Medical malpractice, or medical negligence, happens when a heath care provider fails to meet the accepted standard of care when providing medical treatment to a patient, and as a result of that failure, the patient is injured.
When this happens the patient can file a lawsuit against the health care provider for compensation for the injuries sustained by the patient. These injuries are commonly referred to as damages.
Under New Mexico law the amount of damages, and how those damages are paid, and who they are paid by are in many cases regulated by statute. The statutes apply to Qualified Healthcare Providers only. Those medical providers that are not Qualified Healthcare Providers are not protected by the rather lopsided protections of the statutes and the caps and other restrictions on medical malpractice damages.
For Qualified Healthcare Providers, New Mexico law states that a patient can recover both compensatory and punitive damages in a medical malpractice claim. Compensatory damages include both economic damages and non-economic damages.
Examples of both include financial losses, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and disfigurement. New Mexico law limits the total amount that can be awarded for compensatory damages to $600,000. This amount, however, does not include damages for the cost of future medical care.
How is the Payment for Future Medical Care Handled?
Under New Mexico law (NM Stat § 41-5-7) the issue of the value of future medical expenses is not decided by the jury and is not included in any award for damages made by the jury to an injured patient. The jury is only told whether future medical care is required, but evidence about the cost of future medical care is not part of the evidence considered by the jury. In fact, it is the court that will later estimate the value of the future medical care reasonably necessary. The court‘s estimate is included in the record as a separate finding but it is not included in any award or judgment made to the patient.
Once a judgment is entered by a Court, and the patient is found to need future medical care, the patient is provided with all medical care necessary as a result of the health care provider‘s malpractice. Two important stipulations in the statute regarding the payment of future medical expenses are as follows:
1. The payment for future hospitalizations is limited to payment for a semi-private room.
2. Future medical expenses are paid only as they are incurred by the patient.
It is important to know that this law does not stop a patient from entering into a settlement agreement with a medical provider. This law applies equally to claims resolved in court as well as claims that have been settled between the patient and provider where it is agreed upon that the patient will need further medical care.
Under New Mexico law the health care provider is responsible for all medical care until the total payments made by the provider, or on behalf of the provider, equals $200,000. Any additional medical expenses are paid through what is called the New Mexico Patient‘s Compensation Fund.
New Mexico‘s Patient Compensation Fund.
The New Mexico Patient‘s Compensation Fund (also referred to as PCF) was established by the Mexico Medical Malpractice Act of 1976. The Patient Compensation Fund provides an excess layer of professional liability coverage for health care providers that are members of the fund (Qualified Healthcare Providers). This Patient Compensation Fund is administered by the New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance. This PCF gets its money through premiums charged to the health care providers that are a member of the Fund.
If you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to consult with and experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine whether the medical provider is a Qualified Healthcare Provider. In addition to this critical determination, there are unique and strict deadlines on medical malpractice claims which will bar a claim completely when missed.
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