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Louisiana Bills Cause Debate Over Medical Malpractice

Posted on April 28, 2017

A new bill calling for changes to medical malpractice laws in Louisiana has forced lawmakers to consider making broader changes to the state laws.

House Bill 526

Currently, the law allows families affected by medical malpractice to collect a maximum of $50,000 for economic damages. House Bill 526 by Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly, would have adjusted the cap from $50,000 to $350,000. Supporters of the new bill believe the current cap does not allow people affected by medical malpractice to collect money for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. The new bill would redefine the limit on economic damages to “the actual cost of past and future medical care and related benefits.” The cap has not been adjusted in 43 years.

The new bill would extend the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit from 12 months to 18 months after the discovery of the incident. It would also change the amount of time the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit from the time the incident occurred from three years to five years.

The bill would also change the way the medical review panel works. Currently, reviewers are required to be working in the same specialty as the defendant physician, but the new measure would make it so that only one person on the panel was working in the same specialty. All of the others would have to be people who did not go to school with, work with or live within 100 miles of the defendant.

The bills were put on hold for the current legislative session but they brought on a consensus that the measures raised issues that need to be reviewed in a broader context. The scrutiny would not only involve lawmakers but also those involved such as doctors and personal injury lawyers.

Those who are skeptical of the new bill believe that any changes to the cap on recoverable damages need to be vetted more thoroughly before the committee acts on them.