Filing a Claim Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act

Learn about filing a personal injury lawsuit against the State of New Mexico for personal injuries sustained from a state government entity or employee.

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.

What is the New Mexico Tort Claims Act?

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.

What Does New Mexico’s Tort Claims Act Cover?

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:

  • a  car accident  (or an accident involving any other kind of motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft) caused by a government employee who was carrying out his or her job duties at the time
  • an injury related to  dangerous or defective property, such as a slip and fall or a physical attack caused by inadequate security on government property
  • medical malpractice from a government employee working in a hospital or similar healthcare institution
  • negligent construction or maintenance of public roads and streets, including bridges, culverts, alleys, sidewalks, and parking lots
  • negligent operation of public utilities, and
  • injuries arising from the way the government or its employees operate an airport.

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.

How Do I File a Claim Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, and What Can I Recover?

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:

  • $200,000  for property damage
  • $300,000  for past and future medical bills, and
  • $400,000  total to any one person for damages other than property damage and medical bills.

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.

Bringing a Claim Against a Local Government in New Mexico

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.

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