You've been injured in New Mexico—maybe in an auto accident, on a dangerous property, or by a careless doctor—and you're thinking about filing a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or a lawsuit. Before you do, take a few minutes to learn about the New Mexico laws and rules that might impact your case.
We'll walk you through the basics of New Mexico's PI laws, including the deadline for filing a lawsuit, what happens if you're partly to blame for an accident, caps on personal injury damages, and more.
New Mexico has deadlines, called "statutes of limitations," to file personal injury lawsuits in court. The time limit starts to run when your claim "accrues." (N.M. Stat. § 37-1-1 (2023).) Most often, a PI claim accrues on the date you're injured—if you're aware of your injury when it happens. If you don't discover your injury until later, you might have more time to file suit.
Can you sue after the statute of limitations runs out? Probably not. Absent an exception that gives you more time to file (we discuss a few exceptions below), once the deadline expires, your right to sue is lost, forever.
Medical malpractice claims. Special rules apply to New Mexico medical malpractice cases. You still have three years to file a lawsuit, but the limitation clock starts running on the date of the malpractice. Minors and people who are legally incapacitated—unable to care for themselves or manage their own affairs—might have more time to sue. (N.M. Stat. § 41-5-13 (2023).)
Extending the limitation period. In a few situations, New Mexico law "tolls" (temporarily pauses) or extends the statute of limitations. For example, the statute of limitations might be tolled if the defendant leaves New Mexico or goes into hiding. (N.M. Stat. § 37-1-9 (2023).)
Incapacitated persons and minors. A person who's incapacitated has one year after their incapacity ends to file a PI suit. (N.M. Stat. § 37-1-10 (2023).)
A minor must bring a lawsuit within the longer of:
(See Gomez v. Chavarria, 146 N.M. 46, 50 (N.M. Ct. App. 2009).)
Suing New Mexico or a local government in New Mexico isn't the same as suing a private individual or business. There are extra steps and special deadlines you'll need to follow.
Within 90 days after the event that gives rise to your PI claim, you must give the government written notice of your claim. The notice should describe when, where, and how your injury happened, and should say how much compensation you're demanding.
If you don't give the required notice, you're not allowed to sue unless the government has actual notice of your claim from another source. (N.M. Stat. § 41-4-16 (2023).)
Giving notice of your claim isn't the same as suing the government. You have two years from the date of your injury to sue the government. Young children might have extra time to file. (N.M. Stat. § 41-4-15 (2023).)
State law caps the compensation (called "damages") you can collect from the government in a PI case. Past and future medical expenses are capped at $300,000. Other damages, like lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more are limited to $400,000. In addition, you can't collect punitive damages from the government. (N.M. Stat. § 41-4-19 (2023).)
In a typical personal injury case, you have to show that the defendant's negligence caused your injuries. Quite often, the defendant will claim that you were negligent too, and that your negligence should reduce or eliminate the damages you can collect. This defense is called "comparative negligence."
New Mexico has adopted a "pure" comparative negligence rule. If you're found partly to blame for an accident, your percentage share of the negligence reduces your damages. But as long as you're not 100% to blame, you can still collect some compensation.
A personal injury lawsuit is a type of civil court case. Civil cases are governed by the New Mexico Rules of Civil Procedure. Chances are you're not familiar with these rules, which are technical and can be difficult to understand. Your best chance of success will come from hiring an experienced New Mexico PI lawyer to handle the suit for you.
You start a New Mexico PI lawsuit by filing a complaint, most often in the proper district court. New Mexico law or the court rules might require that your complaint include (or not include) specific allegations. (See, for example, N.M. R. Civ. Proc. 1-008 (2023).) But in general, your complaint will describe:
Once you file your lawsuit, the court clerk will give you a summons—an order commanding the defendant to appear in court and defend the case. You'll need to arrange for "service" (delivery) of the summons and a copy of the complaint on the defendant. (See N.M. R. Civ. Proc. 1-004 (2023).)
Yes. In addition to damage caps in suits against the government (mentioned above), New Mexico caps damages in medical malpractice cases. Note that punitive damages and damages for future medical care aren't subject to these limits.
Suits against individual providers. Damages in a malpractice case against an individual health care provider like a doctor, nurse, or physician's assistant are capped at $750,000. This limit is adjusted each year for inflation.
Suits against independent clinics. If your suit is against a clinic, surgery center, or urgent care facility that's not associated with a hospital, the damages you can collect are limited to $750,000. For injuries in 2024 and later, the cap is increased to $1,000,000. Beginning with injuries in 2025, this amount will be adjusted annually for inflation.
Suits against hospitals. For injuries in 2023, malpractice damages against a hospital (or a hospital-associated clinic) are capped at $4,500,000. The limit increases by $500,000 per year for injuries taking place between 2024 and 2026. After that, the cap is adjusted annually for inflation.
(N.M. Stat. § 41-5-6 (2023).)
If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, talk to a personal injury lawyer in your area. You can also learn more about personal injury lawsuits, settlements, alternatives to resolving your case in court, and more:
- Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
- Determining Fault in a Personal Injury Case
- What Are Mediation and Arbitration?
- Tips for Getting the Best Personal Injury Settlement
- The Cost of Taking Your Personal Injury Case to Court
- The Deposition in a Personal Injury Case
- Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer or Handle Your Own Claim?
- Common Kinds of Personal Injury Cases