These are North Carolina medical malpractice statistics of interest. Unless otherwise indicated, the statistics are from 1998-2009.
- There are an average of 566 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in North Carolina each year, or one-quarter of one percent of the lawsuits filed in North Carolina. For those who think malpractice lawsuits are increasing in number: there were 496 malpractice lawsuits in 2009, the last year studied.
- Said another way, from 1998 through 2009, the number of all civil case filings in North Carolina
averaged 228,037 per year. The medical malpractice filings accounted for 0.25%
of all civil cases.
- Okay, but North Carolina juries award a ton of money when the plaintiff wins a medical malpractice lawsuit. No, not really. In the 54 malpractice cases in which the plaintiff won at trial and received money damages, the median jury award was $320,000. Underscoring the point, 10 of these malpractice verdicts were below $10,000. Not exactly runaway juries.
- Doctors are fleeing North Carolina? Not quite. Between 1998 and 2008 (the last year for which statistics were available), the total population in North Carolina grew by 18.3%, while the physician population increased by 29.1%. Maybe not every doctor has gone to Texas yet.
- Four percent of medical malpractice lawsuits go to verdict. Plaintiffs win 22.33% of the time. If you consider cases with multiple defendants, 86% of doctors prevail at trial.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Verdicts and Settlements
- 2019, North Carolina: $816,988 Verdict. A 61-year-old man alleged that the delays in diagnosing his spinal hematoma caused permanent nerve injuries. The man initially underwent cervical fusion surgery at Watauga Medical Center. Three days later, he presented to Ashe Memorial Hospital’s emergency room after he fell at home. After being hospitalized for seven hours, the ER physician had him transferred to Watauga Medical. The man was then diagnosed with a spinal hematoma that caused spinal cord compression. He underwent the surgical removal of the hematoma on the same day. Despite the procedure, the man claimed permanent spinal cord and nerve injuries that left him unable to walk. He then underwent physical and rehabilitative surgery for several months. Within a year, he regained his ability to walk. However, his spinal cord damage left him unable to return to his manufacturing job. The man also was diagnosed with walking limitations, balance issues, weakness to his extremities, and reduced motor skills. He sued Ashe Memorial, Watauga Medical, and their respective doctors for improperly diagnosing and treating his condition when he came into their care. The man alleged that Ashe Memorial had no MRI equipment, which would have allowed for a timely diagnosis if his spinal cord compression. He also alleged that his doctors failed to appreciate that spinal hematoma was a complication of cervical fusion surgery. The man claimed that these treatment delays caused his spinal cord damage to become permanent. An Ashe County jury found all the defendants liable and awarded the man an $816,988 verdict.
- 2019, North Carolina: $15,000,000 Settlement. A mother alleged that the nurse’s failure to replace her newborn daughter’s breathing tube resulted in permanent brain injuries. The woman’s daughter was born prematurely with a narrow windpipe. She underwent a tracheostomy for treatment. One day, a nurse removed the baby’s tube because she thought it was dirty. Instead of replacing the tube, she cleaned and re-inserted it. Shortly after, the baby went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. This deprived her brain of adequate blood flow. She suffered cognitive impairments, dystonia, cerebral palsy, muscle spasms, abnormal muscle tone, quadriparesis, cortical blindness, and swallowing difficulties. The now five-year-old girl could not walk, talk, or see. She was dependent on a ventilator for breathing and a tube for eating. Her mother, a nurse, went from working full-time to part-time to care for her daughter. The case settled for $15,000,000.
- 2018, North Carolina: $511,200 Verdict. A man suffered an infected Stage IV bedsore around his sacral region while hospitalized. He underwent surgery for its treatment. The man sued the hospital, alleging that its staff failed to turn and reposition him every two hours and failed to properly treat the bedsore. The man also alleged that the hospital staff miscategorized him as a “self-turn” patient. A Gaston County jury awarded the man a $511,200 Verdict.
- 2018, North Carolina: $2,000,000 Settlement. A mother alleged that delays in the C-section delivery caused her son’s permanent brain injuries. The hospital staff initially admitted her after tests revealed that her baby experienced decreased blood flow. Upon admission, the delivery failed to progress. The baby also showed signs of fetal distress. After 45 minutes, the hospital staff advised the obstetrician to order a C-section. The obstetrician refused, then left the hospital. Two hours later, the baby’s heart rate dropped and did not recover. The staff ordered an emergency C-section, and the obstetrician returned to the hospital. However, the baby had already suffered a severe brain injury upon being born. The mother sued the obstetrician, alleging that their failure to timely order a C-section caused her son’s severe brain injury. This case settled for $2,000,000.
