If your injury or illness was caused by the negligence of a Louisiana physician or medical professional, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim to recover compensation.
However, medical malpractice cases are handled differently in Louisiana compared to the other 49 states in the nation. There are six things you need to know about medical malpractice claims in this state:
1. Louisiana is a Civil Law State
Louisiana is the only civil law state in the nation, every other state is a common law state. This means Louisiana relies more upon statutes and judges' interpretations of those statutes as opposed to relying on decades of court decisions, like the other 49 states.
2. There is a One-Year Statute of Limitations
You have one year from the date of malpractice, or the date you discovered malpractice, to file a legal claim. This provides some leeway for people who did not know, or had no reasonable expectation of knowing that they were a victim of malpractice and could file a claim. However, you have to prove you honestly did not know and there was no way you could have known.
However, no matter when you discover the injury, you must file a claim within three years of the date malpractice occurred.
If your loved one was killed because of malpractice, you have one year from their death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
3. Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund
The Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund was created in 1975 to provide compensation to patients who suffer malpractice at the hands of medical professionals who are members of the fund, also known as qualified health care providers.
Healthcare providers are required to carry malpractice insurance, and a surcharge of the premium for that insurance pays into the fund. Participation in the fund is not mandatory, however, a majority of healthcare providers are enrolled in the fund.
Even though the fund is managed by the Louisiana Department of Administration, it is not state property and is kept separate from the state's budget.
4. You Must Request a Review by the Patient Compensation Fund
Before you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Louisiana, you must file a request to have the Louisiana Patient's Compensation Fund review your allegations.
If the medical professional or facility in question is a qualified health care provider, the fund will convene a panel of three doctors chaired by a non-voting lawyer to review your potential claim. The fund will choose physicians who have expertise that is relevant to your allegations.
The panel will determine if there is enough evidence to support the conclusion that the defendant committed malpractice and it caused your injuries. It will then create a report that can be used as medical expert testimony in any subsequent legal proceedings or alternative dispute resolution.
Each year, there are approximately 1,600 requests for panels to review potential medical malpractice claims. Louisiana's medical review panels have sided with patients only seven percent of the time since 2000. Fortunately, decisions by these panels are not legally binding, and a patient has 90 days from the receipt of the opinion to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
5. Medical Malpractice Damages Are Capped at $500,000
Louisiana has a cap of $500,000 on damages from medical malpractice. However, there is no cap on compensation for future medical expenses, so there is no limit to the amount of money a medical malpractice attorney could recover.
According to the law, qualified healthcare providers are responsible for the first $100,000 in damages for each patient, per incident. Any damages exceeding $100,000 are paid by the Patient Compensation Fund.
In 2013, approximately $22 million was paid out from the Patient's Compensation Fund for the future medical expenses of 180 patients.
The constitutionality of this cap was upheld in a 2012 Supreme Court decision, stating that the cap lowers malpractice insurance costs, increases a physician’s likelihood to hold malpractice insurance and fosters affordable healthcare.
6. Doctors Do Not Automatically Lose Their Licenses if They Are Found Guilty
From 2003 to 2013, only 27 physicians lost their licenses in Louisiana due to medical malpractice. This is because malpractice claims relate to one patient, not overall care for many patients.
If the negligence of a medical practitioner caused your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Simien & Simien are skilled medical malpractice attorneys who fight for their clients’ rights, working to hold negligent physicians and medical staff accountable for the damages they have caused, while pursuing fair compensation.