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In the State of Louisiana, the procedure for filing a medical malpractice claim is different from other states. In Louisiana, your personal injury attorney must first file your claim with a “medical review panel” which will decide whether malpractice has occurred. Even if the panel does not find medical negligence, you can still file your medical malpractice lawsuit.
How the Medical Review Panel Works
The medical review panel consists of one doctor chosen by the plaintiff (you) and one doctor chosen by the defendant (the doctor) and the third doctor chosen by the panel. Presumably the panel will be unbiased and render an honest and straightforward opinion. This rarely happens because the doctors are often from the same area, work in the same hospitals, have the same insurance companies and/or attend the same country clubs. When one of their friends or peers has been sued and they are sitting on the panel, you may be rest assured that the panel doctors will make every effort to find the doctor not guilty of malpractice. These doctors know that one day they may be facing a medical review panel, so the doctors protect themselves and their colleagues.
Medical Review Panel Rarely Finds Negligence
Years ago I filed a medical malpractice claim in Lafayette, Louisiana, and through no effort of my own, actually overheard the medical review panel discussing ways to render a report which was favorable to the doctor. The medical review panel actively constructed a report designed not to find out the truth but to defend the doctor.
Once the panel reviews the “unbiased” medical opinion, you may disregard it and sue the negligent doctor for damages not in excess of $500,000. However the medical panel’s opinion is admissible at trial. A good lawyer, and there are many out there, will minimize the impact of the panel’s decision by making sure the jury knows how rare it is for the panel to rule against one of their own.
In the most recent medical malpractice case I had, one of the panel doctors admitted that while serving on previous panels, he had never found the doctor to be guilty of medical malpractice. What a shock that was. I have also pointed out to multiple juries how close-knit the medical community is. I believe that once the jury is aware of all the information about medical review panels, the negative finding of the panel is neutralized.