medical malpractice insurance, which can be either claims-made or occurrence coverage. Claims-made policies cover events that happen during the policy period (or on/or after the retro-active date) and those reported while the policy is still in place. Occurrence policies cover events that occurred during the policy period no matter when they are reported.

Is there a cap on the amount of damages a victim may receive?

As of 2011 in North Carolina, the cap for medical malpractice damages is $500,000 for noneconomic damages. Exceptions may be made if the defendant’s conduct was extremely poor and the damage to the plaintiff is extremely severe, such as in intentional acts or gross negligence that led to death or permanent injury.

What should I do if I believe malpractice has occurred?

Contacting a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine if the merits of your situation warrant filing a claim. A professional and experienced legal team can also help to guide you and your loved ones through the claims process. In most cases, medical records should be reviewed by medical malpractice attorneys or medical professionals to determine if the circumstances merit filing a presenting a claim.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Riddle & Brantley, LLP at 800-525-7111.

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