NM personal injury claims are complex enough without tossing a bunch of legal jargon into the mix. Sometimes attorneys forget that their clients don’t live in their worlds. Relying on complicated legal terms to explain rights and responsibilities is never a good strategy.
Before you schedule a consultation with a New Mexico personal injury attorney, review our helpful guide that breaks down the common language associated with personal injury claims.
In this blog you’ll learn:
- What is a personal injury claim?
- Who are the key people in NM personal injury claims?
- What does comparative negligence mean?
- What is the statute of limitation for NM personal injury claims?
- What are damages?
- What is a medical lien?
- What is a settlement offer?
What is a personal injury claim?
A personal injury claim is a legal action you can take if you’ve suffered emotional, financial, or physical harm due to someone else’s carelessness or deliberate actions. NM personal injury claims are a way for you to seek fair compensation for your damages and other losses that are directly related to that negligence.
Several types of incidents fall under the umbrella of personal injuries in New Mexico:
- Automobile accidents
- Dog bites
- Medical malpractice
- Premises liability
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workers’ compensation
- Wrongful death
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. Whether yours ends up in a courtroom depends on the circumstances and the willingness of both parties to reach a fair resolution.
Who are the key people in NM personal injury claims?
In a personal injury claim, several key people play essential roles in the process. Each person has specific responsibilities and impacts the outcome of your claim. Let’s break down all the individuals involved so you have a better understanding of everyone you might encounter during the claims period.
- The plaintiff
A plaintiffis the person who initiates the personal injury claim. They suffered harm – emotional, financial, physical – because of the deliberate actions or negligence of another person. As a plaintiff, you seek compensation for your losses and other damages in your claim.
- The defendant
The defendant is the person or entity (defendants can be businesses) against whom you’ve filed a personal injury claim. They are the party you’re accusing of responsibility for your pain and suffering. Your claim seeks fair compensation from the defendant.
- The insurance adjuster
Insurance adjusters are a necessary part of the personal injury claims process. They work for the defendant’s insurance company. Insurance companies often make low-ball offers to plaintiffs to settle a complaint quickly. Never agree to any terms from an at-fault party’s insurance company before consulting a personal injury attorney.
- The personal injury attorney
A personal injury attorney is the legal professional who helps you file your claim. During an initial consultation, your personal injury attorney can explain your rights and responsibilities. They and their staff gather all the documentation needed to prove your case. Personal injury attorneys also secure witness testimony and expert opinions. When necessary, they represent you in court.
- The witnesses
Witnesses are crucial components of any personal injury claim. They can verify your injuries were caused by the carelessness or deliberate actions of another person. Bystanders, experts, and others who have information relevant to your case fall into this category.
- The medical professionals
Medical professionals include any physician, nurse, or other healthcare practitioner who provided treatment for your injuries. Medical documentation is important evidence in your personal injury claim. Your attorney may request medical records and notes that prove the extent of your injuries.
- The expert witnesses
If your personal injury case ends up in court, your attorney may include expert witness testimony. Expert witnesses can include medical practitioners, reconstruction specialists, engineers, and forensic scientists to clarify complex issues and support your claim.
- The judge and jury
Personal injury cases that make it to court are overseen by a judge. Juries are selected to decide if the plaintiff has a case and, if so, what damages they should receive from the defendant as fair compensation. Defendants and their attorneys are more motivated to settle if they learn your case may end up in front of a jury that could award you significant compensation for your injuries.
What does comparative negligence mean?
New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state when it comes to personal injury claims. So, what does that mean, exactly?
Well, if you’re even partially at fault for your injuries, any amount you’re entitled to in a claim settlement or jury award is reduced by the percentage of your fault. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’re involved in an accident at work. The machine you were operating malfunctioned, causing you significant permanent injuries. An investigation of your personal injury claim determines you were 50% at fault because you weren’t following the safe usage guidelines for the equipment.
If a jury awards you $500,000 in damages but agrees you were 50% at fault, you may only be entitled to half that amount.
What is the statute of limitation for NM personal injury claims?
The statute of limitation for NM personal injury claims refers to the length of time you have to file your complaint from the date of the incident that caused your injuries. Under New Mexico law, you must file your personal injury claim within 3 years from the date of the accident or injury.
You can lose your right to seek fair compensation through the New Mexico courts if you fail to file a personal injury claim within the specified time. Defendants can use an expired statute of limitations to have your case dismissed.
What are damages?
In a personal injury case, damages refer to the losses and harm you suffered in an accident, incident, or other situation due to another person’s negligence or deliberate actions. Fair compensation for your injuries is called damages in the legal system.
There are 2 types of damages in a personal injury case.
- Economic damages
Economic damages are the measurable, quantifiable losses you incurred because of your injuries. They’re relatively easy to calculate since they include financial expenses like medical bills, lost wages, and any property damage (like during an automobile accident).
- Non-economic damages
Non-economic damages are the intangible losses that are more challenging to quantify in a personal injury claim. Some examples of these kinds of damages include pain and suffering emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In some cases punitive damages also may be awarded by a jury. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or intentional conduct. They go beyond compensating you for your injuries and are intended to make an example of the defendant to deter others from similar behavior.
What is a medical lien in NM personal injury claims?
A medical lien, sometimes called subrogation interest, is a claim or right that a medical provider or other third party can assert against a patient’s personal injury settlement. These most often happen in workers’ compensation cases where the medical treatment for your injuries exceeds the amount of workers’ compensation liability insurance coverage.
They also can happen if you don’t have adequate health insurance coverage and medical bills pile up because of your injuries.
If there’s a medical lien against your personal injury settlement, you can expect a percentage of your final financial reward to go to the lienholder to clear your medical debt.
Your personal injury attorney can sometimes convince a medical lienholder to agree to less than the amount paid for your medical care. In some cases, the amount of damages you receive may be less than your medical lien total. It’s important to work with a skilled attorney in these situations to ensure you’re not left with bills you can’t pay after settling your personal injury case.
What is a settlement offer?
A settlement offer in a personal injury case is a proposal made by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company to resolve your claim without a trial. They can happen at any stage in the process. However, they are more common the closer you get to a jury trial because defense attorneys know jury trials often favor a plaintiff.
Most NM personal injury claims are settled outside the courtroom, which usually is best for the plaintiff. Avoiding a jury trial lessens the amount of stress you must endure to receive fair compensation for your injuries.
Settlement offers can include the following:
- Compensation amount. The proposed amount of money the defendant or their insurance company is willing to pay to you in exchange for settling your claim.
- Release of liability. Most settlement offers require the injured party to agree to release the at-fault party from further liability claims.
- Closing the case. Accepting a settlement offer usually means your case is resolved and you waive the right to any further legal action for the same injuries or incident.
The only time a personal injury attorney rejects a settlement offer is if they know it’s not in your best interest.
Avoid NM personal injury claims jargon
Cameron & Russell’s team of highly-skilled personal injury attorneys use clear and concise language to help their clients understand their legal rights and responsibility. You can avoid NM personal injury claims jargon when you work with us on your case. We make sure you understand all aspects of your case from start to finish so you can make decisions that offer the best outcome possible.