In October 2009, as Congress was caught up in the health care reform debate that is still raging on Capitol Hill, Merlyna Adams of LaPlace took a trip to Washington, D.C. to show legislators that she is not frivolous. Worried about proposals to limit patients rights in health care, Merlyna met with several other families at Washington to ensure that their stories were told. As reported by Public Citizen on their website,
Meryna met with members of Congress to express the difficulties she has encountered due to medical malpractice in the treatment of a kidney stone she had in 2007. Negligent treatment resulted in heart, renal, and pulmonary complications for Meryna as well as amputation of both her hands and legs below her knee. She shared with Congress how everyday activities are difficult, especially in her employment as a school principal. Kidney stone treatment is not supposed to end in an intensive care unit with more removed then a kidney stone.
Stories like Merlyna’s show how devastating medical malpractice can be. Surviving medical malpractice is usually just the beginning, often due to victims having to care for injuries that may be with them for the rest of their lives. And many victims don’t make it. According to the Institute of Medicine, almost one hundred thousand Americans die each year from injuries that could have been prevented. In considering healthcare reform proposals, Members of Congress should focus on patient safety and reject legislation that takes the teeth out of recovery for medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider violates the appropriate standard of care when treating a patient, leading to the patient’s injury. Medical malpractice can result from either action or lack of action. Some examples include misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, or unreasonable delay in treating a condition. A medical malpractice claim can be brought by an injured patient against any responsible licensed health care provider but must be brought within one year of the when the act or omission occurred (or one year from the discovery of the problem, but no longer than three years from when the act or omission occurred).
In Louisiana medical malpractice damages are limited to $500,000, excluding future medical care. Liability is limited to $100,000 per health care provider and awards between $100,000 and $500,000 are paid out of the patient compensation fund. Before a medical malpractice suit may be filed, the party filing the claim must submit the case to a medical review panel. The findings of the panel are admissible as evidence if the case later goes to trial.
Medical malpractice cases often deal with technical subject matter and require the testimony of medical expert witnesses. Under Louisiana law a medical expert witness must be a licensed physical trained in the speciality at issue with knowledge of the applicable standard of care for treatment.
Sometimes medical malpractice claims involve multiple defendants because it is difficult to pinpoint which medical provider’s action caused an injury. When multiple parties are found to be at fault for injuries Louisiana follows a traditional rule of joint and several liability. This means that each defendant is individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment. As such if one defendant is unable to pay the plaintiff may go after other defendants until the entire amount is recovered.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complicated and robustly defended. If you or a family member have been injured, and you think a health care provider may have been to blame, it is very important that you have dedicated experienced counsel on your side.