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Understanding the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act


It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to us all, let alone healthcare providers. Healthcare providers have been called upon to treat a condition that is not yet well-understood by the medical community, and they have faced many logistical obstacles that could potentially interfere with the quality of care provided to patients. Understaffing, long working hours and shortages of vital resources, such as hospital beds and medications may affect treatment.

The North Carolina Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act enacted on May 4, 2020, was intended to create immunity for healthcare professionals who are treating patients for COVID-19 or treating patients in settings that have been affected by circumstances related to coronavirus.

If you or a loved one have been affected by this Act in some way, read further on. Our team has put together this piece to help better inform you of this and where it stands today.

Enhanced Immunity for Healthcare Workers

The North Carolina Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act amends a previously existing order establishing immunity for healthcare workers. It clarifies that immunity extends to long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. In addition, it specifies that individuals performing administrative functions are also protected. The Act applies to incidents that occur between the date of the original emergency order on March 20, 2020, through the remainder of the calendar year.

Gross Negligence Defined

The Act shields healthcare workers from liability and makes clear that any claims made against them must be made based on gross negligence. In contrast to the traditional standard of negligence associated with medical malpractice actions, gross negligence involves an extreme deviation from the standard of care owed by doctors to patients. A simple error or oversight would generally not rise to the level of gross negligence.

It is possible that the high standard of gross negligence imposed by the Act may be challenged or amended in the future.

Demonstrating Gross Negligence in a Malpractice Action

In order for a claim of gross negligence to prevail, a plaintiff would have to show that it is more likely than not that gross negligence occurred. This burden of proof is referred to as a “preponderance of the evidence.” It differs from a criminal trial in which the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Distinguishing between negligence and gross negligence and determining whether a claim can meet the applicable burden of proof will likely require intensive legal analysis.

Not Sure If You Have a Case? 

If you are concerned that you or a loved one suffered damages that were the result of gross negligence, it is advisable to consult with an attorney to discuss your claim and learn more about whether it may be affected by the Act.

Contact the offices of GMFM Law Firm online or by phone at (919) 683-2135 today. We’re here to help!