North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers looked at the 5,401 med-mal cases filed in North Carolina from 1998 through 2006 and compiled a few statistics. The median jury award in medical malpractice cases was $301,300. The largest medical malpractice award was $8.1 million.
Looking at personal injury cases in North Carolina generally, Jury Verdict Research estimates the median award in North Carolina is $10,000. Personal injury plaintiff receive damages in 61% of cases that are tried (the national average is 53%).
The average jury verdict in medical malpractice cases in North Carolina is relatively low. I do not have the national median for medical malpractice cases in front of me but the average – as opposed to the median which makes a difference – is over $1 million. The national median for personal injury cases generally is $38,179 which means that North Carolina and the nationwide plaintiff recovery probability, the number of plaintiff verdicts to total verdicts, is 53 percent.
The median personal injury award in North Carolina is low, but a part of that is because of antiquated jurisdictional limits in North Carolina. Civil jurisdiction for District Court, which does involve a judge instead of a jury – is proper for cases involving amounts in controversy of $10,000 or less. Many states have jurisdictional amounts that are five times North Carolina’s $10,000 maximum. This leads to more jury trials in small cases, thereby decreasing the overall average.
Regarding North Carolina malpractice cases, I think, John Edwards’ record notwithstanding, it has been a tough history for medical malpractice lawyers and their clients in North Carolina. One old study I saw found that North Carolina medical malpractice plaintiffs win 11% of the cases that went to trial.
Another study I read looked at eighteen jury verdicts from North Carolina. In each case, the medical malpractice insurance company obtained expert evaluations on the question of liability. The study divided the reviews into three categories: (1) probable liability, (2) uncertain liability (when experts disagreed), and (3) unlikely liability. The study found that plaintiffs won 10% of the trials in which the doctor’s care had been considered good, 17% of the cases where the experts were uncertain, and 50% of the trials where the experts thought there was liability.
I wonder about the experience/quality of the medical malpractice lawyers who lost the cases where there appeared to be liability because quality malpractice lawyers can make a huge difference not just at trial but in discovery. But the take-home message is clear: medical malpractice cases are tough anywhere, but particularly in North Carolina.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Jury Verdicts
- 2022, North Carolina: $87,000 Verdict. A 30-something woman and her son walked towards her car in a Walmart parking lot. They were struck. The woman suffered a permanent left intercostal nerve injury while her son sustained a “goose egg.” She alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. The woman claimed he unsafely sped in a parking lot and failed to watch for pedestrians. A jury awarded $87,000.
- 2022, North Carolina: $250,000 Verdict. A 70-something pedestrian was struck. She suffered left tibia and fibula fractures and a right rotator cuff tear. The woman initially underwent physical therapy. Several months later, she underwent a rotator cuff arthroscopy. The woman subsequently underwent additional physical therapy sessions. She alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. The woman claimed he failed to pay attention to the road. A jury awarded $250,000.
- 2021, North Carolina: $90,000 Settlement. A minor passenger was involved in a collision. She suffered personal injuries. The girl’s parents alleged negligence against her driver. They claimed she failed to safely operate her vehicle. This case settled for $90,000.
- 2021, North Carolina: $10,755,000 Verdict. A 71-year-old woman was struck head-on. She suffered flail chest. The woman also fractured her sternum, right knee, right leg, right ankle, left knee, and left pelvis. She was hospitalized for over three weeks. The woman underwent ventilation during that period. She also underwent multiple repair procedures. The woman spent three additional weeks in a nursing facility. She subsequently received in-home care and extensive rehabilitation. The woman eventually underwent an additional procedure. She could no longer work for over eight hours a week. The woman alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. She claimed he drove while intoxicated and failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. The woman received a $10,755,000 jury verdict.
- 2021, North Carolina: $400,000 Settlement. A 50-something pedestrian was struck at an intersection. She suffered an L3-4 cyst and bilateral leg pain, spasms, and numbness. The woman also suffered the aggravation of her pre-existing lumbar stenosis. She underwent multiple procedures. The woman also underwent physical therapy for eight weeks. She was left with core strength and mobility loss. The woman alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. She claimed he failed to maintain an appropriate lookout and yield to a pedestrian. This case settled for $400,000.
- 2020, North Carolina: $1,100,000 Settlement. A 30-year-old police officer was sideswiped on the highway. His vehicle subsequently went off-road. The man suffered a leg fracture. He underwent multiple repair procedures. The man was left with compartment syndrome. He could no longer return to work. The man alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. He claimed he made a negligent lane change and failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. This case settled for $1,100,000.
- 2020, North Carolina: $1,800,000 Settlement. An 84-year-old man visited a body shop. He fell into the maintenance pit. The man struck his head. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. The man was hospitalized for 10 days. He sustained permanent cognitive issues, including memory loss. The man now required round-the-clock care at an assisted living facility. He alleged negligence against the body shop. The man claimed its staff negligently allowed him to enter the shop unescorted and failed to adequately warn him of unsafe conditions. This case settled for $1,800,000.
- 2020, North Carolina: $5,780,000 Verdict. A 30-something man was struck head-on by a pizza delivery driver. He was conscious at the scene. The man lost consciousness before being airlifted to a hospital. He died several hours later. The man’s family alleged negligence against the delivery driver. They claimed he recklessly drive and failed to maintain his travel lane. The family also made a vicarious liability claim. This case settled for $5,780,000.
- 2020, North Carolina: $498,500 Verdict. A 28-year-old man was struck by a flatbed truck. He died from his injuries. The man’s family alleged negligence against the truck driver and his employer. They claimed he failed to safely operate his vehicle. The family also claimed the truck driver’s employer inadequately maintained the vehicle. This case settled for $1,263,500.
- 2018, North Carolina: $511,200 Verdict. A man sustained Stage IV bedsores while hospitalized. He alleged negligence against the hospital. The man claimed its staff wrongly designed him as “self-turn,” failed to periodically reposition him, and failed to properly treat his bedsore. A jury awarded $511,200.