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Medical malpractice award must be paid by insurance company

One general thought in Louisiana or elsewhere says that when a patient goes to a doctor complaining of a seemingly minimal medical complaint and ends up dead shortly thereafter, a thorough investigation should be made to determine whether medical negligence played a role. The stark contrast between a standard medical problem and a disproportionately frightful result, is sometimes a tipoff for medical malpractice. That is apparently what happened in another state where a woman's estate settled recently with the medical insurers for the sum of $4.9 million.

The woman had at first gone to defendant doctors for a discolored toenail. A defendant doctor placed her on a medication known to cause potentially deadly liver toxicity. When prescribing the drug, it is necessary for the medical provider to monitor its effect on the patient's liver. The doctor failed to monitor for the over four months that he was treating here.

The case was first determined by a jury in June. The jury decided that the negligence was all on the doctor's side and it awarded the sum of $4.7 million. As often happens in such cases, the parties have now settled and given up any appeal rights. Interestingly, the insurer was only on the hook for $2 million of liability coverage, but it decided post-trial to pay the full amount.

In Louisiana and elsewhere, if the insurer commits bad faith by not paying an earlier settlement demand and improperly forcing the case to trial, it could be held liable to its insured doctors for the amount of the award and more in a bad faith insurance coverage lawsuit. That is likely why the insurer made a more clear-headed review after the jury's verdict went against the defendants. The insurer most likely determined that it did not want to suffer an even greater award for what may have been its bad faith failure to settle the medical malpractice claim. 

Source: legal.blog.ajc.com, "Woman goes to doctor for discolored toenail, ends up dead", Bill Rankin, July 21, 2016

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