How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Contact an experienced New Mexico personal injury lawyer
Accidents happen every day – in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico. People slip and fall at a store or in a parking lot. Someone is bitten by a dog. A person falls to the floor when a chair at a bar or restaurant breaks. Victims can be left with serious injuries that have a significant impact on their lives.
Many people wonder if they can file a lawsuit and sue to recover damages for what happened to them. The laws can be confusing, and the legal process can be complicated. But if you were injured due to negligence, you have recourse through the civil justice system. An experienced New Mexico personal injury lawyer can help. Attorney Andras Szantho of Szantho Law Firm guides clients through the legal process every step of the way and fights for the compensation they need and deserve.
Is there a time limit to file a lawsuit?
In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for taking legal action after being injured is generally three years from the date of the accident, though some exceptions can apply. If a case is not filed in court within this time frame, you could lose your one chance to recover damages through the legal system.
Three years might sound like a long time, so it may seem like there’s no rush to consult with a personal injury lawyer about your case. But a lot can happen in three years. Valuable evidence that supports your claim can be lost or destroyed. Witnesses who saw what happened may forget important details or move away from the area.
That’s why it’s important to get trusted legal advice as soon as possible.
What is the process for a personal injury claim?
Your lawyer can draft the legal documents and file them with the appropriate court. These include a “summons” and a “complaint.” A summons is a notification that will be sent to the defendant notifying them that a lawsuit has been filed. The complaint will list all the facts of your case and the damages that you suffered.
After the defendant has been served with the summons and complaint, that person or party will have a chance to respond. The response is known as an “answer.”
The next part of the process is called “discovery,” a formal exchange of evidence. Both sides “discover” the facts of the case. There may be written questions and answers and documentation. Witnesses may be called to give “depositions,” their testimony about what they saw. This gives both sides an indication of what evidence could be presented at trial.
Should you settle a lawsuit?
Most cases are settled out of court. Sometimes this happens before a lawsuit is even filed. Typically, there will be negotiations between the lawyers for the injured party (plaintiff) and the negligent party (defendant), or that party’s insurance company. If a settlement offer is made, the injured party can instruct their attorney to accept it, counter it, or flat out reject it.
If a lawsuit is filed, a settlement can still be reached at any point in the process. For example, an insurance company may increase a settlement offer when it sees the evidence that has been gathered. They may wish to settle to avoid going to court, concerned that a jury may rule against them.
What happens in a court trial?
If a case can’t be settled, it will typically proceed through the court process and a trial date will be assigned. Your case may be heard in front of a jury. It can also be held in front of a judge only, which is called a bench trial. Lawyers for each side will present opening statements. The lawyer for the plaintiff then presents their case, which may include evidence and witness testimony. After the plaintiff “rests,” the attorney for the defendant will present their case.
Once all evidence has been presented by each side, lawyers will give closing arguments. It is then up to the jury or judge to make a final decision.
It typically takes longer for a jury to reach a decision: hours, days or even weeks.
How can a personal injury lawyer help with my lawsuit?
The best personal injury attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to investigate accidents and get the facts to build a strong case on their clients’ behalf. This involves gathering evidence – such as any video from security cameras. A lawyer will carefully review police reports, medical records, and other documentation. An experienced attorney will also know what questions to ask eyewitnesses. If needed, experts may also be consulted.
A good PI lawyer will also be able to calculate the total damages you have suffered as a result of the accident. This often includes current and future medical bills related to your injuries, lost wages from missed work, and other damages such as pain and suffering.
An attorney can negotiate with the insurance company to reach a settlement that meets your needs. If an agreement can’t be reached, a lawyer can proceed with your case in court. Hiring a trial lawyer doesn’t mean your case will necessarily go to trial, but it does keep your options open and puts maximum pressure on the insurance company to make a fair offer.
If you’re in the Albuquerque or Santa Fe area and you’ve been injured in an accident due to negligence, talk to an experienced New Mexico personal injury lawyer right away. Attorney Szantho knows how to help. He can answer your questions, go over your legal options, and give you the information you need to decide what to do next. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation.