Medical malpractice claims in New Mexico: What should patients know?

When they suffer harm as a result of doctor errors or negligence, New Mexico patients may choose to take legal action to seek compensation.

While many people in New Mexico and elsewhere think of their health care providers as infallible, medical mistakes can and do occur. In fact, the findings of a recent study suggest that, causing an estimated 251,454 deaths each year, such errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to The Washington Post. In cases when doctor mistakes lead to worsened medical conditions or death, patients or their families may choose to take legal action. Understanding the involved elements may help them know what to expect and prepare for their cases.

Filing time limit

As is the case with most personal injury claims, there is a statute of limitations placed on medical malpractice actions. When people suffer harm as a result of medical mistakes, they have three years from the date when the incident occurred to bring legal action against the responsible health care professional or facility. Once the deadline has passed, patients may still file their petitions, however, their cases may be dismissed.

Current and future damages

Due to doctor errors and other such incidents, patients may suffer a range of non-economic and economic damages. These may include the costs of current and ongoing medical treatments, pain and suffering, lost wages and lost ability to earn a living. The state of New Mexico has capped the recoverable damages in medical malpractice cases at $600,000. Further, each individual medical professional involved may only be liable for up to $200,000, with any remaining amount being paid out of a state compensation fund. This maximum allowable amount does not, however, apply to compensation for any associated medical or rehabilitative care.

In many states, the court may estimate the costs of people's future health care needs following injuries resulting from doctor mistakes, and award patients lump sum amounts based on those estimates. New Mexico does not subscribe to this principle, however. Instead, they may be compensated for such future expenses as they incur them.

Proving lapses in care

A simple error on the part of a medical provider or a patient being unhappy with the treatment he or she received is not enough to bring an action for medical malpractice. Rather, people must show that health care providers or institutions were negligent in their duties, thus breaching a standard of care when treating them and directly resulted in their injury, worsened condition or the patient's death. To this end, they may provide medical records and reports, any related physical evidence and call on expert witnesses to testify.

Consulting with an attorney

Often involving technical minutiae, navigating the legal process of filing a medical malpractice claim in New Mexico may be complicated. Thus, those who believe they have suffered harm because of doctor errors or negligence may benefit from obtaining legal representation. A lawyer may explain their rights and options, and help them determine whether their injuries or condition might have been prevented with an appropriate level of medical care.