What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New Mexico?

Many people associate lawsuits with loud, dramatic courtroom scenes. While a lawsuit can eventually involve some courtroom drama, a lot of work happens before a judge is ever involved. In New Mexico, filing a personal injury lawsuit involves several steps, some of which are necessary to take soon after the incident causing the personal injury occurs.

Obtain Medical Attention

Obtain Medical Attention

First and foremost, your priority is to stay safe. If you were involved in a car accident and suffered injuries, get medical attention. It will help you recover and document your injuries for a potential lawsuit. Be sure to keep all medical bills and any prescriptions as evidence. These documents will become important for your insurance claim.

The next step is to document the scene. Take photographs of any damages to your car and your injuries. Your photographs will become valuable evidence.

Report the Accident

 Your next task is to report the accident to your insurance company. Most insurance policies have requirements about when accidents must be reported. Generally, do it as soon as possible. Ideally, you should report it within the first twenty-four hours. When an accident involves physical injuries, prompt reporting allows the insurance company to start covering medical expenses.

If you were injured on another person’s property, notify the owner. Likewise, if you were injured on the job, notify your employer. At this stage, you want to notify the important players that you were involved in an incident that caused you injury.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

 Dealing with a personal injury can be emotionally and physically taxing. Coping with the stress that comes with an accident is already demanding—adding in the steps necessary to obtain a financial recovery only makes the situation much more stressful.

For peace of mind, you should hire a personal injury lawyer. Delegate the work of obtaining a recovery to an experienced lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the law. The laws on personal injury can be complex, and a personal injury lawyer will know how to navigate the legal system.

Your first step in hiring a personal injury lawyer is researching and finding an experienced, competent lawyer. Once you do, schedule a consultation to discuss the accident. At the consultation, be prepared to share details about the accident and any documents you have. With that information, your lawyer will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case. 

Your lawyer may offer some initial legal advice and outline a legal strategy for the case. At this meeting, your lawyer may discuss the fees for handling your case. Lawyers normally work on an hourly rate—you are charged a certain amount of money for every hour the lawyer spends working on your case.

However, personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis; the lawyer will charge you only if the outcome of the case is successful. You do not have to pay any attorney’s fees upfront. If the case is successful—either because the lawyer obtained a settlement or won after a trial in court—then the lawyer is entitled to a percentage of the recovery obtained in the case.

Your Lawyer Will Investigate

Once hired, your lawyer will get straight to work. Your lawyer’s job is to learn your case’s details intimately. Your lawyer will review all the evidence and form an independent conclusion about who is at fault and how to build a case against that person or entity.

Sometimes, more than one party is at fault for an accident, and at this stage of the process, your lawyer will identify all potential parties. A car accident may involve multiple drivers and entities who share some level of liability for the accident. For example, there might be a construction company performing work on a highway in an area where there are no warning signs or traffic cones. 

Driver A, driving above the speed limit, fails to slow down and crashes into a construction vehicle. Driver B, driving behind Driver A, crashes into Driver A. In this example, Driver A was negligent for driving above the speed limit, and the construction company was negligent for not giving sufficient warning to other drivers about the road work being performed. 

Your Lawyer Will Assess Your Damages

Damages are money awarded as compensation for a loss. Your lawyer will research the potential damages for your case by analyzing all the available information. Damages include economic and noneconomic damages. 

Economic damages are easier to quantify; they include money spent on medical expenses like doctor’s visits, surgeries, and hospital stays. They also include the wages you have lost and may lose at your job because of your injuries. Economic damages also include the property damage involved—the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged car.

An accident may result in more than physical injuries; it may completely alter the quality of your life. In those cases, pain and suffering damages may be available. Damages for pain and suffering are a form of non-economic damages and are harder to quantify because they are subjective. 

For example, an accident may cause a victim to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may cause ongoing pain that makes it difficult to sleep. When reaching a number for pain and suffering, a New Mexico jury may consider factors like the injury’s nature and its effect on the victim’s daily life.

In cases where multiple parties are at fault, a damages award will reflect that. In New Mexico, if a person is partially responsible for an accident, that person can still recover damages. This is because New Mexico follows a pure comparative fault system. 

When multiple people are responsible for an accident, they share responsibility based on their fault percentage. Let’s say the plaintiff—the person bringing the lawsuit—is 40% responsible, the defendant is 60% responsible, and the damages award is $100,000. The plaintiff would be liable for $40,000, and the defendant would be liable for $60,000. 

Your Lawyer Will Send a Demand Letter

Next, the lawyer sends a demand letter to the people who are at fault for your injuries. The letter will demand that a person pay a certain amount based on the lawyer’s calculation of damages. 

Your Lawyer Will File a Lawsuit

If the insurance company is not cooperating, your lawyer may file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. In New Mexico, there are deadlines for bringing a personal injury claim to court, which are called statutes of limitations. Your lawyer should be well-versed in that area of law. 

A lawsuit has many steps, and it starts with discovery. Discovery involves the exchange of information between the parties involved in the accident. At this point, you may be called to do a deposition (an interview where you will be placed under oath) concerning the accident.

After discovery is over, it is time for settlement negotiations. If the defendants do not agree to a fair settlement amount, your lawyer will take the case to trial before a jury to help you receive the maximum recovery you deserve. 

Contact an Albuquerque Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Personal injury cases can be complex. You should not have to navigate this challenging time alone. Contact a New Mexico personal injury lawyer from Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers at (505) 785-7770 today.