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NC lawmakers have agreed to place limits upon medical malpractice awards. The new policy will place a cap on monetary damages for certain health care negligent cases. Arbitration proceedings seem to be the vehicle in which this policy progresses.

The bill was unanimously approved by the House and sent to Gov. Mike Easley, marking a success in the often antagonistic relationship between physicians and trial lawyers. Physicians that support capping monetary damages blame malpractice lawsuits for rising insurance premiums, but trial attorneys argue that patients need financial protection for mistakes made by bad physicians.

The legislation allows plaintiffs and defendants – such as a doctor, hospital or other health care provider – to have their case settled by an arbitrator selected by both sides or by the court at the parties’ request.

Under the bill, hearings would begin within 10 months of the parties agreeing to enter into arbitration. The arbitrator would have to issue a decision within two weeks of the hearing’s close, and all monetary damages would be limited to $1 million. Few appeals would be allowed.

Where have all of our protections gone? Trial lawyers must become familiar with the policies of neighboring states, such as North Carolina’s, in order to prepare for the possibility of reform in their home districts.

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