Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What You Need to Know…
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Case?
What Are My Rights?
Common Questions and Answers
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Case?
An attorney’s job is to provide professional representation to maximize the client’s recovery and to help the client navigate the complicated legal system. Sometimes there may be cases in which having an attorney is either not necessary or not in the client’s best interest. Sometimes simple claims can be settled without the help of an attorney, saving the client the cost of attorney’s fees.
If after consultation we feel your claim is one you should handle on your own, even if it means no attorney’s fees for us, we will let you know. We do not charge for an initial consultation. You can contact us with your case and we will discuss whether you need an attorney, rather than trying to convince you that you must have one.
- You have the right to contact an attorney before settling or even speaking with an insurance company.
- You have the right in certain situations, such as when you have been injured by the negligence or reckless conduct of another, to compensation for:
- Past Medical Bills
- Future Medical Bills
- Permanent Impairment
- Pain and Suffering
- Past and Future Lost Wages
- Loss of Consortium
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Other Damages
- You have the right to seek medical care, including a doctor or other professional care provider of your choice to have your injuries evaluated and treated.*
- You have the right to negotiate with an insurance company prior to settlement.
- You have the right to refuse settlement and take your case to trial.
- You have the right to receive any diminished value of your vehicle even if it has been repaired following an accident.*Workers’ compensation cases are different and certain other rules apply to medical care you may receive.
Common Questions and Answers
General Personal Injury Questions
Some lawyers work on an hourly rate; others, including The Law Office of Brian Branch, charge a contingent fee. Although costs of litigation are extra, it costs nothing up front to hire our law firm and we are compensated only if we are successful in recovering for you. Regardless of the time we put into a case, if we do not recover for you, you will not have to pay us attorney’s fees.
There is no standard value for what an injury is worth. Each case is unique and must be evaluated individually according to its unique circumstances. Factors that affect the value of a case include the nature and extent of the injuries, the length of treatment and recovery time, lost wages, whether there is a permanent impairment, whether there is comparative fault, and whether punitive damages are appropriate.
At no charge, we will be glad to give you a preliminary evaluation regarding liability and damages. However, such an evaluation is somewhat limited in that as the case develops, we will become more familiar with your case and discover additional facts.
The answer to this question depends a great deal on the injuries suffered and the amount and nature of treatment necessary for you to heal. In exchange for settling with an insurance company a plaintiff must sign a release or paper that states they will no longer attempt to recover money from the insurance company or defendant. It is important to be certain of your injuries and the treatment you will need before signing the release. Resolving a case prematurely often results in a smaller, and potentially insufficient, recovery.
The amount of time you have to file a lawsuit depends on the facts of your case. Different cases have different statutes of limitation or, expiration dates. Sometimes action must be taken immediately while in other situations there may be years before legal action must be taken. Failure to file a lawsuit within the time specified by the applicable statute of limitations may result in your ability to recover damages being forever lost. For example, the applicable statute of limitations for filing an action for personal injury against a private party in New Mexico state court is three years, however the rules change for actions against governmental entities and there are various notice provisions which apply depending on the circumstances and the entity.
If you are planning on pursuing a case, or wish to discuss it, it is important to contact a lawyer immediately. Although it may seem as if there is plenty of time before a lawsuit must be filed, there are other reasons to begin working on your case quickly. Depending on your case, there may be crucial deadlines that pass as quickly as ninety days from the date of your injury or accident. In addition, our attorneys may need to take action as soon as possible after an accident to safeguard your interests and protect your case. It may be necessary to act quickly in order to preserve important evidence, locate a witness, or investigate the scene of the accident or injury.
No. Most insurance adjusters attempt to reduce the amount of money they must pay to resolve your case. Occasionally an adjuster will ask to speak with you about your case and may attempt to record your conversation. Such statements with adjusters may be used against you in the future. If you would like to speak with an adjuster, one of our attorneys will discuss with you how to handle such statements, what to avoid and appropriate precautions.
If you have medical insurance, it is best to use it to get medical attention. However, if you have no medical insurance there still may be ways of getting seen by a doctor. If you were involved in an automobile accident and have car insurance, check with your insurance agent to see if your policy has medical coverage. Such coverage pays for your doctor bills up to a specified amount and may enable you to get medical attention quickly. Similarly, depending on how you were injured, there may be other insurance policies in effect that will cover the cost of your medical care. If necessary, our attorneys can also recommend reputable doctors who may be able to see you in the absence of insurance. The physician will waive payment until the case is settled. You can contact our office and we will discuss the best options for getting you the medical attention you need.
It is important to be truthful and honest with your doctor. You should describe all symptoms even if you feel they may be unimportant, unrelated or insignificant. It is also important to remember not to exaggerate and contrive symptoms. Exaggeration not only will make it more difficult for the doctor to diagnose your injuries, but will also have a harmful effect on your case and may even be considered fraud.
The nature of your recovery depends on the unique facts of your case. Common damages which you might be entitled to receive are past medical bills, future medical bills, permanent impairment, pain and suffering, lost wages, disfigurement, loss of consortium and/or loss of enjoyment of life. In addition, depending on how your injuries occurred you may be entitled to punitive damages.
Yes, drive-by shootings are, surprisingly, often covered by uninsured motorist coverage; victims of other crimes should consider legal action if the perpetrator has insurance or significant assets.
Automobile Accident Questions
In New Mexico, in most cases each driver is responsible for his or her own fault. Therefore, if each of you is 50% at fault, you can recover 50% of your total damages.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your vehicle, or any relative with whom you reside has such coverage, it is likely you will be able to recover. Uninsured motorist coverage provides if a motorist who causes a collision with you is uninsured, your insurance company will provide coverage. Because there are many uninsured motorists in New Mexico, we recommend that you carry uninsured motorist coverage.
Most uninsured motorist policies provide that an insured or family member living with an insured is covered in these situations.
You can argue punitive damages against a drunk driver. Such damages serve to punish a person whose conduct deserves punishment and can be very substantial. While punitive damages are usually limited to intentional acts, they may also be recovered against drunk drivers.
If the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, reckless conduct or negligence of another, the personal representative of the estate can recover damages on behalf of certain beneficiaries for the wrongful death. These damages include pain and suffering, funeral expenses, medical bills, and the value of the deceased’s life, including the money likely to be earned during his or her lifetime less the deductions permitted by law, loss of the enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium regarding a spouse or child.
Beneficiaries, or those entitled to receive the proceeds from a wrongful death case, are based on statutes. The decedent’s relatives including children, spouse, or parents may have claims for all, or part, of the proceeds.
Often cases against the government require the satisfaction of two deadlines. Just like most other cases, any case against the government must be filed with a specified period of time otherwise the ability to recover may be forever lost. However, these cases often have a second deadline separate from the statute of limitations that requires the appropriate branch of the government be placed on notice within a specified period of time. Because of the numerous deadlines that determine when legal action should be taken, if you believe you have a claim against the government we encourage you to contact our office immediately to discuss these issues.
Slip and Fall
The store is only responsible if it is at fault. If the store staff caused a dangerous condition that caused your injuries, or knew or should have known of a dangerous condition before an accident and did not take proper steps to fix it, the store may be responsible.
It would be a good idea for you to record the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses; ask the manager of the store if you can submit a report; and, if necessary, seek medical attention and call an attorney.