New Mexico ranked 33rd among states for number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in 2015. That year there were 18 cases per 100,000 residents and a total payout of $50.8 million to plaintiffs in those cases. The ranking may reflect stricter laws passed in the state in recent years, including the requirement of going before a medical review commission before being able to file a lawsuit.
Because the laws can be complicated, and often favor medical professionals over patients, it is crucial for victims of medical mistakes to seek out and work with a New Mexico medical malpractice lawyer. Lawyers specializing in malpractice know the laws inside and out and have experience fighting on the side of patients who were harmed by preventable medical mistakes.
Statute of Limitations and Medical Review Commission
Each state in the country has a unique set of malpractice laws that can be complex and difficult to understand. New Mexico medical malpractice lawyers have studied these laws and have a deep understanding of them. Patients can still benefit from knowing what some of these laws are and how they affect the choices they make regarding the experience of medical negligence.
The statute of limitations, for instance, is important for patients to be aware of because if they are not they can miss the chance to file a lawsuit. In New Mexico patients have just three years from the time the negligence occurred to start a suit. This is a hard deadline with no discovery rule, which would extend the limit to three years beyond when the negligence was discovered. The only exception is a minor aged six or younger, who has until his or her ninth birthday to file.
Another important law for patients to understand requires the use of a medical review commission before lawsuits can be filed in the state. This is becoming more common in states and is intended to minimize the number of frivolous lawsuits that make it to court. Critics and advocates for patient victims believe that this requirement can be too big a barrier for some to get a fair trial.
In New Mexico patients and their lawyers must present their case to the commission before filing. Included are details about the patient’s care and the alleged negligence as well as authorization to allow the commission to access medical records. Within 60 days the commission determines if there is evidence of negligence and that it harmed the patient. If the plaintiff then files the lawsuit the commission’s findings are not admissible in court. The commission will support the plaintiff with expert witnesses and testimony if it finds in his or her favor.
New Mexico Damages Cap Ruled Unconstitutional
Like many other states, New Mexico has a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered in medical malpractice cases. These are damages related to pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, and other harm that cannot be priced. The damages related medical bills are not capped. The cap New Mexico does have is $600,000. This covers non-economic damages, but also specific economic damages, including lost wages, but not medical bills.
These caps have been instituted in many states to curb the high costs of malpractice cases, but critics have long stated that they are unfair to victims, and in some states unconstitutional. New Mexico is the latest state whose Supreme Court has decided that the cap is contrary to the state’s constitution. That ruling came in March of 2018 in New Mexico and the justices determined the cap prevented plaintiffs from their right to get a jury verdict that is unaltered. In other words, it interferes with the right to a fair trial.
The case that went to the Supreme Court involved a woman who required hospital care for nine months because of a botched gynecological procedure. The ruling awarded her $2.6 million and took the damages cap to the highest court, ruling it out for future cases. In 2011 the cap was set to be raised to $1 million to keep up with inflation—the original $600,000 cap dates to the 1990s—but the governor vetoed the law.
New Mexico Medical Malpractice Cases
New Mexico medical malpractice lawyers go to bat every time they file a lawsuit for a client, but some cases turn out better than others. There are plenty of examples in the state of cases that went in favor of the plaintiff and the victim of medical negligence thanks to the hard work of their malpractice lawyer or legal team.
One of these cases involved a delay of more than a year in diagnosing a person’s colon cancer. The original case against St. Vincent Hospital was dismissed, but lawyers appealed and it went all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court. The justices ruled in favor of the plaintiff. A radiologist diagnosed the patient in 2002 with diverticulitis with a secondary diagnosis of an abnormal growth that could become cancerous. The man’s doctor claimed to never have gotten that secondary piece of information. It was determined in court that there was a failure to communicate between the medical professionals and was considered negligence.
Another big case ended in a jury award of $12 million for a 46-year-old woman from Tucson. The woman was sent to the emergency room by her doctor when her blood was found to be thin. There a resident gave her a drug called Profilnine, which her lawyers claim was against hospital standards and was dangerous. She suffered blood clots because of the drug, which led to brain damage. She is now permanently disabled and needs care around the clock.
A case that is ongoing, but that hopefully will end in favor of the victim, involves a disabled young girl who suffered brain damage during labor and delivery. Her parents have filed a lawsuit against the doctor who they claim did not follow the right procedures during deliver, and the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington. The family claims that the doctor used a vacuum extractor on the baby just one hour after the mother went into labor. The instrument which caused a brain hemorrhage and the girl will now live forever with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Her parents are hoping to get justice and damages to help with her ongoing care.
Finding a New Mexico Medical Malpractice Lawyer
To find and work with the best lawyer for your case if you have been the victim of medical negligence, start with the New Mexico Bar Association. This group will help you find a lawyer in good standing in the state and can even point out those who specialize only in malpractice law. It is essential to choose a lawyer who only works with malpractice victims because this kind of case requires specialized knowledge and experience.
You don’t have to choose just any malpractice lawyer in the state. You can shop around and interview lawyers to find the right one for your needs. You can ask about their specific experiences with cases, for references from past clients, and for success rates in malpractice cases. Only when you choose a lawyer who has the experience and knowledge, and with whom you feel comfortable sharing your experiences and personal details, will you have the best chance of filing a lawsuit that is successful in a settlement or jury trial.