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In North Carolina, particularly in Raleigh, there are a variety of damages a person can receive in a medical malpractice case. These damages include punitive, economic, and non-economic damages. However, each type of damage has different limitations and different circumstances for when they are provided.

A Raleigh medical malpractice lawyer can help an individual throughout the claim process, as well as take the proper steps when receiving damages. An experienced lawyer can help an individual gain a better understanding of the legal process, and can help ensure they receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries.


In Raleigh, punitive damages are damages awarded with the goal of punishing the defendant for bad conduct. Someone may receive punitive damages in a medical malpractice case, but there are special rules that apply. Whether a jury awards punitive damages depends on the facts of each case and the egregiousness of the conduct of the defendant.

To receive punitive damages, the defendant must have engaged in gross negligence, which is defined as a willful and wanton disregard for the rights and safety of others.

How They Are Calculated

Punitive damages are not calculated similarly to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are aimed at compensating for some past or future harm, medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent scarring, permanent impairment to parts of the body, and the like. These damages are intended to punish, so factors that a jury can consider in awarding punitive damages include things like egregiousness of the conduct, length of time the bad conduct lasted, their ability to pay punitive damages, and similar criteria.

How an Attorney Handles Them

The manner in which an attorney handles a punitive damages case depends on the facts of a given case, the egregiousness of the conduct, and the party committing the conduct.

There are special rules that apply, such as ER doctors as opposed to a doctor who sees you in his/her office or in a different type of a setting. A lawyer handles the case, knowing the nature of the actor against whom the claim is being brought, and understanding the law that applies to being able to prove punitive damages against the actor.

Economic and Non-Economic

Economic damages are damages that one can identify and assign a dollar amount. For example, economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, prescription costs, and other things such as a wheelchair the person purchased for a large sum of money.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are those things that you cannot put a dollar figure on such as pain and suffering. This type of damage does not have a fixed monetary value. Non-economic damages are calculated based on the facts; there is no hard and fast formula. In fact, the court instructs a jury on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, to make an award based on their common sense and their life experiences. It is very fact-specific and is based on the evidence.

Damage Caps

There are caps on damages. For example, under North Carolina statute, punitive damages are capped at $250,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages. Regardless of what amount the jury can award, a person cannot collect more than $250,000 or three times the compensatory damages.

These caps are in place as a part of the larger total reform effort that the legislature enacts these statutes, in an effort to hold damages down. The theory is that placing caps on damages will reduce business costs and insurance premiums, which may or may not be true.

With the help of an experienced and aggressive medical malpractice attorney, a person may be able to circumvent caps on economic and non-economic damages by proving willful and wanton conduct.