The legal doctrine of sovereign immunity essentially holds that a sovereign or state can do no wrong. It stems from British common law, which protects the sovereign from civil liability. In the US, sovereign immunity applies to federal and state governments. Government agencies and their employees, therefore, are lawfully protected from liability during civil lawsuits – including personal injury claims. Many states, however, have waived their sovereign immunity to allow injured parties to bring claims against the government in certain situations.
What Is New Mexico’s Tort Claims Act?
States that waive sovereign immunity often do so through the passing of Tort Claims Acts. These acts grant exceptions to the sovereign immunity law. Most hold that an injured party has the right to file a claim against the state government if the agency or one of its on-duty agents was negligent and caused the victim’s injuries. New Mexico’s Tort Claims Act is in Chapter 41, Article 4 of the New Mexico Statutes. Section 41-4-4 authorizes exceptions to sovereign immunity if certain case elements are present.
- The defendant was a public employee acting within the scope of his or her employment, and
- The defendant committed a tort or wrongdoing against the plaintiff, or
- The defendant violated the plaintiff’s rights, immunities or privileges under the Constitution of the US or New Mexico.
In these situations, a plaintiff can act outside of New Mexico’s sovereign immunity doctrine to bring a claim against an individual or agency within the state or city’s government. The government entity may be liable for the plaintiff’s damages if the plaintiff can prove a duty of care, breach of duty, causation and damages. A New Mexico personal injury lawyer may be able to assist a plaintiff with the claims process and burden of proof during a lawsuit according to the rules of the Tort Claims Act.
How to File a Claim Against the Government in New Mexico
Under the Tort Claims Act, a government entity could be liable if it or one of its employees negligently caused a car accident, slip and fall, physical assault, medical malpractice, or another type of harmful incident. If you believe the government is legally responsible for causing your recent accident, injuries or damages in New Mexico, work with an attorney for assistance with the complex claims process. Act quickly to ensure you meet the unique statute of limitations on cases under the Tort Claims Act.
A typical personal injury claim in New Mexico has a statute of limitations of three years from the date of the incident. This deadline extends to four years for a claim involving property damage only. Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, however, a plaintiff pursuing damages from the government has only two years of the date of injury to file. An exception is if the injured party was under the age of seven at the time of the injury, in which case the child has until his or her ninth birthday to file. If you fail to file within two years, you will most likely lose your right to hold the defendant responsible for your damages.
You only have 90 days from the date of your accident to file the initial Tort Notice of Claim form. You must present this notice to the local, municipal or state government body in New Mexico you believe is responsible for your damages. The notice must include a description of the accident and your injuries, as well as why you believe the entity is liable. The defendant may then respond or choose to ignore the notice. A negative response or an ignored notice will give you two years to file a lawsuit. A positive response would lead to settlement negotiations between your attorney and the defendant’s insurance company. A New Mexico government liability lawyer can help you obtain the maximum amount of damages available for your tort claim in New Mexico.