If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Orleans, you should be aware that the process has its complexities. Patients in New Orleans who have been injured due to the negligence of a healthcare professional will find it very useful to have some understanding of the laws governing medical malpractice claims in the state.
What follows is a basic overview of the medical malpractice process in Louisiana and the role of the State Medical Board in medical malpractice cases. This information can help victims of medical malpractice prepare for discussing their case with their New Orleans malpractice lawyer.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is professional negligence by a healthcare professional that deviates from the accepted standard of care and results in harm to a patient. Healthcare professionals are not expected to be perfect. They are, however, required to meet the appropriate standard of care, which is what a reasonably competent or skilled professional with similar background and training would have done in the same situation.
What Does a Victim Need to Prove in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Patient alleging medical malpractice in New Orleans must prove the following four things:
- Duty – a duty of care was owed by the healthcare professional to the patient.
- Breach of duty – the health care professional’s duty had to have been breached such that the standard of care was not met.
- Causation – the breach has to have caused the patient’s injury.
- Damages – the healthcare professional’s negligent behavior must have caused some kind of injury to the patient.
As with other lawsuits based on negligence, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit, and all four elements mentioned above must be proven for a case to win at trial.
The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners
The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (the Board) was established in 1884 to protect the health, welfare, and safety of Louisiana citizens against the unprofessional, improper, and unauthorized practice of medicine. One of the many ways the Board fulfills its mission is by investigating all complaints lodged against healthcare professionals under its jurisdiction.
As such, nearly all medical malpractice cases in Louisiana must be filtered through a medical review panel with the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners before they can proceed to trial. The medical review panel process is only triggered if the healthcare professional is a qualified medical professional.
Most healthcare providers in Louisiana are qualified, but some are not. To be qualified, a healthcare professional must be enrolled in the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, which provides healthcare professionals with additional malpractice insurance. If a healthcare provider is not qualified, a medical malpractice claim can generally be filed directly in state court.
Steps in the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Process
Again, some understanding of the nature of the medical malpractice process in Louisiana can be useful to a victim of medical malpractice in New Orleans. Here is a brief overview of the steps involved and how the medical review panel process fits in:
Typically, a patient or family member will reach out to a lawyer with concerns about the care they received from a healthcare professional. Initially, the lawyer will gather information regarding the incident from the victim during an initial consultation. The lawyer will listen carefully to the victim’s story and ask pertinent questions about their medical care and what they think happened.
If the lawyer believes the victim has a legitimate claim, the lawyer will take the case and obtain the necessary medical and hospital records. Once these records are obtained, the lawyer or a consultant will review and outline the information to better understand what happened.
Depending on the lawyer’s familiarity with the issues involved in the case, they may also retain a medical expert to assist with the investigation. In a medical malpractice case, expert testimony is generally needed to prove that a healthcare professional deviated from the appropriate standard of care or acted in a negligent manner in the provision of that care.
The second step in the Louisiana medical malpractice process begins with filing a complaint with the Board. The complaint sets out the basic facts and allegations against the healthcare professional.
Once the complaint has been filed, the Board will notify the healthcare professional and their malpractice insurance company, and the insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent the healthcare professional. Once the other lawyer is on board, the discovery process and the initial stages of the medical review panel process will begin.
The court’s rules of discovery apply to proceedings before the medical review panel. So initially, the healthcare professional’s lawyers will send out written questions about the claim and the patient’s medical history, the parties will exchange medical and insurance records, and depositions will be taken.
The discovery process allows the parties to gather all the information they need to submit to the medical review panel. This phase of the medical malpractice process can take a year or longer, depending on the victim’s injuries, which can add significantly to the time it will take to resolve the case by settlement or verdict at trial.
The Medical Review Panel
In Louisiana, the medical review panel always consists of four individuals: the chairman (usually an independent lawyer) and three doctors. The specialties of the doctors on the panel will depend upon the issues in the case. For instance, if the claim involves an emergency room doctor who misdiagnosed a heart attack, the medical review panel may have two emergency room doctors and one cardiologist.
Once a panel is formed, each party submits its case to the panel, along with any information it believes the panel would need to render a decision. After reviewing the parties’ submissions, the panel decides whether the healthcare provider, in the panel’s opinion, deviated from the standard of care and whether the medical care was a factor in the resultant harm to the patient.
The opinion reached by the panel is not conclusive or binding. However, the opinion is admissible as evidence at trial, and either party may call on the panel members to testify in court.
Hiring a Lawyer New Orleans Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice claims can be lengthy and involve complex medical and legal issues. Proving a medical malpractice claim usually requires testimony from medical experts, who serve as witnesses.
In Louisiana, prosecuting a medical malpractice claim usually requires navigating the case through the medical review panel process. Furthermore, medical malpractice cases are generally less likely to settle than other personal injury cases, which means a trial is often necessary.
For these reasons, while medical malpractice victims always have the option to pursue their cases without a lawyer, it is not advisable to do so. By working with a skilled malpractice lawyer, New Orleans medical malpractice victims gain a trusted professional, who can navigate them through the process and give them the best chance to be fully compensated for their injuries and related damages.
Contact the Malpractice Team at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at Dudley DeBosierareskilled professionals who are passionate about helping victims of medical malpractice recover the compensation they and their families need to get their lives back on track.
At our law firm, every prospective client receives a free case assessment. We love to help people protect their future and get what they deserve. Contact our New Orleans office today to consult with a malpractice lawyer.
This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.
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