Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Claim Based on Lack of Expert Witness Testimony

Late last month, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho released their opinion regarding a medical malpractice claim stemming from treatment received by a 15-year-old in 2011. Apparently, the young woman was swimming at a YMCA when she fell from a floating structure. She was rushed to the hospital and was treated by an attending doctor, who conducted some testing but did not order an MRI scan. Unfortunately, the next morning the young woman was suffering from severe nausea, and CT and MRI scans were finally performed. It was discovered that the young woman had suffered a stroke within the previous six hours.

swimming-pool-1493115The young woman brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the treating doctor, claiming that he was negligent when he did not diagnose her with carotid artery dissection and that his negligence caused her to suffer serious, long-term neurological damage. The doctor moved for a directed verdict, and the court granted the motion, finding that the young woman did not prove her claim because she did not have an expert testify about the causation element required in negligence claims. The young woman appealed the case and asserted that the state law was met by the testimony presented. The Supreme Court found that there was no reversible error and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Considerations When Bringing a Medical Malpractice Claim in New Mexico

Medical malpractice claims are some of the most complicated personal injury claims to bring, based solely on the complexity of medicine and the amount of knowledge required to properly pinpoint whether negligence actually occurred.

To begin, there are some basic requirements in these cases of which plaintiffs must be aware. First, New Mexico has a three-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims brought in the state. In most situations, this means that the plaintiff has three years to bring the claim from the date of the injury. There are some exceptions to this general rule that address what happens when the injured party is a minor or when the injury was not discovered until later.

Next, there are monetary limitations on what an injured party may receive in these cases. Generally, New Mexico law states that a plaintiff may not receive more than $600,000 in non-economic damages. However, non-economic damages do not include things such as medical expenses and lost income.

Lastly, New Mexico mandates that plaintiffs who want to prove a medical malpractice claim have a medical expert act as an expert witness. Plaintiffs need to establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship between them and the treating doctor, that the doctor was negligent in providing treatment, and that the plaintiff was harmed by that negligence. An expert witness must be called to testify to the specific duty that was owed to the plaintiff by the doctor. This is often called the medical standard of care. They must show how the doctor breached the duty. It is crucial to have an experienced medical expert testify in these cases, or it will be extremely unlikely that the plaintiff will recover any damages at all.

Have You Been Injured Because of a Negligent Health Care Provider?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of a doctor, you should strongly consider calling a medical malpractice attorney at the Fine Law Firm. The attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have many years of experience handling these complex cases. They can assist you in developing your case and acquiring appropriate medical experts. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries that you suffered. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule a free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Court Hears Appeal Following Denial of Expert Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.

Tenth Circuit Upholds Validity of Liability Waiver After Rafting Accident, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 20, 2016.