Your Baton Rouge Medical Malpractice Case: The Basics

Doctors are human, and humans are fallible. They make mistakes like the rest of us. You've heard all the horror stories before. Someone goes in for surgery and the doctor operates on the wrong body part or leaves an operating tool inside a patient's body. Now, it's your turn. Your doctor messed up and you've been injured.

You may be able to file a Baton Rouge medical malpractice lawsuit. It's important to recognize that Louisiana medical malpractice laws are extremely complicated. If you are considering a lawsuit in the Bayou, you may want to get acquainted with Louisiana's laws, rules, and medical malpractice terminology before considering next steps. Here's some general information to help start.

Louisiana's Medical Malpractice Laws

What exactly is "medical malpractice?" Each state has it's own definition. It's basically negligence in a medical context. In Louisiana it means a health care provider acted below the industry standard of care when treating a patient and injuries resulted. An injured patient may sue to recover damages incurred by a medically negligent healthcare provider in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Who Is a "Health Care Provider?"

A health care provider is anyone licensed by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to perform medical services on patients including Physicians, Physician Assistants, Acupuncturists and Acupuncture Assistants, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy Assistants, Podiatrists, Clinical Laboratory Personnel, Clinical Exercise Physiologists, Private Radiological Technologists, Respiratory Therapists, Midwives, and Athletic Trainers.

How Does Medical Malpractice Happen?

Medical malpractice can happen in a variety of ways. It's not always immediately apparent or obvious. Malpractice can result from an action you doctor took or didn't take. Here are just some examples of injuries that may be the result of medical malpractice:

  • Operating on the wrong part of the body;
  • Potentially fatal staph infections;
  • Birth injuries;
  • Disfigurement and death;
  • Giving a patient the wrong dosage;
  • Giving a patient the wrong medication;
  • Leaving things inside the patient's body after surgery;
  • Misdiagnosis;
  • Nursing home negligence and abuse; and
  • Psychiatric/mental health malpractice or negligence.

First Steps: Submitting a Claim to the Medical Review Panel

Before you can file your lawsuit in an East Baton Rouge Parish courthouse, Louisiana requires you to submit your claim to the State of Louisiana's Medical Review Panel. This is an independent panel that will review your claim and the evidence surrounding it.

This process is meant to benefit both parties: Plaintiffs are given an objective view of the case and the doctor potentially receives a critique of his care and treatment by his peers. Through this process, many malpractice claims either settle or are dismissed after the medical review panel is completed.

However, the Medical Review Panel's decision is not binding; in other words, a favorable decision doesn't mean you "win" and an unfavorable decision doesn't mean you can't bring your lawsuit. The medical review panel is simply the first step in what may be a very long process.

Time Limit to File Your Medical Malpractice Claim

In Louisiana the time limit to file your case is called a "prescriptive period." The prescriptive period (time limit) to bring your Baton Rouge medical malpractice claim is one year from the date of the medical malpractice or within one year from when you discovered or should have reasonably discovered your injury.

What if I Don't Discover My Injury Right Away?

The maximum amount of time you have is up to three years from the date that the doctor breached the standard of care to bring your lawsuit or you may be barred from ever bringing it. This three year strict limitation is referred to as a statute of repose.

Children and Medical Malpractice Claims in Louisiana

Many states allow minor children a longer time period to bring a lawsuit -- usually up until their 18th birthday. Not in Louisiana. You must bring a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of your minor children within the same "prescriptive period" as an adult. Louisiana is one of the only states following this rule.

Damages

Patients injured by medical malpractice in Louisiana are entitled to compensation known as damages. Louisiana has a limit or cap on damages of $500,000 plus medical expenses for each act of malpractice. Lost wages are included in the cap.

You won't be able to recover punitive damages (money strictly intended to punish defendants) in a Louisiana medical malpractice case.

A Final Word About Lawyers and Baton Rouge Medical Malpractice

Because of the extremely complex nature of theses cases, seeking legal advice early on in the process may be a good idea. A Baton Rouge medical malpractice lawyer can review cases and advise on next steps based on the individual circumstances of each case.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.