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Court Determines Car Accident Involving Medical Professional Is Not a “Medical Malpractice” Case

Posted in Auto Accidents

A division of the Court of Appeal of the State of California recently published an opinion reversing a trial court ruling that had prevented an accident victim from pursuing a negligence claim arising from injuries he suffered in a crash allegedly caused by a paramedic who was responding to a medical emergency. The trial court previously rejected the plaintiff’s claim because it was not filed within California’s one-year statute of limitations for negligence claims against a medical professional. The appellate court determined that the plaintiff’s car accident claim should not be restricted by the statute of limitations for professional negligence and remanded the case back to the trial court to proceed toward a trial or settlement.

The Defendant Ran a Red Light While Responding to an Emergency and Injured the Plaintiff

The plaintiff in the case of Aldana v. Stillwagon is a private citizen who was injured when his vehicle was struck by the defendant as he drove through an intersection. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant was a paramedic and was driving a standard pickup truck en route to a medical emergency when he failed to stop at a red light and crashed into the plaintiff, who had the right of way at the time of the accident. Based on the injuries suffered in the accident, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant approximately 17 months after the crash.

The Plaintiff’s Suit Is Dismissed Based on a Special Statute of Limitations

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant argued that California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act contained a statute of limitations that barred the plaintiff’s claim. Under California law, a victim of professional negligence by a medical provider must file a claim within one year from the date the injury was discovered. Since the defendant was working as a paramedic and responding to an emergency at the time of the crash, the trial court determined that the plaintiff’s claim was subject to the one-year statute of limitations and dismissed the case, resulting in the plaintiff’s appeal.

The Appellate Court Determines that the One-Year Limitation Period Should Not Apply

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations enforced by the trial court is intended to govern medical malpractice claims, rather than claims of general negligence against a medical provider who happens to be working as a medical professional at the time of the alleged negligent act. The appellate court evaluated the language of the statute and recent rulings by the California Supreme Court to determine that the plaintiff was correct. The court ruled that the one-year statute of limitations only applies to claims arising from negligence concerning professional services for which the defendant is specially licensed, but not for the violation of a general duty shared by the public at large. The court found that California’s two-year statute of limitations for general negligence claims should apply to the plaintiff’s case and reversed the trial court’s ruling.

New Mexico Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

Plaintiffs injured in a New Mexico car accident are required to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party within three years of the date of the accident. A failure to make a claim within this statute of limitations will most likely cause an accident victim to lose their right to compensation. In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim expires three years from the date when a plaintiff discovers that an act of medical malpractice occurred. New Mexico negligence victims should consult legal counsel as soon as possible after an accident or injury for the greatest chance to receive compensation for their claim.

Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Driver?

If you or someone close to you has been injured or killed in a New Mexico car accident, the qualified New Mexico car accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm can skillfully represent you and ensure that all relevant deadlines and procedural requirements are met. Our experienced Albuquerque car accident attorneys and professional staff will help you try to hold the responsible parties accountable for your injuries and get the compensation you deserve. Contact the Fine Law Firm today by phone at (585) 989-3463 or sign up online and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to meet a qualified New Mexico negligence attorney to handle your case.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Denies Governmental Immunity for Transportation Commission in Wrongful Death Claim, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016.

State Supreme Court Finds Plaintiff Is Not Entitled to Relief Due to Recreational Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016.