New Legislation Could Help Address Medical Negligence

In most states, medical malpractice suits are tried in the same state in which the patient was treated. In a landmark case in 2015, however, a New Mexico appeals court ruled that patients living in the state could sue physicians and hospitals in the New Mexico court system, even if the medical negligence occurred outside of the state. State legislators have recently proposed a piece of legislation that would make this court decision into state law.

This unusual legislation was introduced primarily because almost 25 percent of residents in the rural areas close to the state’s border are treated by hospitals and providers outside of New Mexico. This is particularly true when considering trauma patients, or patients with rare cancers or other afflictions that require sub-specialized care. It is much closer for the patients to access MD Anderson or the Level 1 trauma center in El Paso.

When the appeals court ruling became known, many hospitals and providers in Texas stated that unless the ruling was backed by state legislation that protected them, they would have no other recourse but to deny service to New Mexico patients. In effect, they would be required to purchase malpractice coverage for both states in order to treat patients, which can be cost-prohibitive. The legislation currently under consideration would allow out-of-state practitioners to request that patients from New Mexico sign a consent form that requires them to agree to only pursue malpractice claims in the state in which care was delivered.

This new bill would allow patients in New Mexico to still have access to the care they need, but would also protect out-of-state practitioners from having to carry malpractice insurance in multiple states. Due to the fluid nature of this situation, those who have experienced medical negligence from out-of-state practitioners could benefit from seeking the advice of an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice. An attorney can review the details, and help determine the best legal path to explore.

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