Is there a cap on damages in New Mexico medical malpractice cases?
Yes. Like many states, New Mexico "caps" or limits the amount of compensation that is available to a plaintiff who has been successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Most states' medical malpractice damage caps apply only to non-economic damages like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar subjective damages. New Mexico’s cap is a little different, although it functions to cap non-economic losses as well.
New Mexico has put in place a cap of $600,000 on many types of damages available to a medical malpractice plaintiff, but the cap specifically excludes compensation for "medical care and related benefits."
So, the cap (which can be found at New Mexico Statutes Annotated section 41-5-6) does not apply to compensation for any medical and rehabilitative care made necessary by the defendant’s malpractice, including payment of ongoing care in cases of permanent disability. There's no statutory limit on these kinds of damages, though it should be noted that New Mexico handles compensation for future medical care in a fairly unique way. Rather than awarding a lump sum payment for the anticipated costs of future care made necessary by the health care provider's malpractice, state law says that a successful medical malpractice plaintiff will be compensated for future care "as expenses are incurred." In many ways, this rule is more friendly to care providers than it is to patients, since it measures future losses with precision, and requires that future care actually be received before it will be compensated.
So while it doesn't apply to past or future medical care, New Mexico's $600,000 cap will apply to other economic compensation, such as payment of lost income and lost ability to earn a living, and it applies to all varieties of non-economic damages as well. That includes compensation for the injured patient's pain and suffering. Learn more about damages in a medical malpractice case. (Note: New Mexico’s cap also does not apply to punitive damages, which are pretty rare in medical malpractice cases.)
New Mexico also caps each individual health care provider’s liability at $200,000, and any amount above that limit will be paid to the plaintiff out of a state compensation fund that has been set up for patients who have been injured by medical malpractice.
by: David Goguen, J.D.