When a medical error occurs and harms a patient in New Mexico, the doctor or other medical professional who is responsible for the damages can typically be held liable. This is usually done through a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, if the patient dies, family members may want to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although both types of lawsuit may arise from the same medical mistake, they are not the same legal actions.

FindLaw explains that a medical malpractice case can be filed when a person suffers an injury because a medical professional does not act with a reasonable standard of care. For example, a doctor fails to diagnose a dangerous condition because he did not suggest tests that a physician could reasonably be expected to order for a patient exhibiting those symptoms. Or perhaps an anesthesiologist does not review a medical chart before a surgery and fails to discover that the patient is on medication that will react dangerously with the anesthesia normally used for that procedure.

In these cases, the patient who suffers the injury may file an action to recover damages such as the costs of medical treatment needed due to the mistake, lost wages and pain and suffering. However, if the patient dies as a result of the mistake, a wrongful death action may be filed instead.

According to the New Mexico statute 41-2, a person who causes a death by a wrongful act or through neglect should be held liable. Therefore, a medical mistake that would normally lead to a personal injury lawsuit could result in a wrongful death lawsuit if the injured person dies as a result. Only the decedent’s personal representative may file the lawsuit. This is typically the executor who is named in the will. The money is distributed to the family members according to the instructions in the statute.