Personal injury law involves the resolution of physical injury claims in a civil court or by adhering to the laws governing these claims in settling claims outside of court. As an injured victim, you have the burden of proving that another party negligently, recklessly or intentionally, caused you physical as well as emotional and financial harm or damages. Examples of personal injury claims include motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, premises liability and slip and fall, and dog bite or animal attacks. Different laws and rules regulate how these claims are handled.
In What Jurisdiction Will I File My Claim?
Jurisdiction in a personal injury claim lies in the county court where either the accident occurred or where the defendant is living. New Mexico's district courts have general jurisdiction over injury claims where the alleged damages exceed $10,000. Small claims with damages up to $10,000 must be filed in the magistrate court, where you may request a jury trial and be represented by an attorney.
New Mexico Statute of Limitations
Most personal injury claims, including wrongful death and medical malpractice actions, must be filed within three years of the date of the injury. Product defect claims also must be filed within three years of the injury or when the injury should have been discovered pursuant to the discovery rule, which allows the filing of injury claims that resulted from exposure to toxic substances that may not manifest for years after the initial exposure.
Minors under the age of 6 years must file for medical malpractice claims by their ninth birthday. For other claims, you have one year after your 18th birthday to file your claim.
Personal injury lawsuits against the state of New Mexico or its political subdivisions are first initiated by providing notice to the proper state entity within 90 days of the alleged act or injury and a lawsuit brought within two years of the injury. Minors under the age of 7 must file by their ninth birthday.
How Are Damages Awarded?
New Mexico allows damages in personal injury cases to include economic losses such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity. You may recover noneconomic damages for emotional injuries and for pain and suffering that includes your degree of permanent impairment or disfigurement and loss of consortium or loss of intimacy with your spouse.
Wrongful death cases include damages for funeral expenses and possibly for psychological trauma, but not for pain and suffering unless the decedent survived for some time after the accident. There are special rules for which heirs may recover in these claims.
Medical malpractice damages are limited to $600,000, excluding punitive damages and awards for past and future medical care.
Is New Mexico a Comparative-Fault State?
New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state, so you may recover compensation regardless of your degree of comparative fault so long as it is less than 100 percent. Your compensation is decreased by your percentage of responsibility.
What Is the Discovery Process?
Once you file, your and the defendant's attorney engage in a period of discovery where interrogatories and request for documents are exchanged and depositions of both parties and of any witnesses, lay or expert, are performed. This procedure allows the parties to discover the basis for the lawsuit, what facts are in dispute and to disclose all documents supporting liability and the claim for damages.
What Does a Personal Injury Cost?
The majority of personal injury lawyers recover their fees by taking a percentage, usually one-third, of any settlement or monetary verdict and are reimbursed their expenses from these proceeds. You are not charged a fee unless you recover compensation.
Consult a New Mexico Personal Injury Attorney
Your best opportunity for recovering the most from your injury claim is by retaining a New Mexico personal injury lawyer to ensure adherence to the applicable laws and rules dealing with the prosecution of your claim.