How medical malpractice works in Louisiana

Louisiana residents should understand some important details about the medical malpractice claims process.

The thought of a physician or other medical professional making a grave error can be very troubling to people in Louisiana. Everyone should be able to have trust in the level of care that they receive from healthcare workers. However, the reality is that medical errors happen more often than many people know.

Rate of medical complaints in Louisiana

An article recently published on NOLA.com noted that in 2014, there were more than 1,600 requests for medical panel reviews in the state of Louisiana. These reviews are conducted by three-person panels and are required by law before any medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. A claim can be filed regardless of the outcome of the medical panel review. In the last 15 years, these reviews have returned decisions in favor of plaintiffs a mere seven percent of the time.

How medical malpractice awards are funded

There are two important things that patients should be aware of. The first is that Louisiana limits the amount of money that people can receive for non-economic damages associated with medical malpractice lawsuits. Any awards related to actual past or future medical costs, however, are not limited. The $500,000 cap on damages was reaffirmed by the State Supreme Court just a few years ago.

Another important component to malpractice suit payouts is the participation of the Louisiana Patient Compensation Fund. This is a program which receives money from the voluntary participation of healthcare providers and facilities. It essentially provides them with coverage in the event of a decision against them.

For example, a recent case involved the death of an 8-year old girl due to flu complications. The family was awarded eight million dollars by a jury. That damage award was cut down to the state's $500,000 allowable maximum. Of that, the two physicians involved are ordered to pay $100,000 each and the remaining $300,000 is to be paid from the Louisiana Patient Compensation Fund.

Nondisclosure common

An article published in JAMA Internal Medicine noted that many malpractice suit agreements involve stipulations preventing plaintiffs from discussing their cases. This can help providers by maintaining their public reputations. Many times, plaintiffs are offered more money in exchange for their silence after the case is closed.

Recent examples of cases in Louisiana

The reasons for malpractice claims vary greatly. The Louisiana Record published information about how one man's family claims providers failed to provide proper treatment to him which resulted in his death from an alleged case of pneumonia.

Another man died due to having toxic levels of a drug in his system. The suit alleges that the home nurse administered the drug without properly checking his blood levels which would have alerted professionals to the problem.

Improper procedures led two home care nurses to essentially drop an 85-year old woman while assisting her with personal care processes. The patient broke her leg as a result of the fall.

What victims should do

It is important for all people in Louisiana to be prepared to seek help when a medical error is suspected. This includes talking to an attorney as soon as possible.

Keywords: medical, malpractice, hospital, doctor