Louisiana Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Medical Malpractice is incredibly common in the United States and can result in serious or even fatal injuries or illnesses. Every year, numerous Louisianians are injured because of medical mistakes and negligence. Victims of medical malpractice have the right to seek damages from medical professionals in Louisiana.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is the victim of medical malpractice, you need to hire a medical malpractice lawyer to hold the liable party responsible. You could recover damages for medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, and more.
Here at Lunsford, Baskin, & Priebe, PLLC, our attorneys have years of experience helping Louisianians recover damages for medical malpractice cases. We’ve reached settlements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical malpractice victims, and we can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call our New Orleans office at 504-788-2994, or you can schedule a free case evaluation here.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Although medical malpractice is a commonly used term, many are unaware of the exact definition. A medical professional making a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean they engaged in medical malpractice. Doctors and others in the medical industry make mistakes like everyone else, but there’s a difference between a simple mistake and malpractice. Malpractice occurs when a medical professional or hospital injures a patient in their care due to negligence.
A hospital or medical professional can commit medical malpractice at any stage of a patient’s treatment, meaning that malpractice may occur during a diagnosis, treatment, or rehabilitation. Medical professionals commit malpractice when they fail to perform reasonable care when treating a patient. For example, if a surgeon was negligent during a procedure and left tools inside of a patient resulting in their injury or death, that could be considered medical malpractice.
Who Could Be Responsible for Medical Malpractice?
People usually associate medical malpractice with medical doctors, but different parties could be responsible for a patient’s injury. Parties that could be held liable in a medical malpractice case include:
- Any licensed dental or medical practitioner
- Surgical centers
- Dental offices
- Doctors’ offices
- Physical therapy centers
- Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing homes or assisted-living facilities
- Other licensed medical institutions and facilities
Factors Qualifying Medical Malpractice
Different critical factors determine whether something could be considered medical malpractice. Firstly, there needs to be an established connection between the person receiving treatment and the medical professional or establishment. The victim needs to have been the negligent party’s patient, and this relationship needs to be verified through documentation. This is an important distinction because people give off-handed, unqualified medical advice all the time. If your friend or family member gives you bad medical advice which then leads to you becoming injured, you cannot sue them for medical malpractice because you were not their patient.
Additionally, your doctor or licensed medical professional needs to have broken the standard of care, meaning that they strayed from standard, accepted practices, which led to the patient’s injury or death.
The failure to perform the standard of care needs to have resulted in injuries or damages to the patient, but it’s important to note that an undesirable outcome doesn’t necessarily equate to medical malpractice. If a doctor is unable to fix your medical problem, that doesn’t necessarily mean they were negligent or broke the standard of care. We discuss the standard of care in greater detail below.
Further, a victim needs to be able to prove a medical professional or institution’s negligence resulted in additional injuries or damage. For example, you can’t recover damages from a surgeon if you suffer from chronic pain that was already prevalent before receiving medical treatment. The doctor’s negligence needs to have caused further pain or injury that wouldn’t have occurred if you had undergone proper medical treatment.
Louisiana Medical Malpractice Stats
Medical malpractice is a prevalent issue in both Louisiana and the rest of the United States. In fact, John Hopkins School of Medicine stated that medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in the United States. But, as we discussed above, a mistake doesn’t necessarily equate to medical malpractice. That being stated, the United States’ medical malpractice statistics are eye-opening:
- Around 225,000 people die every year due to medical negligence
- 12,000 people die from unnecessary surgeries every year
- Around 106,000 people die due to prescribed medication mistakes
- Only 2% of malpractice victims file a claim
The statistics in Louisiana alone are also incredibly alarming. Between 2004 and 2014, there were 15,716 reported cases of medical malpractice. Louisiana has a population of around 4.6 million people, and there were 3.4 malpractice cases per 1,000 people. That’s the third-highest number of medical malpractice cases per capita in the country. Additionally, Louisiana’s high number of medical malpractice cases only includes the people that took legal action. As we stated in the U.S. statistics, around only 2% of malpractice victims file a claim, meaning that thousands of Louisianians were victims of medical malpractice and didn’t file a claim.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can occur at any stage of your treatment. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:
Surgeons and anesthesiologists can make critical negligent errors during surgery. If an anesthesiologist gives an incorrect amount of anesthesia to a patient or doesn’t monitor them after administering anesthesia, the patient could suffer brain damage.
