As we have previously discussed, the cap on economic damages for medical malpractice claims in Louisiana has long been an issue in ensuring that victims of medical malpractice obtain justice for their injuries and/or the death of their loved ones due to medical misconduct and error. As a limit put in place 43 years ago, it has not undergone any adjustment since, and is far, far below what those suffering from medical malpractice need in order to be made “whole” again.
However, two bills recently introduced in the Louisiana state legislature could finally allow the state to take steps to address the problem by increasing the existing cap, amongst making other improvements.
More Time and Recovery
Currently, in Louisiana, regardless of what a jury determines a victim of medical malpractice should receive for pain and suffering, there is an overall cap of $500,000 on all of the damages that can be collected. Any amount over $100,000 is paid through the state’s Patient Compensation Fund, which is similar to insurance for doctors and medical providers.
However, House Bills 526 and 51 propose extending the cap on recoverable and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) to $1 million, plus interests and costs. They also define the limit on economic damages to the cost of past and future medical care and related benefits and propose extending the time that an injured patient has to file from 12 to 18 months after discovering the incident and from three to five years after the date of the incident.
Medical Review Panel and Conflicts of Interest
Perhaps even more importantly, the bill also makes changes to the medical review panel, which has a significant amount of power in deciding whether an action can be brought against the offending physician. The bill would effectively address the conflict of interest issue by ensuring that none of the doctors on the panel went to school with, worked with, or lived within 100 miles of the offending physician.
Status: Moving Forward
While both of the bills were already held in committee, at this point they may need to be reviewed by both doctors and personal injury attorneys for potential adjustments. This delay likely means that the measure will not come before the House or Senate in this session, but could in the next. Regardless, this reform is necessary and may save actual lives, particularly if it incentivizes practitioners to be more careful about making errors that could result in injuries or cost lives.
Harrell & Nowak: Voted Best Law Firm, 2017
The medical malpractice attorneys at Harrell & Nowak have been representing victims in and around New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana in successful malpractice cases for years. Our attorneys have the skills, experience, and commitment necessary to help you and your family obtain what you need to recover and move on. Contact our New Orleans law firm today for a free, confidential consultation.