I have handled many medical malpractice cases in Louisiana and I can tell you that litigating these types of claims can be tricky. Medical negligence claims are governed by different rules than other personal injury claims and these rules vary from state to state. In Louisiana, the Medical Malpractice Act limits damages to $500,000 – future medicals are not included – and also specifies additional rules for litigation. Personal injury lawyers who are not familiar with these rules can easily get tripped up.
One very important consideration is that if there is a good claim against the underlying defendant (which can be the hospital, doctor or other health care provider), your lawyer must make sure that the defendant pays the full $100,000. By paying the maximum amount, liability is automatically triggered for the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, or PCF, and you will not need to prove medical malpractice at the jury trial.
For example, if a hospital is the underlying defendant, the hospital’s liability in a Louisiana negligence claim is limited to $100,000 — the PCF will then pay the rest of the claim up to $400,000 if you prove damages. But if your medical malpractice attorney makes the mistake of settling with the hospital for less than $100,000, liability is not triggered. Your lawyer can still pursue the claim against the PCF, but will need to prove deviation from the required medical standard of care as well as damages.
Medical malpractice liability is not easy to prove. It is also expensive to litigate these kinds of claims because you need to hire experts to come to court and testify — a medical malpractice jury trial can easily cost $60,000 or more. By receiving the full $100,000 payment from the underlying defendant, your lawyer will not need to hire experts to prove negligence and will only need to prove your damages in front of a jury, and the PCF will have to pay those damages up to the $400,000 limit.
I represented a client from Opelousas, Louisiana, who collapsed because a sponge had been left in her stomach after surgery. The doctor who performed the surgery paid the full $100,000 and we were able to settle with the PCF for $390,000, making a total settlement of $490,000. If you have any questions about litigating a Louisiana medical malpractice claim, please contact my law office in Lafayette, Louisiana for a free consultation.