Even though medical malpractice lawsuits have the same burden of proof as other civil lawsuits, proving one is daunting.
Medical malpractice suits are often expensive and complicated, requiring significant resources and expert testimony.
Understanding what to expect with your claim and working with legal and medical professionals can give your claim a greater chance of success.
Here is a closer look at what a medical malpractice claim is, the chances of winning a lawsuit against a hospital after medical malpractice, and what factors can affect those chances.
If you have questions, or would like to speak to a Las Cruces medical malpractice lawyer, please contact us today.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical practice occurs when a healthcare provider commits negligence by deviating from the accepted standard of care, and a patient suffers harm as a result.
New Mexico’s medical malpractice law allows patients to hold healthcare providers accountable for their negligence.
What Are Common Medical Malpractice Cases?
Medical malpractice may result from an error on the part of one or more doctors who treated the patient, or the error could be committed by a nurse, pharmacist, or other medical professional. These are just a few examples of the many possible ways medical malpractice can occur.
- Anesthesia errors. This can occur when a physician administers too much or too little anesthesia, leading to complications during surgery and even death in worst-case scenarios.
- Birth injuries. Birth injuries are injuries to a baby or mother during childbirth caused by medical negligence or errors in prenatal care, labor, or delivery.
- Failing to obtain informed consent. This type of medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional performs a procedure without obtaining proper consent or without adequately informing a patient about potential risks and alternatives.
- Failing to provide proper follow-up or aftercare. If a patient does not receive appropriate post-treatment or follow-up care, it can result in complications and worsening health conditions.
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. This happens when a medical professional Incorrectly diagnoses a condition or fails to diagnose it in a timely manner, leading to delayed or incorrect treatments.
- Medication errors. This can happen when a healthcare worker administers incorrect medication, gives an incorrect dosage, or doesn’t monitor a patient’s medication, leading to adverse health effects or worsening of their current condition.
- Neglecting or ignoring symptoms. This happens when a healthcare professional dismisses or ignores a patient’s symptoms, leading to delayed diagnosis or treatment of a serious condition.
- Surgical errors. This happens when a doctor makes a mistake during surgery, such as operating on the wrong body part or organ, leaving surgical instruments inside the body, or performing unnecessary procedures.
These are just some of the most common medical malpractice examples.
Factors That Affect Your Likelihood of Winning Your Case
Every medical malpractice case is different, and it’s not easy to predict the outcome of a case. However, there are some important factors that affect your chances of winning a lawsuit against a hospital.
Strength of Liability Evidence
The elements to prove a medical malpractice claim in New Mexico are:
- A doctor or other medical professional owed a duty to the patient;
- They breached that duty;
- The patient suffered injury due to the breach; and
- The patient suffered damages as a result.
The standard of care for medical professionals is not the same as the general personal injury standard of care. For medical malpractice, a reasonable person is one who is a similarly trained and experienced medical professional under similar circumstances. Often, it takes expert testimony to establish this. That’s one reason these claims can be so complicated.
When it comes to a medical malpractice claim, your chance of winning a hospital lawsuit depends on your specific circumstances.
Essential evidence for a medical malpractice case includes comprehensive medical records detailing the patient’s diagnosis, any treatment received, and any procedures performed.
In addition, many cases require expert testimony from other healthcare professionals to help establish the standard of care expected in a similar situation.
Your Physician’s Relationship with the Hospital
In medical malpractice lawsuits, a hospital or other medical establishment can be held liable for a patient’s injuries only under certain circumstances. There are two main grounds to sue a hospital for malpractice:
- Vicarious liability—holding the hospital responsible for the actions of a negligent medical provider, and
- Direct liability—holding the hospital responsible for its own negligent actions.
You may be able to sue a hospital under one or both of these theories of negligence.
Whether the hospital is responsible for the actions of a negligent doctor or other medical professional depends on whether that person was an employee of the hospital.
You also have to be able to show that they were acting within the scope of job-related duties when the malpractice occurred.
However, there are some cases where a doctor or surgeon is an independent contractor who simply performs the procedure inside the hospital. If this is the case, you may not be able to hold the hospital responsible for the medical provider’s actions.
When you sue a hospital under a theory of direct liability, you seek to hold the hospital responsible for its own negligent actions. Such actions may include:
- Not properly screening new hires or firing people who should be fired;
- Not properly maintaining medical equipment;
- Failing to ensure a sterile environment;
- Not having adequate procedures in place to keep appropriate records and track patient needs;
- Failing to hire enough people to provide proper patient care;
- Failing to properly train employees; and
- Failing to ensure adequate security.
This list is not exhaustive, and a hospital may be held directly liable for other types of negligent actions as well.
Being able to prove your damages and their amount is an essential step in winning a lawsuit against a hospital. In most personal injury cases, including medical malpractice, damages can be categorized into economic and non-economic damages:
- Economic damages. These cover quantifiable monetary losses directly attributed to the malpractice, including medical expenses, ongoing treatment costs, future treatment and rehabilitation expenses, lost wages due to inability to work, and future earning potential impacted by the injury.
- Non-economic damages. This includes compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and the overall impact of the malpractice on the patient’s well-being and quality of life.
New Mexico has placed a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, limiting the amount that can be awarded for pain, suffering, and emotional distress to $600,000. However, economic damages are typically not subject to this cap.
It is important to note that a successful medical malpractice claim is often challenging without an experienced legal professional. This is because medical malpractice cases are often costly to pursue and require specific evidence.
Before you file a lawsuit, you have to submit your case for screening by New Mexico’s Medical Review Commission.
It can be difficult to go through this process without an attorney. Moreover, an attorney is in the best position to advise you as to your next steps based on the outcome of the review.
A medical malpractice attorney will help you collect supporting documents such as lab results, imaging studies, and prescriptions to corroborate the course of treatment and take witness statements if needed. Additionally, with medical negligence, the average juror is not familiar with medical standards.
For this reason, medical malpractice lawsuits almost always require expert testimony. It can be hard to track down a qualified expert and gather necessary evidence from them without the aid of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
If you are worried about the chances of winning a lawsuit against a hospital after medical malpractice, you don’t have to go it alone. At Poulos & Coates, our firm focuses specifically on medical malpractice.
With over seven decades of combined legal experience and over $300 million dollars in damages recovered for our clients throughout our careers, we have the expertise you can rely on.
Poulos & Coates even has a doctor and a nurse on staff to evaluate your case, locate experts to review and testify on your behalf, and help prepare your case for trial. For a free case evaluation, give our office a call or fill out our online contact form.