Any time you're injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property (whether residential or commercial) in New Mexico, it's usually a good idea to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- and that's especially true when the property owner's (or someone else's) negligence may have played a part in what happened.
A number of New Mexico laws will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall case in New Mexico's court system, and the state's "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in a state's civil court system. Specific time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.
The statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall injury lawsuit in New Mexico is the same one that applies to most personal injury cases. Specifically, New Mexico Statutes section 37-1-8 gives you three years to ask New Mexico's civil court system for a remedy for any kind of personal injury that may have been caused by someone else.
So, in the context of a slip and fall injury, you have three years to file a civil lawsuit against the property owner or other party who was responsible for the condition of the property on which you were injured, and the "clock" starts running on the date of the accident.
What if you only had your personal property damaged as a result of the slip and fall (maybe you broke an expensive watch or phone but were uninjured)? Any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged property must be filed within four years of the date of the accident. That time limit can be found at New Mexico Statutes Annotated section 37-1-4.
In either kind of case -- whether the lawsuit is for injury or property damage, or both -- the "clock" starts running on the date of the slip and fall, and the success or failure of your case will most likely turn on whether you can prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe and to prevent your accident. Learn more about premises liability and proving fault for a slip and fall.
What if you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the statutory deadline passes? In that situation, the property owner will ask the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal. In some rare instances, the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in New Mexico, and whether they might apply to your situation.
It's true in every state, and New Mexico is no exception: If you're thinking about making a claim against a property owner for injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened. And be prepared to counter this argument, because if it is successful, you could see a significant amount of your settlement or court award taken away.
It's important to note that even if your slip and fall case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn't filed, for that matter -- New Mexico's shared fault rules will likely still play a part. During settlement negotiations, the other side is concerned with what might happen if your slip and fall case does wind up in court, so any settlement offer will reflect their view of the part you played in causing or contributing to your injuries. ("Other side" means the property owner, their homeowners' insurance company, and/or their attorney.)
If your New Mexico slip and fall case makes it to court, the state's "pure comparative negligence rule" will be employed to determine how much compensation you can still receive from the property owner.
Under this rule, any damages award you receive will be reduced according to the percentage of your fault. So, let's say the jury finds that you are 25 percent to blame for your slip and fall accident. They also find that your damages (medical bills, lost wages, and other losses) total $20,000. In that situation the property owner will only be on the hook for $15,000 (that's the original $20,000 minus the 25 percent that equates with your share of fault).
Even if you are found to bear most of the fault, you can still recover compensation. So, continuing with the example above, if you were found to be 75 percent to blame, you could still collect $5,000 from the property owner.
There are a number of arguments that the property owner can make in attempting to pin some or all of the blame on you, including: