In Louisiana, before a medical malpractice suit can proceed in court, it must be reviewed by a three-person board that has to decide if there is merit to the aggrieved patient’s claim. As per state law, the reviewing panel should be staffed with doctors who have expertise in the medical field that is under question. They determine if there was a breach in the standard of care that was being provided to the patient and even though their decision is not binding, their findings can hold evidentiary value in court.
The Patient’s Compensation Fund was established to provide compensation for patients who have suffered injuries due to professional malpractice by a medical professional who is an enrolled member of the fund. Damages for medical malpractice are capped at $500,000, but this is not the end of damages that can be recovered by an injured patient. An injured person might become eligible to receive unlimited coverage for future medical expenses if their condition requires it. Though there is no law restricting the future medical expenses category, many argue that the Patient’s Compensation Fund is too restrictive when deciding which bills it will pay.
The constitutionality of the $500,000 cap on damages has been challenged in the state supreme court, but the court upheld it, dismissing arguments that it disadvantages those who have had grievous injuries caused by a medical professional’s negligence.
With just over 1500 medical malpractice complaints a year in front of the medical review panel, it may come as a surprise to Louisiana residents that the panel has sided with patients only 7 percent of the time since 2000. This number has gone down further in recent years. This could be because medical professionals are reluctant to hold one another accountable. Having an experienced attorney by one’s side to provide cogent medical evidence to demonstrate the extent of one’s injuries, including medical evidence, could be helpful in such cases.