In North Carolina medical malpractice lawsuits, the fact that a patient suffered an injury is not enough to result in favorable findings for the plaintiff. First, after proving that an injury exists, the plaintiff must demonstrate to the court that the defendant owed a legal duty to the injured party. Then the appropriate level of care must be established. Finally, the case must be made that the defendant failed to provide such care.
The first step in proving a health care provider's negligence in a medical malpractice case involves the nature and timing of the relationship between the patient and the defendant. At the time of the alleged malpractice, a voluntary relationship must have existed between the two parties. If a health care provider-patient relationship existed, then the defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff, since all health care providers owe a duty of care to their patients.
The court must decide what standard of care was appropriate at the time of the alleged medical negligence. This standard is the degree of care that customarily would have been provided by a typical provider in the same field of medicine, with average skills, and the same medical information and knowledge available. The health care provider must have met this standard at the time of the alleged incident.
Sometimes, establishing the existence of a relationship between the parties presents challenges. The health care provider might deny that one was present at the time in question or might insist the actual date of injury occurred outside the time frame covered under the care of duty. In such cases, an attorney for a plaintiff might help find other methods of showing the connections.