In New Mexico, to prove medical malpractice, a patient (or her/his representative) must prove the following:
(1) the medical provider owed a duty to the patient (generally meaning that the patient was under the care of the provider or received medical services from the provider);
(2) the medical provider breached the duty owed to the patient through an action or omission, meaning that the provider failed to possess and apply the knowledge and to use the skill and care ordinarily used by reasonably well-qualified health care providers practicing under similar circumstances, giving due consideration to the locality involved;
(3) as a result (proximate cause) of the medical provider’s breach of the duty owed to the patient, the patient was damaged.
If a patient can prove that more likely than not the healthcare provider (1) owed a duty to the patient, (2) breached that duty, and (3) the breach of that duty caused the patient’s injuries, then the patient may sue the healthcare provider for medical malpractice.
To meet the burden of proof, ordinarily a patient must have a medical expert (doctor or other healthcare professional) testify that the medical provider’s conduct fell below the standard of care and the patient was injured as a result of the medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are some of the most difficult to prove in front of a jury and success of medical malpractice claims often turns on the evaluation and testimony of an expert witness.
Further complicating the issue are efforts by health care providers and others to restrict a patient’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. Many states (including New Mexico, in part) have enacted laws that place limits on medical malpractice lawsuits under the theory that these suits lead to more expensive healthcare and doctors refusing to practice medicine in New Mexico. Studies, however, have shown that efforts to restrict the constitutional rights of patients has not resulted in lower costs for consumers. Researchers have found no evidence that placing caps on the amount an injured patient can recover in a lawsuit actually reduces healthcare costs.
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