“Personal injury” refers to when someone is at fault for someone else’s injuries. Personal injury law allows accident victims to claim compensation for their injuries (also known as “damages”) and other misfortunes. If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation to cover medical bills, property repair costs, lost wages due to injuries forcing you to miss work, pain and suffering, and much more! You might know you have a case but maybe you are feeling a little overwhelmed about exactly how to get started. Keep reading for a simple, step-by-step guide to filing a personal injury lawsuit in Albuquerque, New Mexico and getting the compensation you need!
Step 1: Don’t Procrastinate
Every state has a “statute of limitations” that restricts the amount of time you have to file your personal injury case. If you wait too long, you may lose your right to receive compensation. The statute of limitations for personal injury in New Mexico is three years, according to FindLaw.
Step 2: Determine if an Insurance Policy Covers the Incident
This is important because it can determine whether or not you’d actually be able to collect any damages a jury awards you after a personal injury trial. Having a judgment in your favor is one thing, but being able to collect on that judgment is another story. If the defendant has inadequate insurance coverage and very little in the way of assets, you might be left with no compensation to claim. Consider the extent of your injuries and whether your own insurance coverage might provide an acceptable solution. If you weren’t seriously hurt, or fault for the accident isn’t clear-cut and you have health insurance coverage, AllLaw recommends thinking twice before filing a lawsuit against someone who has no insurance. On the other hand, if your injuries are significant and there was clear negligence from another party that caused your accident, you’ll probably want to proceed whether or not the at-fault party is covered by an insurance policy.
Step 3: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have any significant injuries, AllLaw recommends discussing your case with a personal injury attorney. In the event that you’re not sure if you have a case, feel free to call our legal team for a consultation.
Step 4: To File Or Not To File?
In some situations, it’s worth considering the ways that you can recover compensation without filing a lawsuit. Where insurance coverage is in place, you can file a “third-party claim” against the at-fault person’s insurance carrier. You’d start by getting the name of the other person’s insurance carrier and their policy number. Then, you’d send the company a notice of claim that includes the insured person’s information, your information, the date of the accident, and a notification letter in which you declare that you were injured and intend to pursue a claim.
Step 5: Complete the Summons and Complaint
The complaint is a formal legal document that identifies the legal and factual basis for your personal injury lawsuit.
The beginning of the complaint will identify you (the plaintiff), the defendant, and the court you’re filing your lawsuit in.
The next section will consist of numbered sentences or paragraphs that explain the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, identify negligence behind your allegations, state the related facts, and explain what damages you’re demanding from the defendant.
Many jurisdictions will require you to file a summons, a document that identifies the parties to the litigation and explains to the defendant that they are being sued. The summons also usually contains a signature of the court’s representative and the seal of the court.
After you file the complaint and summons with the court, you need to serve a copy of each on the defendant. This is absolutely critical because otherwise, the court will not have jurisdiction over the defendant and can’t impose any judgment.
Step 7: Wait for the Defendant’s Response
The defendant can either file an “answer” to your complaint, in which the defendant admits or denies each of your numbered allegations or the defendant can state that they neither admit nor deny the allegations.
Alternatively, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss. If the court grants this motion, it can mean dismissal of either your entire claim or a portion of it.
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