Louisiana ranks high among states for the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed. There were 44 cases in 2015 for every 100,000 residents, a high number compared to other states. Because of some tough laws in the state, many of these cases amount to nothing for the victims of medical negligence. For such a high number of cases in 2015, they amounted to only $59 million in total payouts to plaintiffs.
The laws in Louisiana that govern malpractice cases are complicated and can be confusing. Medical malpractice lawyer in Louisiana are experts in these laws and are on the side of victims who need to navigate them in order to get justice. They fight in settlements and in court during trials to help these patients get the justice and compensation they need, in spite of laws that make it difficult to get good outcomes for victims.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Louisiana
All states have their own malpractice laws, and as in other states it is the Louisiana medical malpractice lawyers who are experts in these laws. They keep up with precedents and changes to the laws, while advocating for the best interests of harmed patients. Residents of the state should be aware of the laws and have a basic understanding so that they can make better choices in the event they suffer because of medical negligence.
Perhaps most important for patients to be aware of is the law governing the time limit for filing malpractice lawsuits. In Louisiana the statute of limitations for malpractice cases is just one year from the date of the negligent action or one year from when the patient discovers that they were the victim of negligence. If using the discovery rule, patients and their lawyers have the burden of proof that the negligence could not have been reasonably discovered sooner. The state also limits filing to absolutely no later than three years after the act.
The statute of limitations can be problematic for victims of negligence who do not act quickly enough. Another aspect of the state laws that can limit patients’ ability to file is the requirement of going through medical review panels. The law states that a case has to be reviewed by this panel of three medical professionals before it can be filed.
The panel reviews evidence and writes an opinion on whether negligence was likely to have occurred and if the case has legal merit. The opinion does not have to be in favor of the plaintiff in order to file and it is not binding. However, it can be submitted during a trial as evidence. Since 2000 the medical review panels have only sided with plaintiffs in seven percent of cases brought before them.
Louisiana’s Controversial Cap on Damages
Most states include a damages cap in their malpractice laws, but usually only for non-economic costs, like pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other factors on which it is impossible to place a price. Most of these states only limit these types of damages, but allow lawyers to seek as much as necessary for economic damages, such as medical bills.
Louisiana is unique in that it has a cap on all damages, of any type. The limit is set at just $500,000. An exception to the limit is for future medical expenses. Plaintiffs can seek an unlimited amount for this kind of compensation only. In some other states caps have been found unconstitutional, but in Louisiana this limit was upheld in 2012. Another interesting way that the state handles damages is that there is a cap of $100,000 for each defendant. Any amount awarded over that is paid to the plaintiff from the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund.
Louisiana Medical Malpractice Cases
Critics of the malpractice laws in Louisiana believe that they too often make it difficult to impossible for victims of negligence to get their chance at a fair trial. In one case, a woman who suffered because a dermatologist failed to diagnose melanoma had her suit dismissed because of failure to find an expert witness. The woman felt she had enough evidence, including signed affidavits from another dermatologist and physician assistant who said the diagnosing doctor admitted to making a mistake. Because she could not find a suitable expert witness in time, she lost out on the chance to recover damages for a cancer that was being treated too late.
The most tragic and sad cases of medical malpractice are those that involve children who die because of medical errors. In one such case in Louisiana, a young girl died of swine flu due to negligent treatment by her pediatricians. For nearly eight years her mother, along with her lawyers, fought hard to get justice for the death. It finally went to trial and the jury found that the doctors were negligent. It awarded the mother $8 million. Because of the damages cap instituted in the state, that amount was reduced to $500,000, an insignificant amount for a woman who lost her child to preventable medical mistakes.
The case that challenged the constitutionality of the state’s $500,000 damages cap involved a young girl whose diagnosis of a neuroblastoma was significantly delayed. She was treated for multiple symptoms, over several visits, by a nurse practitioner at Magnolia Clinic. With no improvement the mother took her daughter to a hospital, where she received specialty care and got the right diagnosis. The family sued the nurse and the clinic. The jury in the trial agreed that she acted negligently and awarded the family $10 million, which was reduced to $500,000. They fought that cap, but lost at the Supreme Court.
Finding a Louisiana Medical Malpractice Lawyer
These cases and others demonstrate how difficult it can be to file a malpractice lawsuit and if able to file to actually get a favorable outcome. This is why it is so important to select and work only with a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice law. These lawyers are experts in the law and have experience working within the system to help victims of negligence.
If you or a loved one have been victims of medical errors that should have been preventable, find a lawyer through the state bar association that is a true specialist in this type of law and case. You need a Louisiana medical malpractice lawyer who only takes on these cases because the experience and knowledge they give you the best chance of a successful case. Make sure you feel comfortable with your choice before you commit to working with a lawyer and that you know that he or she is truly on your side and will fight for justice for you.
- http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-medical-malpractice-laws.aspx - AL