Some additional common errors that occur in surgery include:
- Improper sanitation leading to infections
- Surgeons administering surgery that isn’t necessary
- Surgeons not using instrumentation properly
- Surgeons leaving instruments inside of patients
- Errors leading to nerve damage
- Failing to control excessive bleeding
- Utilizing defective medical equipment
Medication errors can have serious consequences for patients because they may receive an incorrect dose or be prescribed something they’re allergic to. A patient prescribed with a wrong dosage may even suffer from an overdose that leads to a serious injury or death. Common prescription errors include:
- Doctors failing to monitor a patient after they receive a new medication
- Ignoring a patient’s medical history and prescribing something harmful for them
- Prescribing a patient the wrong medication
- Prescribing a patient an incorrect dosage
- Prescribing a drug that interacts negatively with another prescription
- Failing to disclose prescription side effects
- Improperly dispensing medications
Doctors and other medical professionals may fail to properly evaluate and test for certain patient conditions, leading to a dangerous misdiagnosis. Medical professionals have a system to check for many different potential illnesses that may ail a patient, but negligent medical professionals may fail to properly test and evaluate a patient to save time. Some conditions may be treatable if medical professionals catch them early, but misdiagnosis can lead to a patient suffering from an issue that becomes increasingly worse with time.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:
- Hearts attacks
- Celiac disease
- Pulmonary embolism
- Cardiovascular disease
- Clogged arteries
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
Additional Forms of Medical Malpractice
- Childbirth Injuries: Childbirth injuries occur when doctors fail to monitor patients, misdiagnose during the birthing process, or use too much force during delivery. Medical negligence during the birthing process can lead to serious or fatal injuries to both the mother and infant.
- Emergency Room Malpractice: Emergency room malpractice often occurs when a patient suffering from a time-sensitive, serious condition doesn’t receive timely care resulting in further injuries.
- Dental Negligence: Doctors may break the standard of care if they fail to notice an obvious infection, which can have serious or life-threatening consequences.
- Radiology Negligence: Radiology negligence occurs when a radiologist misreads an imaging test, such as an MRI or x-ray, which then leads to a misdiagnosis or failure to treat serious conditions, such as a tumor.
- Confusing Patient Identities: A patient may receive treatment by mistake if medical professionals confuse them with another patient. Additionally, someone in a fertility clinic may receive an incorrect embryo if the facility confuses their identity.
- Hospital Negligence: Common forms of hospital negligence include when a patient contracts an infection or suffers from an injury because of the hospital staff’s negligence.
What is the Standard of Care?
As we discussed above, the standard of care refers to medical professionals’ responsibility to abide by the standard, accepted practices to treat patients. Medical professionals need to provide patients care that is safe and aligns with accepted contemporary medical practices, and professionals need to try their best when it comes to following optimal treatment practices.
Unfortunately, there is no explicit guidebook for what qualifies as the standard of care, so this is often under interpretation when it comes to medical malpractice cases. The standard of care is often determined by local practices, and courts will determine whether a medical professional acted unreasonably given their local practices and treatments. For example, a doctor in New York City may treat a patient completely differently than a doctor in rural Iowa, but that doesn’t mean either broke the standard of care. The Iowa doctor may not have the same resources as a major city, so they may need to diagnose and treat their patients in a different way.
Because of the complexities of defining the standard of care, it’s important to work with a seasoned medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can convince a court of what was and wasn’t the standard of care in the given situation and prove that the medical professional or institution violated the standard of care.
Attorneys typically prove their cases by bringing in medical experts who can corroborate that medical professionals broke the standard of care.
