Louisiana Medical Malpractice Laws

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On September 6, 2009, Chela Butler succumbed to swine flu after her pediatricians, Dr. Floyd Buras and his colleague Dr. Louis Bevrotte of the Metairie pediatric practice, misdiagnosed her with sinusitis. Chela’s doctors shockingly ignored the early signs of influenza A, H1N1, despite the advisories from various health agencies to be on the lookout for the deadly virus.

After a long and painful trial, the jury found Dr. Buras and Dr. Bevrotte guilty of medical malpractice and awarded Lakisha Butler $8 million for the loss of her only daughter. However, Judge Kern Reese of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court reduced the amount to $500,000, which is the maximum amount that a court may award under Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Law.

With that in mind, here are key facts to know about Louisiana medical malpractice laws. If you find yourself the victim of medical negligence, be sure to contact an experienced law firm: https://www.calahanlaw.com.

Patient Compensation Fund and Cap

The state of Louisiana has an established patient compensation fund (PCF) that covers both public and private healthcare providers. Established in 1975, PCF basically acts as an “excess insurer” of its members.

Louisiana law requires healthcare providers found guilty of medical malpractice in the state to bear the financial responsibility for the first $100,000 of exposure per claim. Put another way, PCF covers its members for medical malpractice damages above the first $100,000.

This is important because, while medical malpractice damages are capped at $500,000 in Louisiana, injured patients are eligible to receive unlimited coverage for future medical care.

Statute of Limitations

Louisiana has a statute of limitations, called a liberative prescription in the state, for medical malpractice lawsuits. Specifically, you should file a medical malpractice lawsuit within one year of discovering the medical negligence.

Additionally, the state has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and a one-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits.

Medical Review Panel

A medical review panel is a three-person board that is appointed to determine the merit of a patient’s malpractice claim. A typical medical review panel consists of three healthcare professionals with expertise in the area of medicine in question, as well as a non-voting attorney.

To serve on the panel, a physician must be a member of the PCF. Before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, a victim has to file a complaint with the PCF. The PCF then reviews the request and decides if a board should be convened and if the physician being sued is a qualified healthcare provider under the PCF rules. While the decision of the panel is not binding, it holds evidentiary value in a trial, meaning it is crucial.

Future Medical Expenses

The medical malpractice laws place a cap on the damages but not on future medical expenses. If a medical malpractice victim wins a trial, and if the jury finds that the victim is in need of future medical costs necessitated by medical malpractice, he or she can be awarded an amount beyond the $500,000 cap.

It is worth noting that Louisiana is the only state in America that separates medical malpractice damages from future medical expenses. According to the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, the PCF does not directly deposit lump sums into victims’ accounts to prevent mismanagement of funds.

Instead, the PCF pays for the medical costs directly, thus limiting undercompensation and overcompensation alike.

Malpractice Does Not Always Lead to Loss of License

A healthcare provider charged with malpractice is questioned for giving substandard care, but not for being incompetent. According to data analyzed by the US government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, Louisiana has the third highest number of medical malpractice lawsuits per capita.

However, in 2013, only three doctors lost their licenses despite 1,706 cases files that year. According to the review boards, only a quarter of these cases required action, and 60 percent were ruled in favor of the physician. If you are filing a claim against a healthcare provider for medical malpractice, do not expect their license to be revoked. You may win the trial and receive compensation, but the healthcare provider may retain his or her license.

Conclusion

The Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act caps medical malpractice damages at $500,000. However, the law entitles injured patients to unlimited coverage for future medical care. Louisiana is the only state in America that does not lump medical malpractice damages and future medical expenses together.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Louisiana immediately. This is particularly important because Louisiana has statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims.