This article looks at some key New Mexico laws that apply to personal injury cases. These laws may come into play in your case, whether you're planning to file a lawsuit in court or just negotiate a settlement with an insurance company.
New Mexico has a "statute of limitations" that limits the time you have to file a court case after an accident. In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a case in court. If you do not file your case within this timeframe, you may lose the chance to file it at all, so it's important to keep track of the statute of limitations in order to protect your right to get compensation for your injuries.
You can read the full text of New Mexico's statute of limitations at Ch. 37, Art. 1, Sec. 37-1-8 of the New Mexico Statutes.
Comparative fault laws apply to cases in which an injured person is found to share some measure of legal responsibility for an accident or injury. New Mexico uses a "comparative negligence" rule in these cases.
Simply put, this rule reduces the damages an injured person can receive, by a percentage that is equal to the share of fault that is assigned to that person.
Here's an example. Suppose you're shopping in a grocery store one day when you trip over a broken floor tile. You didn't see the tile because you were busy with your cell phone at the time. In court, it's determined that you are 10 percent at fault for the accident, and the grocery store was 90 percent at fault. It's also determined your total damages are $1,000.
Under New Mexico's "comparative negligence" rule, you can recover $900, or $1,000 minus $100 representing your 10 percent of the fault.
Courts in New Mexico are required to apply the modified comparative fault rule when fault is shared. Insurance adjusters may bring it up during settlement negotiations as well, so it's wise to be prepared.
Many states place caps on damages in personal injury cases. These caps often limit non-economic damages or damages in certain types of cases, like medical malpractice cases.
New Mexico caps damages in medical malpractice cases at $600,000. This cap does not include punitive damages or costs for past and future medical care. And remember, it applies only to personal injury cases arising from medical malpractice, not any other kind of case.
There is no specific statute in New Mexico governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner "should have known" the animal was dangerous. This is known as the "one bite" rule.
If your injury involves a New Mexico state government agency or employee, you'll need to follow a different set of rules. In New Mexico, you have ninety days to file a claim against a negligent government employee or agency. The New Mexico Tort Claims Act governs claims against the government in that state.
The full text of New Mexico's personal injury law is available in Chapter 41: Torts (New Mexico Statutes).