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the departure directly injured the patient

Once a doctor enters into a physician-patient relationship, he or she has a duty to provide care at a level that compares to what other competent doctors would have provided in the same situation.

Steps Leading to a Malpractice Action


The patient meets with a plaintiff’s attorney to discuss the care in question. A determination is then made as to whether the filing of an action at this time would be within the statute of limitations which is the time the law allows from the act or omission complained of or from the end of a continuous treatment during which this act or omission took place.  This varies state by state.  In North Carolina:


Medical Malpractice is three (3) years


Within one (1) year from the date upon which the foreign object was discovered or should reasonably have been discovered.


Infants/Children:  One (1) year after the child reaches the age of majority


Wrongful Death: Two (2) years from the date of death


The patient signs an authorization for the release of their medical records to the attorney.


The attorney has the records reviewed by a physician who gives an opinion as to whether or not malpractice has occurred. If the physician reviewer believes that it has, the attorney will sign a certificate of merit, which will accompany the Summons & Complaint when it is served.


The attorney prepares the Summons, which is then served on the physician or someone authorized to accept service for that physician. This starts a civil action and gives jurisdiction over a party. It can be either a Summons & Complaint or a Summons with Notice.


Summons with Notice: gives formal notification to the party that has been sued in civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed. The Summons also tells you the type of court in which the case will be heard, usually Superior Court, and it will tell you the venue (location) which is one of the Counties, usually the one in which the care took place. or the county in the patient resides.


Summons and Complaint: This Summons tells you the above information and the Complaint tells the court what the plaintiff wants and vaguely describes the allegations of malpractice.

Defendant’s Response

The individual who is sued is known as the Defendant and he/she can be served with legal papers in a number of ways:

Personal Service: The papers are given directly to the physician. With this type of service, the defendant has 20 days (exclusive of the day of service) in which to have his/her attorney put in an Answer. The Answer is the document in which the

March 17, 2009

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