Unlike the neighboring state of Virginia, North Carolina does not have unfair rules that say your father, mother, or other family member can only receive so much money from a jury in the case of professional negligence by a doctor or hospital. These limits are called "caps" because they cap off the amount that a jury can award in medical malpractice cases. The cap applies to all kinds of damages – lost income, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as other economic and non-economic damages. For example, in Virginia, the cap of $2 million is the most that a family can get even if a young, working father and husband is killed by the fault of a doctor, regardless of what the actual money or emotional losses are to the family. That means that even if the full and fair compensation for the loss is more than $2 million dollars, the cap will prevent recovery for any loss above that amount.
Other states have a different type of unfair cap which says that the family can only get a certain amount of money for the non-economic damages, including the pain, anguish, and emotional harm caused to a loved one by the negligence of the healthcare provider. For example, under the limits in these states, if a young woman suffers severe facial scarring or her child dies from a preventable medical mistake, she can only recover whatever the state cap is for her lifelong feeling of loss. That figure is often only $250,000, no matter how much the injured person has suffered emotionally and will continue to suffer on a permanent basis.
The studies have shown when states impose these unfair restrictions, there is no beneficial effect. Caps do not improve anything; they have no effect on doctor’s malpractice insurance rates, the cost of healthcare insurance or healthcare, or the availability of doctors in rural communities. The only thing that happens when the government imposes these restrictions in favor of doctors and insurance companies is that the victim and his or her family are left without a full and fair recovery for a preventable harm. Therefore, the caps have the effect of giving consumers less protection. The good news is that North Carolina has not made this mistake and there is no arbitrary limit on how much can be recovered in a serious injury or wrongful death case involving medical negligence in the state.