What Happens if I am Harmed During Medical Treatment Following a Car Accident?

A car accident will often result in personal injury, sometimes very serious personal injury, requiring medical treatment.  Unfortunately, that medical care often leads to further injury and on occasion leads to significant injuries or even wrongful death.

Who is Responsible?

The question is who is responsible for the injuries suffered during medical treatment, or better yet, who all are responsible?

The question then arises of who is responsible for those subsequent injuries or death?  More specifically for our purposes here, is the driver that caused the original auto accident responsible in any way for the subsequent harm caused by medical malpractice?

To be clear, in New Mexico, yes you may recover on the car accident claims for harm suffered during medical care necessitated by the accident.  You may have a separate medical malpractice claim but that does not in any way prevent your additional auto insurance claims.

Auto Insurance v. Medical Malpractice Claim

You might have a medical malpractice claim in the event that the injuries or death arose from medical negligence.
In the case of injuries or wrongful death arising out of medical care, you might have a medical malpractice claim in the event that the injuries or death arose from medical negligence.  However, this would be above and beyond any claims related to the auto accident.  Any additional harm resulting from medical care, even where the care was negligent, is recoverable under the auto insurance claims.

Moreover, you may have claims for your injuries and damages related to medical care even where the medical care is negligent.

In short, medical care is clearly anticipated in case of injuries suffered in an auto accident.  Often times, medical procedures come with risk and those risks are borne out of additional harm.  Any harm resulting from that care, whether or not it was negligent, is recoverable as part of the auto accident insurance claims.  In addition, even negligent medical care may be anticipated under New Mexico law so such negligence does not let the other driver or the insurance companies off the hook.

Medical Malpractice Can be Anticipated Following a Car Accident

The insurance company for the driver that caused the accident will typically try to cut off responsibility for subsequent harm caused by medical negligence.  The insurance company will argue that the at-fault driver should not be held responsible for a number of reasons.

First, the insurance company may argue that the subsequent harm was outside of its insured driver’s control.  Perhaps this is true, but their driver set in motion the chain of events leading up to the harm.

Second, and related to the first, the insurance company will argue that medical malpractice cannot be anticipated and that it is completely unforeseeable.  Again, this is related to the first with the insurance company suggesting that it should not be held responsible for harm it could neither anticipate nor prevent.

The insurance company will lose on both counts under well-established case-law in New Mexico. One New Mexico case on point, Lujan v. HealthSouth captures the essence of the issue in a quote from the renowned legal scholar, Dean Keeton, who stated:  “It would be an undue compliment to the medical profession to say that bad surgery is no part of the risk of a broken leg.”

You can recover for any additional injuries suffered through medical care that arise out of an automobile accident.
There are a number of New Mexico cases in point, which is that you may recover for any additional injuries suffered through medical care necessitated by the auto accident whether the care was provided with the utmost care and competence or was completely negligent.  The numbers on medical malpractice bear out Dean Keeton’s remarks with up to 440,000 Americans dying each year from avoidable medical error and many times that number suffering serious injury.

Seek Legal Guidance

These cases can be somewhat complex.  The insurance companies are not going to inform you of your rights to recover in this situation.  To the contrary, they are very likely to fight your right to full recovery.

In cases like these, you would do well to obtain the assistance of an attorney experienced in both auto accidents and medical malpractice. This is most definitely one occasion where you do not want to go at it alone against the insurance companies.

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