In this article, we'll look at some key areas of New Mexico law as they apply to medical malpractice cases. We'll start with the time limit, or "statute of limitations," that applies to medical malpractice cases brought in the state. We'll also look at how New Mexico limits damage awards to successful plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, and we'll examine a few other key laws that affect a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Mexico.
New Mexico sets a limit, known as a "statute of limitations," on the time an injured person has to bring a medical malpractice case to court. In New Mexico, this time limit expires after three years. For children who were under age six when the injury occurs, the time limit expires on the child's ninth birthday.
In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is based on the date of the injury, expiring three years after that date in New Mexico. In medical malpractice cases, however, applying the statute of limitations can be difficult, especially when an injury occurs on one date but doesn't become apparent for days, months, or even years afterwards. To ensure you understand exactly how the statute of limitations applies in your case, it's best to speak to an attorney with experience handling these types of cases.
Bottom line: It's crucial to comply with this rule, because if you try to file your medical malpractice lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has passed, the court will throw out your case and you'll lose your right to a civil remedy.
New Mexico sets limits on medical malpractice awards when a plaintiff has made a successful case and a jury has decided to hold the defendant liable. These limits apply to non-economic damages and to some economic damages, such as future payments of medical bills.
New Mexico caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $600,000. "Non-economic" damages include compensation for the plaintiff's pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and similar losses stemming from the medical malpractice. Non-economic damages do not include (and so this cap does not apply to) compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other easily quantifiable financial losses (economic damages).
Although New Mexico does not limit economic damages to a specific dollar amount, the state does limit the payment of future medical bills to amounts actually incurred. This means that if an injured person will need continued medical care for a medical-negligence-inflicted injury, he or she may only receive damages for bills actually received, instead of a speculative amount based on estimates.
(See Types of Damages and Compensation in a Medical Malpractice Case for more detail on each type.)
New Mexico law also limits the total damages any one defendant must pay to $200,000, even if the total damages awarded to the plaintiff in the case is greater. If the total damages are greater than the limits placed on all defendants (and remember, that's $200,000 each), the balance is paid from New Mexico's Patient Compensation Fund.
Medical malpractice cases in New Mexico may be brought against any responsible health care provider, including doctors, counselors, and psychotherapists.
Although New Mexico does not have an affidavit of merit requirement (a sworn statement from an expert witness that must accompany the initial medical malpractice complaint in some states), it does require the use of expert testimony in nearly all medical malpractice cases.
Medical expert witness testimony is required to prove that a medical provider's care fell below the generally-accepted standard of care, which defines negligence in medical malpractice cases. New Mexico does not impose any special restrictions on the testimony of expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases, however.