On July 25, 2011, the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to override Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto of a medical malpractice bill that limits noneconomic damages (pain, suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement) to $500,000.00 in most cases, thereby devaluing the lives of the citizens of North Carolina. The North Carolina Senate voted to override the veto on July 13, 2011. Therefore, the medical malpractice bill is the law of North Carolina.
The new law states, in part:
§ 90-21.19. Liability limit for noneconomic damages.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, in any medical malpractice action in which the plaintiff is entitled to an award of noneconomic damages, the total amount of noneconomic damages for which judgment is entered against all defendants shall not exceed five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). Judgment shall not be entered against any defendant for noneconomic damages in excess of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for all claims brought by all parties arising out of the same professional services…
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, there shall be no limit on the amount of noneconomic damages for which judgment may be entered against a defendant if the trier of fact finds both of the following:
(1) The plaintiff suffered disfigurement, loss of use of part of the body, permanent injury or death.
(2) The defendant’s acts or failures, which are the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, were committed in reckless disregard of the rights of others, grossly negligent, fraudulent, intentional or with malice.
The new law also grants new protections to health care providers treating emergency medical conditions by raising the level of proof to “clear and convincing evidence” that victims of medical malpractice must establish to hold them responsible for medical errors.
The new law provides, in part:
§ 90-21.12. Standard of health care.
(b) In any medical malpractice action arising out of the furnishing or the failure to furnish professional services in the treatment of an emergency medical condition, as the term “emergency medical condition” is defined in 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(e)(1), the claimant must prove a violation of the standards of practice set forth in subsection (a) of this section by clear and convincing evidence.
What Does This Mean For The Citizens Of North Carolina?
It means that their elected officials have decided that their lives are worth less now than before this medical malpractice bill became law. North Carolinians will be limited in their ability to receive monetary compensation for the egregious consequences of medical malpractice negligence. Those poor souls in North Carolina who will endure life-long and unrelenting pain and physical limitations due solely to the carelessness of their negligent health care providers will receive a mere pittance when measured against their losses. While the innocent victims of negligent health care providers will be heavily burdened with their emotional distress due to the unexpected restrictions imposed on their quality of life, the medical malpractice wrongdoers will be unjustly rewarded with the knowledge that no matter how much they screw up, the most they will be responsible to compensate for the pain and suffering they cause is $500,000.00 (and their medical malpractice insurance companies will bask in their enjoyment of immensely increased but unjustified profits).
If you live in a state that is debating so-called “medical malpractice reforms,” get involved in the discussions and tell your elected representatives that you value people over profits before your rights and your future are negatively impacted. The belief that a medical error will not affect your life or the life of someone you love is like putting your head in the sand — most victims of medical malpractice never gave it a thought that an unexpected but negligent medical error could cause them so much grief.
If you or a loved one have been affected by medical malpractice, visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to assist you with your medical malpractice claim.
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