For example, if you file a medical malpractice claim because a doctor failed to diagnose cancer after you received a CT scan, your attorney would likely argue that your doctor owed you the standard of care of properly diagnosing your condition given that it was evident from your CT scan. They breached the standard of care because they negligently misdiagnosed you. Your attorney would then bring in medical experts, such as a radiologist or oncologist, who could corroborate that the negligent doctor should have caught the cancer.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file a claim after medical malpractice occurs. Unfortunately, Louisianians typically only have one year to file a claim after being the victim of medical malpractice. If you wait over a year to file, the medical professional or institution can ask the court to throw out the case, and the court will abide by their request.
Fortunately, there are situations in which you can file after a year the malpractice occurred. If a victim doesn’t realize that they suffered from medical malpractice, the one-year time limit doesn’t begin until they become aware that they were the victim of medical malpractice. For example, you may not suffer from any symptoms until much later, and you may need to receive a diagnosis indicating that a previous medical procedure or prescription resulted in a new or worsened injury.
Unfortunately, if you file a medical malpractice claim over a year after the diagnosis, treatment, or prescription occurred, you’ll need to provide proof that you were unaware of the medical malpractice.
Compensation for Medical Malpractice
Victims of medical malpractice may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to damages that are designed to reimburse the victim. Those who seek economic damages can recover compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of future wages
Non-economic damages refer to the damages that don’t have an inherent monetary value because they’re not designed to reimburse the victim. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional or mental distress
Additionally, a court may administer punitive damages against the defendant. Punitive damages are designed to specifically punish the defendant for gross negligence or wrongdoing. Punitive damages are incredibly rare in medical malpractice cases.
Medical Malpractice Damages Cap
There is no cap on economic damages because they’re designed to reimburse the victim. If a person suffers from a serious injury because of a medical professional’s negligence, they could face permanent disabilities that prevent them from working. They may receive a significant lump sum because of their loss of future wages.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, do have a $500,000 cap in Louisiana.
Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Although medical malpractice is very common, it’s also often difficult to prove. Medical professionals may make a mistake, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they acted negligently or broke the standard of care, so interpreting what is and isn’t medical malpractice often depends on the court and the jury. Additionally, it’s the responsibility of the victim and their legal representation to provide the burden of proof in a medical malpractice case, meaning that you need to provide evidence that the medical professional or institution caused your condition.
A common challenge when it comes to proving your case is finding the negligent party. For example, when it comes to a medical misdiagnosis, different people could have been liable. The patient’s doctor may have incorrectly diagnosed them, or there could have been a mistake when a lab or imaging service provider checked for certain problems. Additionally, whoever made the mistake is unlikely to admit it because they know that they could then be held liable in court.
Should I Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Seasoned medical malpractice attorneys can greatly increase your likelihood of recovering economic and non-economic damages from the liable party. They have experience handling these types of cases, so they know what to look for when it comes to proving malpractice, and they’re well versed in medical malpractice law, so they know what could qualify as negligence and breaking the standard of care.
Additionally, medical malpractice attorneys have resources for proving claims. They can subpoena medical records and bring expert witnesses who can testify that medical professionals or institutions failed to perform the standard of care.
If you suspect that you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, you need to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence for proving your claim, so the sooner you begin working with a medical malpractice attorney, the more likely you’ll be able to recover the compensation you deserve.
Contact a Louisiana Medical Malpractice Attorney
For expert legal support for medical malpractice cases in Louisiana, contact the attorneys at Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC. We have years of experience assisting Louisianians like you with medical malpractice cases. We’ll work to maximize the settlement that you receive for your injuries, and if we’re unable to reach a favorable settlement outside of court, we’ll represent you throughout the entire litigation process. We’ll help you gather evidence for your claim, and we’ll fight to get you the money you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future wages, and more.
If you’re ready to pursue your medical malpractice case or if you have questions, call our New Orleans office at 504-788-2994. Also, you can schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your experiences and your legal options moving forward here.