Understanding Statutes of Limitations in New Mexico
If you were injured in an accident and are contemplating a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you may be in a race against the clock. Read on to learn what statutes of limitations are and how they relate to your personal injury case in New Mexico.
Individuals who have suffered injuries in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence are often advised to promptly consult an attorney about a possible personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Should they have a valid reason for such a claim, there are indeed good reasons for an injured person to initiate personal injury proceedings as soon as possible. One reason has to do with a legal concept known as the statute of limitations.
As defined by one legal dictionary, a statute of limitations is “any law that bars claims after a certain period of time passes after an injury”. This means that an injured person has a limited time period in which to seek legal redress for any bodily harm or property damage experienced. After this time period has passed, the person may permanently and irrevocably forfeit the right to an injury claim or lawsuit along with any possibility of compensation for their injuries.
The time period set by statutes of limitations varies from state to state. It also depends on the type and severity of the offense. In this article, we will present essential information related to statutes of limitations in New Mexico.
The Statute of Limitations for Property Damage
According to New Mexico Statutes section 37-1-4, a person who suffered “injuries to property”, or in other words property damage, has four years to file a civil lawsuit against a person or entity who caused the damage. Interestingly, this applies in the case of both personal property damage – for example, damage to a person’s car following an accident – and to damage to real property such as a house or land.
The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury
It may come as a surprise to some that the statute of limitations for a personal injury – for example, bodily harm suffered in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or a medical malpractice case – is shorter than for property damage. New Mexico Statutes section 37-1-8 gives an injured person three years to file a lawsuit for “for an injury to the person”.
When Does the Statute of Limitation Begin?
In most cases, the clock starts ticking from the moment the injury occurs. For example, a person injured in a car accident will have three years to file a lawsuit beginning the date of the accident. In some circumstances, however, it may be challenging for the injured person to determine the precise moment of injury, since the injury may have gone undetected for an extended period of time.
This is especially true in medical malpractice cases where weeks, months, or even years may pass before a patient affected by a medical error discovers that the cause is related to malpractice. For that reason, even though a person injured as a result of medical malpractice in New Mexico still has only three years to bring a lawsuit, in some cases the discovery rule may be applied. The discovery rule states that the statute of limitations begins to apply from the moment the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to provide more information about how the statute of limitation should be applied in a particular medical malpractice case.
Can the Statute of Limitation Be Extended?
In the majority of cases, a person who decides to file a lawsuit after the deadline stipulated by the statute of limitation will lose their right to a trial. In such circumstances, the defendant will likely file a motion with the court to dismiss the case and the court will likely grant such a dismissal. However, an extension of the statute may also be granted by the court in the following circumstances:
- The defendant has been out of state for an extended period of time and a lawsuit couldn’t have been brought against him or her during the time period stipulated by the statute of limitation.
- The plaintiff is a minor. In such a case, the statute of limitation will not apply until the plaintiff turns 18. After that, however, he or she will have only one year to file a lawsuit
- The plaintiff is mentally incapable. Again, a person will have one additional year to file a lawsuit after being declared legally competent again.
Complying with statutes of limitations is crucial for an injured person to be able to recover monetary compensation for their injuries and related financial losses such as medical expenses and lost wages. Therefore, as a general rule, a person injured in an accident or due to medical malpractice should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. This will allow the attorney to closely examine the circumstances of the person’s case and promptly advise them on the legal options available for them.