If you are injured by another person’s negligence in New Mexico, you usually have the option of bringing a personal injury lawsuit in New Mexico's civil courts. But what happens if you are injured by the negligence of a government employee or a government agency? For example, what if you are hit by a car driven by a government employee, or you slip and fall in a government building?
In that situation, you will need to follow specific rules that govern tort claims against government employees and government entities in Mew Mexico. This article touches on some key points of those rules, including the kinds of incidents that can give rise to a claim, time limits for getting the claim filed, limits on damages, and more.
The New Mexico Tort Claims Act is codified at New Mexico Statutes section 41-4. The Act states that, generally speaking, both government entities and government employees "are granted immunity from liability for any tort." (Note: "Tort" is just another word for "personal injury".) However, certain exceptions do exist, which leads us to the next question.
The New Mexico Tort Claims Act starts with the assumption that government entities and government employees cannot be held liable if they cause harm to a private person or company. However, several exceptions exist. It is possible to seek compensation from the government in New Mexico if your injury resulted from:
Because exceptions exist for every item on this list (there are exceptions to the exceptions, in other words), it is important to double-check New Mexico’s statutes and to speak to a lawyer before you pursue an injury-related claim against the government.
Claims against the state government in New Mexico must be filed within two years of the date of injury. If the injured person was less than seven years old when he or she was injured, however, that person has until his or her ninth birthday (two years after reaching age 7) to file a claim. If the claim is not filed within two years, it cannot be heard in court.
Damages in a claim against the government in New Mexico are also limited. Under the Tort Claims Act, the most the government can be required to pay includes:
In addition, the government cannot be required to pay more than $750,000 to any one person for damages in any one claim. In other words, even if your losses totaled $200,000 for property damage, $300,000 in medical bills, and $400,000 in other losses (such as lost wages or pain and suffering), your total damages award would be limited to $750,000, not $900,000. Injured persons are also prohibited from seeking punitive damages in claims against the New Mexico government. Learn more about Damages in an Injury Case.
In addition to bringing claims against the state government, injured persons can bring claims against local or municipal government bodies in New Mexico. These claims begin by giving notice to the local government body, which must be presented within 90 days of the date of injury or property damage. Notice, according to Section 41-4-16 of the New Mexico Statutes, must include a written description of the time and place of the injury or loss, as well as a description of what happened.
Once notice is filed, the government will decide whether to pay the claim or to deny it. If the claim is denied, the injured person has two years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit in court.