Every state has enacted its own statutes of limitations for personal injury claims as well as other types of legal actions. When pursuing a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations is an extremely important consideration.
Its intricacies are deceptively complex to the point that you might need a lawyer to sort them out for you. Never ignore the statute of limitations deadline.
How Statutes of Limitations Work
The statute of limitations basically says, “You have this much time to file a lawsuit, finalize a settlement, or forever abandon your claim.” Once the statute of limitations deadline passes, your claim is effectively dead unless an exception applies. Exceptions tend to be few and narrow.
If you try to file a lawsuit after the deadline, the opposing party will raise the statute of limitations as a defense, and the judge will dismiss your claim. If, on the other hand, you try to negotiate your claim, the opposing party will simply laugh at you.
Without the ability to enforce your claim in court, you have precisely zero bargaining power. There is no reason for the opposing party to even answer your phone calls, much less negotiate with you.
The Various Deadlines
There are several filing deadlines that will kill your claim immediately if you exceed them. Following is a summary of them:
- The general New Mexico statute of limitations deadline is three years after the occurrence of the injury. This standard applies unless there is an exception.
- You have four years to file a lawsuit over property damage. This deadline trips up a lot of people in car accident claims. If you suffer both personal injury and damage to your vehicle in a car accident, and you wait past the three-year deadline for a personal injury claim, you can sue for property damage but not for personal injury.
- If you are the executor of the estate of someone who died due to the fault of another, you can file a wrongful death claim. The deadline is still “three years after,” but the three-year clock doesn’t begin to tick until the victim actually dies. That date of injury is irrelevant.
- If you plan to sue the New Mexico state government or one of its local subdivisions, you must first file a notice of claim to give the government time to attempt a settlement with you before you file a lawsuit. This deadline is stringent, at only 90 days after the injury. If you file your notice of claim with the appropriate New Mexico government entity, and if New Mexico rejects your claim, you have two years from the date of rejection to file a lawsuit.
- If you are a minor (under 18 years old), you can’t file a lawsuit on your own initiative. Instead, an adult must do it for you. For that reason, if you are injured as a minor, you have until your 19th birthday to file a lawsuit.
- If you were mentally incapacitated at the time of your injury, you have until one year after you regain mental capacity or until the three-year statute of limitations deadline expires (whichever comes last) to file a lawsuit.
- If you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare professional, you have until three years after you discover your injury or three years after you should have discovered it through the exercise of due diligence, whichever comes first.
- In cases of child sexual abuse, the deadline is your 24th birthday or within three years of first disclosing the abuse to your licensed medical or mental health provider.
The statute of limitations deadline can become murkier still if you are suing for a continuing course of conduct. Nursing home abuse claims often face this ambiguity. Contact your lawyer for assistance on this issue.
How To Beat the Statute of Limitations Deadline By Filing a Lawsuit
To bear the statute of limitations deadline, you need to accomplish three tasks:
- You must file a formal complaint with the appropriate court. The complaint must be drafted with great care to avoid damaging your claim. Your best bet is to have your lawyer draft it for you.
- Pay the filing fee. Your attorney will probably advance you this fee and deduct it from any compensation you win. If you win no compensation, you will not have to repay the fee to your lawyer.
- Deliver a copy of the complaint and a court summons to the defendant. This is known as service of process. If you have to serve process in person, a neutral third party must do it for you. The purpose of requiring a neutral third party is to avoid violence or unnecessary conflict.
As long as you complete the first two steps by the deadline and you complete the third step within a reasonable time thereafter, you will have permanently beaten the statute of limitations deadline.
Your Chances of Settlement
Most personal injury victims would rather resolve their claim out of court. Fortunately, most personal injury cases end at the settlement table, not at trial. More specifically, well over 90% of all successful personal injury claims end in settlement, and fewer than 10% go to trial.
Nevertheless, the best way to avoid a trial is to prepare for it. That way, the defendant doesn’t dare meet you in court.
Sometimes you need to file a lawsuit even though you still plan to settle out of court. If the statute of limitations deadline is looming, for example, filing a lawsuit is one way of reacting.
Once you file a lawsuit, the judge might still wait several months to schedule a trial. You can still negotiate and settle your claim at any time before a final verdict.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute To Find an Experienced Albuquerque Personal Injury Lawyer
One common mistake is to wait until the statute of limitations deadline is looming to start looking for a lawyer. This approach will hinder your search. After all, many lawyers will not be willing to take a case that would put them under great time pressure.
Even if you find a lawyer, they will need to rush through your claim with very little time to negotiate. Your best bet is to start looking for a qualified Albuquerque personal injury attorney as soon as your claim arises. Don’t worry about money, Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers will represent you on a “no win, no pay” contingency fee basis. Your legal fees will amount to a certain pre-agreed percentage of your total compensation. Contact us today by calling (602) 595-5559 to schedule your free case evaluation.