All claims of medical malpractice against qualified healthcare providers must be submitted to a Medical Review Panel. In addition to placing a cap of $500,000 on damages, Louisiana law also requires that a person seeking to institute a claim for medical malpractice must first request that the matter be reviewed by a medical review panel. A medical review panel is made up of three physicians in the same specialty as the accused defendant doctor. One of the panelists is chosen by the defendant, one chosen by the patient and the third is chosen by the two doctors chosen by the defendant and patient. An attorney chairman is also chosen by the parties. His function is to run the medical review panel and provide them with any legal guidance. However, he has no vote on whether medical malpractice was committed. The parties are allowed to submit evidence to the medical review panel for their consideration. This evidence generally consists of the medical records, films, depositions and a position paper explaining each side’s contentions. The medical review panel meets to discuss the evidence and determine if medical malpractice has indeed occurred.
A lawsuit may be instituted after the Medical Review Panel renders its opinion. Regardless of how the medical review panel rules in the case, the patient has 90 days following receipt of the opinion of the medical review panel to file a lawsuit in State District Court. The party that lost the medical review panel may be required to post a bond for the costs of the medical review panel after suit is filed. At trial, the opinion of the medical review panel is admissible as evidence. Additionally, the members of the medical review panel may be called to testify as witnesses for either side.