The types of harm that a patient can suffer as a result of medical malpractice can be substantial not only in their physical manifestations, but also in their financial impact. This is understandable, given that often injuries incurred as a result of something like a surgical error or a misdiagnosis of a serious illness can have ramifications that can last for years after the event, or even for the remainder of the victim’s life.
It is not uncommon for medical malpractice claims in some states to run into millions of dollars, much of which may take the form of exemplary or “punitive” damages. Such large awards, however, have led to a push-back among health care providers and their medical malpractice insurers. These groups have claimed that massive damages awards have negative consequences not only for hospitals and doctors, but also for the public.
For example, some who oppose damages awards in which heavy punitive damages penalties are included claim that the prospect of being held liable for such amounts drives up medical malpractice insurance premiums and causes health care providers to seek to pass along those costs to patients in the form of higher costs for care.
Also, the potential for being held liable for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars may cause people who might become doctors, nurses or other health care professionals to choose a different occupation, and drive current practitioners out of practice.
Some states, including Louisiana, have enacted laws meant to avoid medical malpractice damages awards beyond a certain amount. The Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (“the Act” limits the total damages award in such a case to no more than $500,000 (plus interest and court costs), although it does make an allowance for future medical costs if they exceed that amount.
The Act further limits the liability of an individual healthcare provider in connection with any one death or injury to not more than $100,000, plus interest and costs.
The Act is lengthy and can be complex to interpret. This post is intended only as an overview of its damages provisions. If you have specific questions about how these provisions work, it is advisable to address them to a qualified legal professional for more comprehensive information.