The North Carolina House of Representatives has voted in favor of capping medical malpractice damages, overriding Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) earlier decision to veto the bill in June.

The new law, set to go into effect October 2011, will limit malpractice awards for noneconomic damages to $500,000. Damages related to lost wages or medical bills resulting from negligence will remain uncapped.

Bill supporters say the cap will bring down medical costs and attract more physicians to come practice in the state. However, Perdue called the bill “unbalanced” upon vetoing it, stating that it did not offer enough protection for patients that are catastrophically injured.

The new bill contains provisions to waive the malpractice cap under two conditions:

  • The plaintiff in a malpractice suit has suffered disfigurement, loss of use of a body part, permanent injury or death
  • The defendant’s conduct was in reckless disregard of the rights of others, grossly negligent, fraudulent, intentional, or malicious

The law will also enable both parties to seek separate trial phases, with the first phase to determine whether the physician was negligent, and the second to determine the severity of the injury. About 30 states have now instituted caps on medical malpractice awards.