North Carolina Medical Malpractice Laws & Statutory Rules

Find out what steps you'll need to take to file a negligence lawsuit against a medical professional in North Carolina.

Updated by , J.D.

If you're thinking about filing a medical malpractice claim in North Carolina, it's important to understand the different state laws that likely apply to your case, including:

  • time limits for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in North Carolina's courts (set by a law called a "statute of limitations")
  • caps on the amount of money an injured patient can receive for certain kinds of losses ("damages"), and
  • the kinds of proof required in order to establish a health care provider's liability for medical malpractice in North Carolina.

North Carolina Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

North Carolina's "statute of limitations" deadline for filing medical malpractice lawsuits in the state's civil court system says that this kind of case must be brought to court within:

  • three years of the date on which the health care provider committed the medical error giving rise to the case, or
  • one year after the date on which the medical error is discovered, if it could not have reasonably been discovered until two or more years passed since the error (note that cases like these must be brought within four years of the commission of the alleged malpractice, regardless of whether the mistake was, or could have been, discovered by then), or
  • one year after the date of discovery of an object left inside a patient—an instrument left behind after surgery, for example (these kinds of cases must be brought within ten years of the mistake).

(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-15 (2022).)

It's crucial to pay attention to the statute of limitations as it applies to your case. If you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline has passed—and no exception applies to alter or extend the deadline—the court will throw out your case. That means you'll lose your right to any compensation for the health care provider's error and its impact on your life.

North Carolina Damage Caps In Medical Malpractice Cases

North Carolina, like many states, sets limits on the non-economic damages that are available to a successful plaintiff in a medical malpractice case.

Non-economic damages include compensation for non-monetary losses like pain and suffering or the loss of enjoyment of life caused by the medical malpractice. North Carolina law limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $500,000. Beginning in 2014, this amount has been adjusted upward for inflation every third year. The latest increase (effective January 1, 2020) set the cap at $562,338. This cap will not apply in cases where the injured patient suffered certain disfiguring or permanent injury AND the defendant's conduct was reckless, grossly negligent, intentional, or malicious. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-21.19 (2022).)

North Carolina does not limit economic damages, which cover losses like medical bills and lost wages stemming from the malpractice. However, North Carolina does usually require two separate trials to be held if the amount of damages claimed is greater than $150,000. One trial focuses on liability, while the other focuses on the amount of damages. Both trials are heard by the same jury and judge. These two trials may be combined into a single trial if the judge finds good cause to take that step.

Evidence Requirements In North Carolina Medical Malpractice Cases

North Carolina has two laws that relate specifically to the type and amount of evidence required in a medical malpractice case.

Expert Medical Witnesses In North Carolina

The first rule requires the injured person to employ the services of at least one qualified expert medical witness. In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, the expert must swear under oath that he or she has reviewed the injured person's medical records and is prepared to testify that the medical care the injured person received fell below the accepted standard of care and amounted to medical negligence.

Burden of Proof In North Carolina Medical Malpractice Cases

The second evidentiary rule applies to the burden of proof in medical malpractice cases. In most cases, an injured patient must prove "by the greater weight of the evidence" (meaning that it was more likely than not) that the health care provider's failure to meet the standard of care caused the patient's injuries.

Getting Help With a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Case

If you've been harmed by a health care provider's mistake in North Carolina, it might make sense to discuss your situation with a legal professional, and get a clear sense of your options. You can use the contact tools on this page to reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer in your area and get a free case evaluation. Learn more about finding the right medical malpractice lawyer for you and your case.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find personal injury lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Make the Most of Your Claim

Get the compensation you deserve.

We've helped 175 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you