It has long been thought that having an expert in legal cases involving media was a good idea. It’s become common practice for US Courts to consistently hold that a medical expert is necessary to bring forth a lawsuit against medical professionals.
In New Mexico, “ordinarily expert evidence is essential to support an action for malpractice against a physician or surgeon.” The case law, however, recognizes that “[i]t is not mandatory in every case that negligence of the doctor be proved by expert testimony…”. The test for determining if a medical expert is required is set forth by the New Mexico Court of Appeals in Richter: “If the [negligent] act [complained of by the patient] involves the use of specialized knowledge or skill to make a judgment call as to the appropriate thing to do or not do, expert testimony will likely be needed to assess the resultant act or failure to act. If not, expert testimony is not required.” Simply because a doctor, hospital, nurse, nursing home, medical laboratory, chiropractor, or other medical type of provider is sued does not necessary mean that it qualifies as a medical malpractice claim which requires specialized, expert testimony. The court looks at the issue on a case-by-case basis studying the facts of each case to determine if a medical judgment was necessary.
Expert testimony is required when specialized knowledge or skill was applied when the negligent act occurred. If you need help finding a medical expert or lawyer to represent you reach out to the Davis Kelin Law Firm at (505) 242-7200.
To continue, a case can involve a hybrid situation where a part of the case needs a medical expert and another part of the case does not. Richter v. Presbyterian Healthcare presented a classic example of this. In Richter, a patient died of a heart arrhythmia during surgery which was caused by an undiagnosed condition called pheochromocytoma. Prior to her death, physicians ordered laboratory tests which would have identified the patient’s condition prior to her surgery, but the tests were never read by her physicians. The patient’s representative filed suit against the hospital (Presbyterian) and the laboratory (Tri-Core Laboratories) for medical negligence and failure to deliver the lab results, respectfully.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that the timing of the delivery of laboratory reports normally requires expert testimony unless the timing is set by a known standard such as an internal policy, contract, or regulation. The court held that because there was an established routine of when the lab reports were to be delivered to the doctors, the patient’s representative did not need a medical expert for the negligence in failing to deliver the reports to certain doctors. But, a medical expert was necessary to discuss if the lab reports were urgent.
Most medical malpractice cases, however, will demand several experts to properly prosecute the lawsuit.
The hardest part is determining if you need a medical expert in your case. At the Davis Kelin Law Firm we are here to help you with your medical case needs. Give us a call 24/7 at (505) 242-7200.