Can I sue my doctor for emotional distress? Yes, you can. Due to certain nuances in New Mexico law, however, you can only prevail in such a lawsuit under limited circumstances.
Can I sue a hospital for emotional distress? Well, you can name a hospital as a defendant in a lawsuit for emotional distress if the doctor was an employee of the hospital.
Most doctors who work in hospitals, however, are not employees of the hospitals they work in.
How to Sue a Doctor for Emotional Distress
The legal causes of action you might consider as your basis for an emotional distress lawsuit include (i) pain and suffering damages incident to a medical malpractice lawsuit, (ii) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (iii) wrongful death.
Medical Malpractice Pain and Suffering Damages
You can claim damages for pain and suffering in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Pain and suffering is only one element of medical malpractice damages. You can also recover for medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. In many cases, however, pain and suffering damages are the largest element of damages.
Pain and suffering damages include both physical pain and suffering and forms of emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and other psychological symptoms that you might suffer.
You will run into two major limitations on claiming emotional distress damages in a medical malpractice lawsuitーthe requirement of physical harm, and New Mexico’s medical malpractice damages limitations.
The Requirement of Physical Harm
Winning pain and suffering damages incident to a medical malpractice lawsuit requires you to win your medical malpractice claim.
You cannot win a medical malpractice claim, no matter how bad your doctor’s treatment was, unless you can prove that you suffered physical harm as a result of your doctor’s treatment (or failure to treat).
Once you have proven physical harm, you can also recover from the pain and suffering that arose from that harm, including emotional damages.
New Mexico’s Medical Malpractice Damages Caps
New Mexico limits the amount of damages that you can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The limit is $600,000 per claim, excluding the cost of medical care and rehabilitation.
Any claim for pain and suffering damages falls within the $600,000 limit. That means your total award, including pain and suffering, lost earnings and any other element except medical and rehabilitation expenses, can total no more than $600,000.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Unlike with a medical malpractice claim, you don’t always have to prove a physical injury to win a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. You can also assert this claim in cases of intentional misconduct.
Not many doctors intentionally inflict emotional distress on their patients, but it can happen.
To win a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against your doctor, you must prove the following three elements:
- Your doctor’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous” under the circumstances.
- Your doctor acted either intentionally or recklessly. Recklessly means “the intentional doing of an act with utter indifference to the consequences.”
- The emotional distress you experienced was severe.
You must prove each of the foregoing elements on a “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) basis. In practice, it is extremely difficult to prove all three of these elements except in very unusual circumstances.
If you are entitled to file a medical malpractice lawsuit over the wrongful death of a loved one who was the doctor’s patient, you can claim several different items of damages. One of these is the emotional distress suffered by surviving relatives.
In New Mexico, you can file a wrongful death claim if you are the personal representative of the victim’s estate. Any damages will go to certain surviving relatives.
We’re Ready for Action
At Poulos & Coates, we are ready to begin building your claim as soon as you are.
The faster you act, the more likely you are to win your claim. If you believe that you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice, call us toll-free at 888-478-5424, or contact us online.
We work on a contingency basis, which means that we will bill you only if we win your claim. Otherwise, our services are free of charge.