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Medical malpractice cases in North Carolina are long and very expensive in terms of financial and emotional costs. For this reason, it is important to retain an experienced and knowledgeable Raleigh medical malpractice lawyer who will help the legal process go as smoothly as possible, and who will serve as your advocate and support system throughout your case.

Litigation Process

In North Carolina, medical malpractice cases are closely controlled by the courts. The courts set a scheduling order that all of the parties are subject to regarding specific deadlines to keep a case on track. By keeping to a particular schedule, cases do not languish and stay pending for a long period of time.

Both parties involved in litigation are entitled to make an opening statement in a medical malpractice case, however, the plaintiff presents their case first, and the defendant presents their case second. The injured person’s lawyer goes first because the lawyer gives the jury a context of the story, setting the way in which they want the jurors to view the evidence they are about to see during the trial.

Both parties are also entitled to make closing statements. When the closing statements are given, the jury has seen all of the evidence presented by all the parties. The lawyer’s closing statement is a summation of the evidence and is their instruction to the jury about how they should view that evidence to reach a result favorable to their client.

Medical malpractice cases are not quick by any stretch of the imagination, as the litigation could last many months to years. The individual circumstances surrounding any particular case and the number of parties involved can influence the length or brevity of the case.

Multiple Defendants

Having multiple defendants depends on the particular case, and does not necessarily influence the outcome of the case. Multiple defendants do not take the stand at the same time, but rather one witness takes the stand at a time.

Plaintiffs always go first, and defendants go second. When there are multiple defendants, it is at the court’s discretion how to divide the time between multiple defendants, and what the order of appearance is for the defendants.

The manner in which a medical malpractice lawyer presents their argument to multiple defendants is in the same way they present their argument against one defendant. It is tailored to each defendant’s conduct giving rise to the claim.

Important Elements of a Case

Health privacy laws do not apply to a medical malpractice claim because, by filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff placed their medical condition in issue and that amounts to a waiver of any physician/patient privilege concerns. If there are matters of privacy dealt with at trial, there are rules of court that govern how that information is to be handled and disseminated to those participating in a trial. Mechanisms are in place to handle that when appropriate.

A litigator always focuses on their burden of proof, the most important thing in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff in the medical malpractice case has the burden to prove each element of their claim by presenting evidence to support each element. Evidentiary issues and the like can come into play and may affect the admissibility of some evidence.

Preserving the Record

Preserving the record goes back to the evidentiary issue. When you have a trial that does not go well, you may want to appeal the outcome of the trial. If it is based on an evidentiary ruling, plaintiff’s lawyer must make sure that during the trial, he or she made timely objections, or made an offer of proof of evidence that, perhaps, the court determined was inadmissible. The plaintiff’s attorney must make a record of the evidence so that a reviewing appellate court can determine whether it was an error for the trial judge to allow or not allow that evidence to be presented.

Jury or Bench Trials

The vast majority of medical malpractice trials are jury trials. The parties can stipulate for a bench trial, but that is quite rare.

Overall, it depends on the circumstances involved in the case and who the parties are. If there is a plaintiff, who thinks their case is better decided by a judge rather than a jury of twelve, that is something they might achieve by asking the defense council if they are willing to stipulate to a bench trial.