The aftermath of an accident can be chaotic: people are hurt and injured; properties are destroyed; it can take a long while and a large sum of money before things can go back to normal. The question is: who is going to pay for the damages? The obvious answer would be whoever caused the accident. Unfortunately, determining fault is not a straightforward endeavor.
Those involved can point fingers at each other all day with each citing evidence that support their claims. The reality is that both parties can indeed be guilty of contributing to the accident. So how does New Mexico handle shared fault in injury lawsuits?
A Question of Negligence
These suits are all based on the theory of negligence. According to the law, a person who owes a duty of care to an individual but fails in its fulfillment can be sued if the breach directly causes a serious injury. The court will determine the appropriate amount to be awarded based on the economic and non-economic damages. The former includes things that are readily measured such as medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses. The latter includes pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, and many more. The court may even add punitive damages for cases wherein the defendant was particularly reckless.
Pure Contributory Negligence
In some states, the courts follow the rule of pure contributory negligence. This is a very strict system that prevents people from getting any amount of compensation if they are found to contribute even a little to their injury. Plaintiffs must be completely blameless in order to collect damages from the other party. A simple mistake could lead to case meltdown even if it is clear who was really to blame for the incident. This makes it extremely difficult for injured persons to have a successful lawsuit. Most states have already abolished this rule in favor of more a balanced approach with comparative negligence rules.
Pure Comparative Negligence
New Mexico is one of the states that have adopted the comparative negligence system to deal with shared fault in injury lawsuits. It is common for both the plaintiff and the defendant to be considered negligent, but the trial does not stop there. The court will be interested in knowing the degree of fault for each side. Injured persons can still collect compensation even if they are partially to blame for their injuries. However, the damages that may be recovered will be slashed by the percentage of their fault. For example, those who are ten percent at fault will see their award being reduced by the same amount.
To learn more about New Mexico personal injury laws and get excellent legal representation in court, contact experienced lawyers such as Will Ferguson & Associates.