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When Your Doctor Makes an Honest Mistake

Unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.8 million people – roughly 869 deaths per 100,000 people – occur each year due to accidents. Medical errors made by physicians and other healthcare practitioners are included in those statistics. It can be unnerving to think that medical professionals who are supposed to help you could instead cause significant injury or even death.

Victims of medical errors or their surviving family members may wish to pursue medical malpractice claims against the healthcare providers responsible for their pain and suffering. Before seeking out the advice of a personal injury attorney that specializes in medical malpractice, learning the difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice can help determine if victims have a legitimate case.

Medical negligence vs. medical malpractice

Medical negligence is the legal term used to describe an “honest mistake” by a medical practitioner or healthcare team. Even the best and brightest medical professionals can make errors. While their medical misstep can cause injury or pain to the patient, it was not done with intent, so the legal system in New Mexico views it differently. Doctors and other healthcare professionals still can be held accountable for medical negligence.  

Medical malpractice is the term applied to the outcome of medical negligence. Sometimes doctors and other healthcare providers can make mistakes, but those errors do not cause pain or suffering to their patients. When a healthcare practitioner’s actions or inactions fail to meet the medical standard of care, and it causes significant injury or illness to their patient, it rises to the level of medical malpractice. Whether intentional or not, the physician or other medical provider is then liable for their actions. New Mexico law requires claims to meet the following criteria to be filed as medical malpractice:

  • The standard of care was violated. Patients have a right to expect medical care to be administered according to consistent medical standards.
  • The patient was injured due to medical negligence. Violating the standard of care is not enough to prove medical malpractice. Patients must also show they were injured or otherwise harmed by the negligent actions.
  • The patient must demonstrate significant damages. Medical malpractice litigation is expensive. Viable cases must show that a patient endured significant damages from injuries suffered from acts of medical negligence.

Examples of medical malpractice

When medical negligence rises to the level of malpractice, it usually involves one of the following situations.

  • A failure to diagnose properly. Misdiagnosing is a popular reason for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. When healthcare providers misread or overlook symptoms and fail to diagnose a serious illness or injury, their patients can hold them responsible for any additional suffering they endure because of their failure to provide a correct diagnosis.
  • A mistake with anesthesia. Patients undergoing certain medical procedures must be placed in an induced state of consciousness to prevent feeling pain. Anesthesiologists can sometimes fail to administer the correct dosage, leaving patients to feel every incision made and procedure performed, but unable to alert doctors and nurses to their pain.
  • An error with prescription medication. Sometimes doctors prescribe the wrong dosage of a medication, or the wrong medication entirely. Prescription mistakes are another leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Can you sue for medical negligence?

In most cases, victims of medical malpractice can sue and recover damages either through a settlement or court action. They can receive fair compensation for:

  • Loss of wages, including future earning capacity, if medical negligence caused a temporary or permanent disability.
  • Medical expenses, including doctor visits, therapy, prescription medications, and any anticipated future medical interventions.
  • Pain and suffering, including for both emotional and physical pain.

In New Mexico, claimants must file before the statute of limitations expires. New Mexico law states victims have three years from the date the medical negligence occurred to file for damages against doctors and other healthcare providers.

Next steps for victims of medical negligence

Victims may be reluctant to file a medical malpractice claim, especially if they feel their doctor or other healthcare practitioner made an honest mistake and did not mean to cause them harm. Discussing the circumstances of medical negligence can help victims decide whether to pursue legal action. Choosing an experienced personal injury lawyer experienced in medical malpractice can offer the best outcome. Bill Russell has represented injured people and their families successfully for years. Schedule a hassle-free consultation to discuss your case by calling 505-218-7844 or contact Bill online.

October 19, 2021