- 2017, North Carolina: $100,422 Verdict. A 68-year-old woman suffered an adrenal crisis that caused severe declines in her health after the hospital staff failed to include hydrocortisone in her post-surgical care. The woman initially underwent the surgical removal of her adrenal gland and left kidney at Forsyth Medical Center. Following the procedure, her health deteriorated, and she was transferred to Brian Center. Before being transferred, the staff provided instructions on administering hydrocortisone as hormone replacement therapy. However, a Brian Center nurse failed to include it in a list of medications used to treat her. The staff eventually found her unresponsive. She was then transferred back to Forsyth Medical, where she was diagnosed with an adrenal crisis. The Forsyth’s staff intravenously administered glucocorticoids to stabilize her condition. The woman sued Brian Center, alleging that the staff’s failure to administer hydrocortisone caused her to experience an adrenal crisis that deteriorated her condition. This case settled for $100,422.
- 2016, North Carolina: $6,180,000 Verdict. A man died from coronary artery disease caused by atherosclerosis after being discharged from a hospital’s emergency department five hours earlier. He had presented to the emergency room, complaining of chest pain that radiated to both his arms. His estate sued the hospital, alleging that its staff failed to timely diagnose and treat his condition. The Cabarrus County jury awarded a $6,180,000 verdict.
Medical Malpractice in North Carolina
Medical malpractice is a serious issue in North Carolina like it is everywhere in the U.S. Medical malpractice is a failure by a healthcare provider to provide the appropriate level of care, resulting in injury or harm to a patient. In North Carolina, medical malpractice claims can be filed in state court and are governed by state laws and regulations. It is not just North Carolina medical malpractice lawyers preaching there is a malpractice problem. Hospitals studies underscore the magnitude of the problem.
The last year we have data for is 2020, a one-off year with COVID. But according to the North Carolina Medical Board, there were 561 medical malpractice claims reported in the state in 2020. This represents an increase from previous years, with the number of claims steadily rising over the past decade. However, it is important to note that this number only represents reported claims and the actual number of incidents of medical malpractice in the state is much higher.
In North Carolina, the majority of medical malpractice claims are filed against physicians, with a smaller percentage of claims against other healthcare providers such as nurse practitioners, nurses, and hospitals. The most common types of medical malpractice claims in the state include failure to diagnose, surgical errors, medication errors, and birth injuries.
The consequences of medical malpractice in North Carolina can be severe and life-altering for patients. In addition to physical harm and injury, patients may also experience emotional distress, financial hardship, and loss of quality of life. In some cases, medical malpractice can even be fatal.
Despite the increase in medical malpractice claims in North Carolina, the state has implemented several measures aimed at reducing the occurrence of medical errors and improving patient safety. The North Carolina Medical Board, for example, oversees the licensing and discipline of healthcare providers in the state, and investigates complaints of medical malpractice and other forms of professional misconduct.
Additionally, North Carolina has implemented mandatory reporting requirements for healthcare providers, which require them to report certain adverse events and medical errors to the state. This helps to ensure that incidents of medical malpractice are properly documented and addressed, and can serve as a valuable resource for improving patient safety in the future.
Medical malpractice is a significant issue in North Carolina and has serious consequences for patients. While the state has taken steps to address the problem, it has a cap on pain and suffering damages which really chills accountability for the harm that is caused by malpractice in North Carolina.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Cap
In North Carolina, the damages cap for medical malpractice cases in 2023 is $656,730. Why does Section 90-21.19 of the North Carolina General Statutes say the noneconomic damage cap for medical malpractice claims is $500,000? The cap began adjusting for inflation in 2014.
This cap means that, regardless of the amount of damages a plaintiff may have suffered as a result of medical malpractice, the most they can receive in a settlement or award is $500,000. This cap applies to both non-economic and economic damages, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and lost wages.
It is important to note that there are some exceptions to the damages cap in North Carolina. For example, the cap may not apply in cases where the medical malpractice resulted in death, or in cases where the plaintiff has suffered a permanent and substantial injury. In these cases, the damages cap may be increased to a higher amount, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.